Great Balls of Fire: 10 Things I Learned About Wearing Contacts for the First Time

  Note: Okay, fessing a little, I DID try wearing contacts way back in the day, like 1983, when they were these hard, inflexible buttons that you basically had to glue to your eyeball and you couldn’t really close your eyelids comfortably when they hit that damn speed bump. Did NOT have a good experience, and quickly abandoned them. But this last eye doctor visit, I thought, what the hell, let’s try them again. And here we go…

1. The eye-dilation thing.

Okay, I know they need to do this, so they can peer in there and see what might have ruptured or is possibly missing, but since this part is optional and I hate it, I usually decline. However, this time around the doctor made a slightly smart-ass comment that the last time my eyes looked like Little Orphan Annie was roughly the same time as the Mayflower ran aground in Plymouth. Fine. Go ahead and do it.

This process takes two sets of drops, apparently. The first round preps your eyes for the dilation drops. And it hurt like a mother. To be fair, she did warn me just before the hellacious burning began, standing there and fingering a garlic glove around her neck in case I should completely lose my mind from the pain. Then plink, plink, sweet Baby JESUS my eyes are exploding in my head, and I think I wet myself a little.

Once I could remember my name, she moved in for the second round, and I briefly considered taking her life. But I was a little disoriented and she had me wet before I fully realized what was going on. And she was right, that second set of plinks was NOTHING after the sensation of thousands of miniature people stabbing my eyes with pointy sticks. I felt like Karen Black at the end of her episode of “Trilogy of Terror”, that movie where she pissed off the little grunting African doll with the spear, then pissed him off even more by throwing him in the oven and trying to make a casserole out of him.

Anyway, Doctor Lady then sends me back out to the waiting room, so I can relax while my eyes try to do the same. No problem. I’m happy to be anywhere that doesn’t have shelves filled with chemicals that one can pluck up at random and try to blister my eyeballs. I trot quickly down the hallway, the torturous memories already fading as I get further from that place that shall now be known as The Chamber of Liquid Pain, Wherein Dwells the She-Beast with Squirting Devices.

I wander into the waiting area and plop down next to my bestie, Tiffany. She and I have journeyed on this adventure together, both of us having been a bit lackadaisical with not having our eyes checked for several decades. There have been many consecutive instances of us drinking adult beverages together and reaching that “Norma Rae” moment of imbibing, where we swear to do everything we can to change the world, including get our eyes checked, but we never do. There’s always something on TV to distract us.

But we finally got our act together and made dual appointments. Well, she made the appointments. If it had been left up to me, it never would have happened, because I just don’t care enough. Anyway, she thankfully did, and we both traipsed in here as one, and therefore I assumed that she would want to know all about how I had been savaged in an ocular manner in a room where there were no witnesses.

“So, how’d it go?” she asks, nonchalantly flipping the pages of an outdated magazine. (Why do doctors always have old magazines in their offices? They make enough money to keep up the subscription payments. It just seems shady to me. Anyone?)

“Well,” I say, stupidly assuming that anyone in this world actually cares about the viciousness in my life during the last thirty minutes, “they dilated me. I’m dilated now. Ready to spit out a kid at any moment.” I beam and wait for hearty praise over my determined jocularity in this dark time.

“That’s nice,” says Tiffany, in a tone that I instantly recognize as meaning “I’m right in the middle of a story about John Travolta and I’m really not enthused about your unrequited intrusion”.

Oh. Okay, Plan B. “Your blouse is really pretty.”

She already knows this, having obviously made the wardrobe selection herself and not needing any pointless self-esteem boosts. She chooses instead to weakly smile, not respond verbally, and turn yet another page with her exquisitely-manicured index finger, a digit featuring a dainty flower carefully applied by some overworked minion in a nail salon where at least three different languages are spoken by the staff, none of them English.

Fine. I am not going to be validated. I sigh and turn to a small coffee table where various brochures have been placed, just in case anyone gets bored enough to actually read them. I spy one featuring colored contact lenses, and this titillates me enough that I snatch it up. I work my way through a few pages in the pamphlet, and then I come across an inspiration that is so soul-confirming that I nearly wet myself again.

