This morning I’m driving Molly to the eye doctor to get fitted with new contacts. Because she wears rigid lenses, she needs to keep her old contacts out of her eyes for several hours before the exam to make it more accurate. And her glasses aren’t working for her (and she can't find them anyway). Therefore, she cannot drive.
Our poor children have inherited Jason’s and my terrible vision. We are so blind that if you put us both in an empty room without our glasses on, we might be able to find each other. We both started wearing glasses in elementary school (he started about four years before me) and we have only grown worse over time. In college, I asked my eye doctor what my “numbers” were on the 20/20 scale, suggesting, 20/800, something like that? She laughed and said, “Honey, you see tall buildings. That’s about it.” Well, maybe I see tall buildings, but they're big fuzzy blobs that meld into the skies around them if they’re the same color and become just more of the fuzz.
The last many years, neither Jason nor I have had luck with contacts. I wear them only for swimming and he doesn’t at all anymore. So we’re stuck with pop-bottle lenses. At least, with new technology, we can use “high-index” materials for our glasses, but they cost about $700 a pop and still shrink our eyes behind them to tiny renditions of the real things. And we need new glasses nearly every year. (I can’t imagine what people do with poor eyesight who can’t afford glasses or insurance for them, or who live in developing countries who don’t have access to eye care.) Lasik is only good for people whose eyesight has stabilized. Ours keeps changing. We aren’t good candidates for success. So here we are.
A few years ago, I was driving home in rush hour traffic at dusk. I was in the center lane of one of the busiest roads in town, zooming along (at least as fast as rush hour allowed) and I yawned. My eyes were dry. I was so tired. My eyes were burning, so I reached up with both hands and quickly rubbed the outer corners of each eye. Both of my contacts popped out! Right there in the middle of traffic, I’d lost my sight. I was blinder than an old bat with no eyes. (Maybe bats don’t have eyes. So I was worse than a bat. And I didn’t have that sonar vision stuff bats have.) Really, I couldn’t see anything. It was a fuzzy glob of nothingness.
I let off the gas, threw on my flashers, and thought, How do I get out of here?! I was operating a moving, 2-ton vehicle and had no idea what was around me. I thought, I have to get off this road! I looked to my right to at least try and thank God, the car on my back right flank had its lights on. I could see those in the fuzzy haze. Probably my sudden deceleration and flashers and brake lights alerted drivers around me that something was wrong. The headlights were back far enough that it seemed I could fit. Or they’d seen my distress and held back. I eased over. (This is an incredible sensation, folks. Driving blind. I’m telling you! But don’t try it.) When I got in front of the headlights, I looked again to my right, hoping for something to help me find my way safely off the road. And there was a huge red target. With my type of blindness, I can see color. Sometimes that is the only thing that helps me distinguish between objects. The huge red target was a Target store just to my right. Their vast open parking lot was right there. So I crept over one more lane—their exit lane—and pulled off into their lot, which was the back end, so fairly empty—at least it appeared empty; I wasn’t seeing any color blobs representing cars.
I rolled to a stop and just sat there with my heart pounding. I’d made it!
Searching my clothes and the car seat, I eventually, somehow, found both lenses. Only in emergencies would I ever pop my contact into my mouth when I got something in my eye and needed to clean the lens. Well, this was emergency enough to warrant wetting both of them with spit and getting them back into my eyes. I could see again!
It’s much less precarious now using glasses to drive. (At least when it’s daylight. I still can’t see at night, even with glasses on.) Only on the way to and from the gym do I have my contacts in. And now, the new rule: absolutely no eye rubbing until safely home and at my own sink. With my glasses within arm’s reach. Sitting in their bright pink case so I can find them again. After all that, I can surely say, seeing tall buildings does very little to get you home in the middle of rush hour!
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