Category Archives: Things Wondrous Strange

Doctor, My Eyes



I’ve known for quite a while that my glasses needed to have their prescription updated. As I need them for driving and for watching television, and I can’t read street signs till I’m passing them, nor the miniscule ticker at the bottom of the television screen during the news, I knew it was time for an eye exam.

After all, that ticker on the TV screen could be telling me — IN ALL BOLD CAPS LIKE MY UNIVERSITY STUDENTS USED TO DO IN THEIR PAPERS TO TRY TO FOOL ME INTO THINKING THEY HAD THE REQUISITE 500 WORDS WHEN THEIR PAPER WAS ONLY ONE PAGE LONG — that it was the END OF THE WORLD and that I needed to seek shelter immediately. Wearing my current glasses, I’d miss the Apocalypse, I assure you. When I looked up the date of my last eye-exam and saw that it was 2007, I hurriedly shamed myself into making an appointment.

Something has happened in the world of Doctors of the Eyes in the last 7 years, I can tell you.

Something surreal.

On Wednesday, the day of my appointment, I awoke in the middle of the night with a migraine. I took one pain-pill and told myself that, if my head was worse in the morning, I’d cancel the appointment and reschedule since I wasn’t sure if either the migraine or the pain meds or both might affect the exam results. About an hour before I was to see the doctor, my head didn’t feel too bad — it wasn’t great, but I thought it was relatively bearable with the pain medication — so I went down for my exam.

Now, I’ve never had an eye exam at a Wal-Mart-Super-Stores-Deluxe-Eye-Exam-Center but out here in the Desert Wilderness of New Mexico, there are not too many places to have such commonplace things as eye exams done unless you want to drive over an hour to one of the two big cities in the state (or cross the border into Mexico, que no quiero hacer). I opted to try Wal-Mart’s Eye Exam Doctor since the techs guaranteed me that all their doctors were trained, certified, licensed optometrists or opthamologists.

What a mistake.

First of all, the doctor, whom we’ll call Dr. B, kept yelling at me during the exam. Initially, I thought he simply sounded loud because I had a migraine, and loud sounds hurt my ears during a migraine and cause my head pain to worsen. I soon got over that idea when he stood right in front of the phoropter and asked me to read the line of letters. I informed him that all I could see was his face and glasses because he was in my line of vision. He raised his voice to tell me that he “didn’t have time for jokes.” I told him his eyes were blue, and that one of his grey eyebrow hairs was really long and about to poke him in the eye. He moved out of the way.

The next time he yelled at me, he told me I was giving him “deeply inconsistent answers.” I told him I didn’t understand what he meant. He told me that my eyes didn’t match, and that, furthermore, I kept changing my mind on which was clearer: 1 or 2, 2 or 1, 1 or 2, as he was changing the potential lenses.

Now, from eye exams I’ve had in the past, I thought that the patients were supposed to tell the doctor when potential lens 1 or 2 was “clearer or about the same” so that the doctor could determine the best prescription. Apparently, Dr. B found my responses “deeply inconsistent” and “incorrect.”

If I’d known it was that sort of a test, I would have studied harder, or at least used my crib sheets.

He  yanked the phoropter away from my face. Even as inexperienced as I am in eye exams and in the care and feeding of phoropters, I could see that the left lens was absolutely filthy. It was so smudged that it was cloudy, with a serious chance of meatballs and gravy.

Grumbling away, he cleaned the lens, demanding to know what I had “on my eyes” that had gotten the lens dirty. I don’t wear any makeup except mascara and lipstick, and I didn’t have those on because I hadn’t felt morally obligated to dress up for an eye exam that takes place in a darkened room. Dr. B accused me of having eye makeup on that had “dirtied the lens.” Though I protested vociferously that I had nothing on my eyes, he continued to grumble.

I began to think about walking out.

When he slammed the phoropter back against my forehead, I quickly reminded him that I had a migraine and informed him that I was experiencing increased pain from the pressure of the machine. He told me that (a) I shouldn’t have come for an exam when I had a migraine, (b) I was imagining things, and (c) the phoropter had to fit tightly to my forehead to work properly.

So now it had become a multiple-choice eye exam, and I had seriously neglected to study. I pressed my head further back on the chair-pad behind me to ease the tension against my forehead. I began to think of calling him a few choice names before I walked out.

After he told me to read various lines of letters shining on the far wall, I did so to the best of my ability.