It’s a model, and her name is Anna, along the lines of “This is Anna sporting another color in our deluxe line of products” kind of Anna. The model herself is not my focal point, she has all the wrong body parts, but her eyes are sheathed in a lens color known as “Gemstone Green”.

I want that color for my own eyes. I want that color NOW. I’ve never wanted anything more in my life, at least not in the last five minutes.

I try to get Tiffany’s attention again, and after several attempts at doing so, she finally turns to me with an expression that clearly implies “I am only going to talk to you because they made me turn off my cell phone in this office and my need to communicate with the world is being annoyingly tested.” You have two seconds before I lose interest.

I proffer Anna, she of the fake green eyes that have inspired me so.

Tiffany glances briefly, the picks up her magazine again, not impressed. “That’s nice,” she mutters.

I decide that I hate Tiffany. At least a little bit.

Then I become aware that the dilation of my pupils is now a real and solid thing. There are three Annas staring up at me from the brochure, and this is not a calming thing to experience. I don’t want three models with fake eyes to be peering at me at the same time. It’s unsettling. Actually, more than that. It’s like a scene in “Rosemary’s Baby” before Mia Farrow realizes that she should just rip that stupid necklace off and throw it in the gutter.

Just then, Doctor Lady comes prancing down the hallway and calls out my name. I try to smile at the one of the three that I think is actually the real one, and I lurch out of my seat. (Tiffany makes a hissing noise as my jostling actions force her to start over on another paragraph about John Travolta and his mystifying embrace of Scientology.) I stumble toward the beckoning doctors.

And, of course, the doctors lead me back to the Chamber of Liquid Pain. I’m really not comfortable with this, but it must be done and I persevere. One of the doctors slams the door shut, and I contemplate the fact that I may never be seen again. I hope someone remembers to feed the cats.

“So,” says another one of the doctors, “it appears that you are dilated now.” (Are you basing this assessment on the fact that I am drooling and crying and trying to figure out which of the three chairs I should sit in? If so, yes.) I finally trip over something solid, assume it’s a chair, and shove my ass into it. I turn to face the six-eyed Yeti whose facial expression indicates that she just lost a furry child in the blizzard and she is out for revenge.

She closes in while I whimper. To up the intimidation, she slaps on a miner’s helmet with a big-ass spotlight on the front of it. “This will help me look into your eyeball.” Really? How can anyone feel comfortable hearing a statement like that? Then she’s on point, craning her neck about and barking out orders that I should look at the one hand she’s holding up beside her head, wiggling her fingers like deadly strands of seaweed that only want to drag me to the depths of the ocean and bash my skull in with the body of a dead stingray.

Then she’s done. “No tumors!” she exclaims, and I’m so discombobulated that I don’t know if this is a good or a bad thing. She hops off of me (wait, when did she get ON me?) and pulls off some rubber gloves that I never noticed in the first place. (What exactly was she touching that she needed gloves?) “Everything looks good. No rips, no tears. And no tumors!”

Why does she keep saying that, the “no tumors” thing? I’d never even thought about tumors in my eye. Thanks for the new nightmares, Hagatha.

She throws open the door, letting artificial light sear my dilated and horror-filled eyes. She yanks me out of the chair, or maybe I fell out, things were blurry and random, and next thing I know we are somehow in that hallway leading back to the reception area. I have no coordination whatsoever, so I’m just following anything that moves.

We get to the desk, where fake attendants are offering fake smiles, and the doctors make their pronouncements. I’m all good for the glasses part of the exam. But I’ll have to come back for the contact lens bit, because it’s pointless to fit me for contacts when I can’t tell my toes from my ass. Somebody shoves an appointment card at me, which I grasp lovingly, because it might somehow help me make it through the next part of my life.

