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.
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?”
“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.