Like me,  you might be thinking that which line you could read on the Snellen chart was an integral part of determining what strength lens you needed in your potential glasses. According to Dr. B, you’d be wrong. After I’d read one line with my right eye and he requested that I read it with my left, I said I could only make out the first letter clearly.

“You just read those letters,” he said. “You don’t remember them?”

Remember them?

“Doesn’t memorizing the letters defeat the purpose of an eye-exam?” I said.

He found my question impertinent, to say the least, and told me so.

Then he put a miniature version of the Snellen chart up to my nose. Literally. UP TO MY NOSE. He requested that I read the bottom line, which I could not since it was so blurry. In fact, I couldn’t read any of the lines on the chart right in front of my nose because they were all blurred. He flipped though lenses until I could see the bottom line. (I couldn’t see the other lines, but I could see the bottom line.) He told me I needed bi-focals.

“You mean, reading glasses?” I said.

“Most definitely,” he replied.

“But I can read just fine without my glasses, which are for distance.”

“You couldn’t read those letters when I put that chart in front of your face.”

“Who reads with something up to their nose?” I said.

He informed me that the small chart had been placed at “the proper reading distance” and that when I look at my computer screen, which I can see perfectly fine, or lie in bed and read with the book (or e-reader) on my stomach, I am reading at “mid-distance” which is not, apparently, “the correct reading distance.” He told me I was “doing it wrong” and “to stop reading at mid-distance immediately,” though he gave no no explanation or reason for doing so.

I guess that means I’ll have to put my nose against the computer screen when I’m working. (Dang. I’m doing it incorrectly even as I write this blog on my laptop. What a bad patient I am.)

Before the exam, when I filled out the paperwork, I had specifically requested that my eyes be dilated so the doctor could examine my retina since there are all sorts of diseases and body ailments that can be detected that way. Without ever dilating my pupils — which costs extra, by the way — he turned on the lights and told me I was finished, handing me a prescription for new lenses.

I asked him when he was going to dilate my eyes. He told me he wasn’t. I told him, for the upteenth time, that I have some vitreous floaters — bits of detached retina, which usually re-attach, but which can come completely loose, leaving blank spots in the field of vision — in my left eye due to something that happened several years ago. I wanted to know if all the vitreous floaters had re-attached to my retina.

While walking away from me and without doing the courtesy of turning around and addressing me to my face, he said that everybody gets vitreous floaters as they get older and I was, at 58, getting older just in case I didn’t know it.

Wow, learn something new every day.

“I requested, in writing, to have my eyes dilated and my retinas examined.”

“I only do 1 or 2 dilations a year,” he said.

“I want to be one of those 1 or 2,” I said.

He was not amused.

Neither was I.

I was even less amused when I discovered that he’d listed “retinal dilation” for an additional charge on my bill.

I refused to pay.

For any of the exam.

I told the technicians what had happened, and that I felt extremely uncomfortable with the prescription he’d given me for the eyeglasses, as well as with the exam itself and his unprofessional behavior. They told me they constantly get complaints about Dr. B, but since he wasn’t actually a Wal-Mart employee, but a subcontractor, there wasn’t much they could do about him.

Except not charge me for the exam and offer to schedule one at the next nearest Wal-Mart, over an hour’s drive away, with a different doctor.

I think I’ll skip the Super-Store-Deluxe-One-Stop-Does-It-All and go to an independent eye doctor.

I would like to be able to read street signs again.

And I’d truly like to know when I have to get ready for the Zombie Apocalypse by being able to read the TICKER ON THE BOTTOM OF THE TV SCREEN DURING THE MORNING NEWS.


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Filed under Humor, Memoir, Things Wondrous Strange

The Break-Up: How I Took Back My Own Hair


“You got 20 minutes, Girlfriend,” said Donald when I arrived on Friday.

“20 minutes? But you were rushed last time we got together…”

“What can I say, Sweetie? I’m busy.”

He sat me down and got me comfortable. At least, he got me physically comfortable. Inside, I was a jangle of mixed emotions. We’d been together nearly 5 years, and I’d been completely faithful, never even thinking of being with anyone but Donald, yet… yet…

Something was undeniably wrong.

I’d suspected it last time we’d been together, the way he rushed to finish, the way he didn’t ask what I wanted or needed, the way he didn’t even seem to care if I was satisfied or happy. The way I couldn’t reach him on his cellphone between the last time we’d seen each other and Thursday night, when he finally returned my call and said we could get together on Friday morning.