There’s more shoving of various kinds, and then I realize that I am standing in front of Tiffany. At least I hope it’s Tiffany. The blouse appears to have the right blurry colors, so that’s encouraging. She hops out of her chair with effortless coordination, since the Yeti didn’t dilate her, and she scurries out of the office. I lurch along behind her, not really sure that I like her at all, but she at least knows some of the same people that I do, and maybe a mutual companion will take pity on me at some point.

We make our way into the mall proper. (Oh wait, I probably didn’t mention that we were at a shopping mall. Yep, Tiffany insists on combining eye care with potential exposure to outfits that will make her look even more fabulous. It’s part of the deal with her.) Once firmly ensconced in the pathways of ancient mall-walkers who will knock you down in their quest for consistent blood-flow, Tiffany turns to me. “Okay, what do you want to do now?

I pause. This could be a trap. She’s making it sound like I have free will in the matter, but it’s entirely possible that we fully discussed what we would do next and this is a test to see if I remember the details. I don’t, not right at the moment, with pain taking a good 97% of my attention, so I word my response carefully. “Well, before we take off, I think I just need to get some fresh air for a minute. Then we can do… that thing.”

Tiffany nods. “Okay, we have some time to kill before we meet the Garzas at Ojeda’s. Follow me.” Then she’s off and running, on a mission, the multiple images of her darting about like a cheesy LSD trip in a late 60s movie about hitchhikers and songwriters. I’m fully expecting Joan Baez to start warbling on the soundtrack.

I’m not as quick out of the chute, still digesting the intel. Oh, right. We’re doing the margarita happy-hour thing. I’m not sure I can get the salted glass anywhere near my lips right now, but I sure could use an adult beverage, even if I have to lay on the ground and let people pour it into my mouth.

“Are you coming or not?” sing-queries Joan, with a possible Bob Dylan providing backing vocals. (What the hell was in those drops? Is this really a shadowy government experiment of some kind? Anybody have any Funyuns? I’m suddenly really hungry.)

The Tiffanys lead me into Dillard’s, one of those anchor stores that actually have portals to the mammoth parking lot outside, a concrete boa constrictor that encircles the mall. (I really tried to behave as we tromped through the store, but I must admit it was very difficult considering I faced three times the normal amount of clothes mannequins, all of them intent on killing me with their bald heads and unnatural poses.)

Finally, we slam through the outer doors, into a promised land where the sun still shines and the birds still sing. I take two steps into said sunlight, and then fall to my knees in agony and pain as the light enters my eyes with blinding intensity, writhing about in unregulated and unattractive spasms.

“Really?” asks Tiffany, already whipping out her phone to make a Twitter update that will destroy me socially. “Does it always have to be about you?”


To Be Continued. Eventually…


Originally published in “The Sound and the Fury” on 02/28/11 and “Bonnywood Manor” on 05/09/15. Minor revisions have been made, mostly concerning my apparent inability to keep a story in the same verb tense all the way through. Story behind the photo: A lovely and innocent campfire that we birthed at the woodsy cabin during our recent visit to Broken Bow, Oklahoma, mere seconds before we got stupid and decided to chunk a ginormous pizza box on top of the flames. Friends really shouldn’t let friends burn things. Or get dilated in a shopping mall…


21 replies »

  1. 1) with the overload of petitions on Social Media surely we could start one to force doctors to keep up their magazine subscriptions and have a good selection of covers – gossip, highbrow, political, geographic etc etc. None for children. They get enough treatie sweeties in my brazen opinion 2) John Travolta … really – Christian Science … I must renew my subscription to Journal des Femmes and catch up on the important things in world news.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The “dusty magazine” situation truly irks me, right behind “my appointment was scheduled at 2pm so why am I still sitting in this damn waiting room at 2:45p?” As for Vinnie Barbarino, yep, it’s true. Renew that subscription, stat! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. See this is why some people refuse to go and get their eyes tested although they have been holding books in the adjacent zip code to read.
    You just convinced me I am right.
    If you see a book on the moon tonight, yeah I am the one reading it from earth.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I’m assuming that Tiffany is one of those folks whose eyes aren’t ‘bad’, but the eye exam is on their checklist for ‘good health’ as we know it in 2017. Trendy to do even. My question to you is: “Where are the SUNGLASSES???” At my doctor’s office (which is in an actual medical center as ((IMHO)) all good eye doctor’s offices SHOULD BE), they have bins full of those plastic wrap around shades that make one look vaguely like Stevie Wonder and which can be rolled up in a tight ball after use and kept somewhere handy in case eye coverage is again needed. They fit under spectacles too. I wish I could have been there to be your ‘bestie’ and I would have totally commiserated with you too. I’ve visited the The Chamber of Liquid Pain, Wherein Dwells the She-Beast with Squirting Devices myself, only a He-Beast was the one wielding the acid (well that’s what it feels like initially, as you so aptly describe). I think green eyes are the bomb-etta….but I’ll personally never EVER subject my own eyes to the gritty sandpaper feel of contact lenses. And if somebody suggests “soft” contacts? Well obviously again, their eyes aren’t ‘bad’. I have to have the scratchy hard kind (they call them some fancy name now that I can’t recall. Probably due to PTSD) because my eyes are egg shaped (apparently) instead of round. And as I recall, “they” (the minions of the Hell Beasts) told me I couldn’t have green ones because of some crap about interference with my ocular spectrum or something. I think personally they make up these terms as they go along… My condolences to you for what sounds like an awful experience. Tip: Carry a little bottle of Thera-tears along with you, so that at the conclusion of the torture session you can bathe your eyeballs in soothing coooling relief. Thera-tears is pricey, but it doesn’t have the apparently harmful ingredients that common brands like Visine contain. I truly do feel your pain!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Perhaps the office staff did offer me some sunglasses, but if they did, I certainly didn’t notice. To be fair, I was more concerned with following Tiffany as she fled, knowing full well that if she got away from me I was completely screwed.(She has her focus points and I have mine.)

      Now, the green-eye thing. I’ve actually had that infatuation for a long time. I don’t know where that came from, and I can’t recall any incidents in my formative years that would lead to such, it’s just there. Sadly (semi-spoiler alert), it’s apparently not meant to be as I still can’t wear contacts, as explained in detail in the upcoming episodes…


  4. Oh I remember it well … getting my first contact lenses, the stinging chemicals, the first try-out of those hard plastic discs and being sent out to walk around the town in them, a town that seemed to be undergoing complete reconstruction as, everywhere I walked, there was scaffolding which of course I walked into, not being able to open my eyes or see through the floods of tears, and BRICK DUST by the ton!! You talk about the chemical pain of dilation, wait till you have an eye full of brick dust! A tiny speck can have you writhing on the ground. Despite all this, being the strong and resilient person that I am (and the fact I hated wearing glasses, so I didn’t and was always walking past people I knew and through the wrong doors ie the Gents instead of the Ladies!), I have now been wearing lenses for 45 years and wouldn’t be wothout them. Great post 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m not fond of going to the eye doctor either, usually opt out on the drops, so I get this, I really do.
    But honestly, man! An eye doctor in a shopping mall? Really?! Geez!

    Note: My eye doctor’s office is inside Costco. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve actually been eyeballing (ahem) the eye doctor’s office in our local Costco, contemplating. I take it you’ve been satisfied with the service? My latest retirement insurance plan no longer covers my current doctor, as he has now fallen into that dreaded zone known as “out of network”…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, very pleased! The doc has his own practice, so while he’s in Costco he’s not with Costco. Meaning there’s absolutely no pressure to buy glasses/contacts there.
        That being said, I recently made the switch from contacts to stylish frames, and Costco provides a great selection at affordable prices.
        I swear, I don’t work for them, but I maybe I should. 😏

        Liked by 1 person

  6. As a long-time contact lens wearer and the victim of 2 eye surgeries, I’d say you nailed it. Why, oh why, does everything that’s supposed to be for our own good always have to be so $#@*&^! uncomfortable?!!

    Liked by 1 person

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