My doubts about his feelings for me intensified when he ran his fingers through my hair without taking his rings off, sighing loudly, “Girl, what did you do to your hair?”

That was when I knew, without doubt, that something bad was happening.

Donald had never talked to me that way before. He’d always complimented my hair: its color, texture, sheen, abundance. He’d always admired my hair, and often told me how beautiful it was. Nothing like that came out of his mouth on Friday, however, and I began to feel more than a slight chill in the room.

“You don’t like my hair?” I said.

“Did you think I would?” he said, flipping a long strand away from my face. “Who are you trying to be?”

My heart almost stopped. Never had he spoken to me like that. All these years together. My absolute and complete fidelity, love, admiration, respect…

Was it all over?

Was Donald tired of me?

“20 minutes, Girl. You better tell me what you want. I got people waiting.”

“I want you. I don’t want anybody else.”

He looked at his watch. He chewed gum. He gazed at his fingernails. He looked at me in the mirror. I couldn’t breathe.

By the time I got home, I was weeping copious tears of regret and shame. What had I done wrong? Hadn’t I been loyal, generous, undemanding, flexible? Hadn’t I always been clear about my needs and desires? Hadn’t I been unfailingly affectionate, even, loving, to a fault?

All I’d done was trim my own hair.

Not liking it, I’d asked Donald to “fix” it for me.

Isn’t that what he was supposed to do?

When I looked in the mirror at home, I knew it was over. Donald hadn’t liked my hair, and he certainly hadn’t approved of the fact that, despite the fact that I’d cut my own hair for over 20 years before I’d met him, I’d dared to do something to my own hair myself. Clearly annoyed, Donald had spent only 20 minutes with me, practically bragging that someone else was waiting, not listening to how I wanted my hair to look, fixing it however he wanted it to be.

This was the second time in a row that we’d gotten together and that I’d been completely and totally unsatisfied. Furthermore, I’d left Donald feeling lonely, unhappy, sad. That isn’t a good way to feel in a relationship.

Just as I was wondering what to do, the phone rang.

“Donald? Is that really you?”

“Why you acting so surprised, Girlfriend? You act like I never call you.”

“You never have called me. Ever. Not once in 5 years. I’m the one who always calls you.”

“Well, you didn’t seem too happy this morning when you left. You feel better now?”


“Oh. Sorry to hear that.”

“Did you want to get together…”

“Can’t, Baby-girl. I got plans. Just thought I’d call and see how you felt.”


“Okay, Honey. ‘Bye.”

I couldn’t sleep that night. I kept getting up and going into the bathroom, turning on its harsh light, staring at my hair and what Donald had done to it. He hadn’t done what I’d asked for.

Was this how I wanted to spend my life? Was this how I wanted to look?

In the morning, when I called Donald, he was not pleased.  He didn’t want to see me. He didn’t even want to talk to me. He said he thought my hair had looked just fine when I’d left him Friday morning.

I told him I was unhappy.

He said he had to go: he had things to do.

So, I’d been right. That was it. It was over.

We’d broken up without even saying it.

My years with Donald were 5 of the happiest years of my life. 5 years when, I admit, I’ve looked better than I ever have. Donald did amazing things with my hair, cutting and styling it into imaginative and compliment-worthy shapes, even dying it into strange and strikingly brilliant colors.

But they were always colors and syles which Donald had picked for me, not in consultation with me.

And now he had abandoned me.

All I wanted to do after I realized that it was over was to try to efface the damage Donald had inflicted: I didn’t like the cut or the color. I got in my Jeep and drove until I found a place that looked like it had someone who could help me. The red-and-white stripes on the old-fashioned Barber pole beckoned.

When I went in, only one person was there: Ricardo. He smiled.  He motioned me to sit in the large, padded chair. He listened patiently to what I wanted done with my hair. He nodded sympathetically when I asked if he could repair the damage Donald had done. Yes, of course, he said, he could help me.

Sighing, he reluctantly lifted the clippers to my head and shaved off the parts of my hair that were too bizarrely damaged to be saved, shaking his head continually, tsk-tsk-tsk-ing at what had been done to me.

“You are a very brave woman,” he said, in a tender whisper when he finished and he was sure that I was completely and totally satisfied. “And very, very  beautiful.”

Ah, Ricardo mio, he made me feel I could start again, my head held high.

updated August 2017


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Filed under Absurdity, Humor, Memoir, Things Wondrous Strange