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Floyd Elliot Headshot

The Vision Thing

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Sometime in second grade, my teacher noticed me squinting and throwing my body and head from side to side in my chair in an attempt to read the blackboard (we had those back then, and chalk to write on them with, and also velociraptors that chased us home), whereupon she tackled me, thrusting a spoon into my mouth to prevent me swallowing my tongue. Once she realized that I hadn't had a seizure, but was simply making the usual adjustments necessary to allow myself to see anything further than eight inches in front of my nose, she notified my parents that I might have a bit of an issue with my eyesight -- an issue I'm quite sure the pediatric establishment of today would treat, as they do everything, with a powerful psychotropic medication like Adderal or perhaps Ecstasy, but which, back in the day, we took care of with an eye exam and a pair of cheap clunky black-framed Coke-bottle-thick eyeglasses that allowed me to participate in the world of things more than a foot away from me and also immediately turned me into the object of my classmate's scorn and occasional punches in the face. Let me tell you, the idea that you don't hit a person with glasses did not occur to my elementary-school classmates, and rightly so: a person with glasses has little or no peripheral vision, so you can hit them and get the hell away almost before they even know you've decked them.

If second grade seems perhaps a bit young to start wearing glasses, I assure you that the profundity of my nearsightedness actually makes it a little surprising that no one had figured it out years before. (Everybody in the '60s, when I grew up, was a little bit stupid. Hence the Vietnam War: Land war in Asia! Groovy! they cried, a pinnacle of stupidity unmatched until Our Dumbest President decided that, regardless of other empires' thousands of years of experience, invading Afghanistan would work out awesome for us.) My pre-eyeglasses nearsightedness didn't interfere with reading, thanks be to Jah (though I did need to hold the book six inches from my face: clue, '60s people! Clue!) but any hope of developing any kind of hand-eye coordination perished early, and to this day it strikes me as fantastic that people can actually swing a large club of wood and have it not just meet a leather-covered sphere travelling 90 MPH in some kind of twisting ballistic arc but send that leather-covered sphere rebounding hundreds of yards into space. Not fantastic enough for me to ever actually go to a real baseball game, but pretty damn fantastic. Anyway, I live a mile from Wrigley Field, so where would I go to see real baseball anyway?

I'd hoped that as I got older, which I planned to do or die trying, the natural tendency to become farsighted with age (named "presbyopia", after the Presbyterian church, which has a lot of farsighted people in it, or perhaps after Elvis Presby) would counter my nearsightedness, but, sadly, not so much. Instead, I now can't see either up close or far away, so a few years ago I succumbed to my optometrist's blandishments and bought a pair of multifocals, or as they are known in the technical literature, "goddamn multifocals"; if you're unfamiliar with these modern miracles, multifocals are glasses that allow you to see poorly at any distance, but only with much sliding them up and down your nose, tilting of your head and, well, the kinds of movements that led my second-grade teacher to attempt to intervene in what she perceived as my seizure. Plus, they make you look old. Damn you, multifocals, that's my chin-wattle's job! Often shared by my ear-hair.

It took me until my mid-30s to try contacts, because the thought of sticking my finger in my eye several times a day squicked me out, though I've now become quite adept at it, and rarely blind myself for longer than an hour or, tops, three. Once I'd overcome that hurdle, it was easy to see (and this is why you should leave comedy to the professionals) that the next step would be Lasik, or laser eye surgery, but I'm afraid I quailed (or chickened) at that. Everyone tells me how safe laser surgery is, and how nice it is not to have to wear glasses and contacts, but I keep thinking of Dr. No from Goldfinger -- not in the sense that I fear the laser cutting into my private boy parts or, admittedly more likely, my eye, but in the sense that I keep saying no. Because yes, I do fear the laser cutting into my eye (and also my private boy parts). It's a freakin' laser, and it's cutting into my eye! No good can come of that.

So I will probably continue down the path to Mr. Magoo-like virtual blindness, escorting potted plants to social events and stopping to chat animatedly with mailboxes. (That's so silly, isn't it? What with the Republicans dismantling the Postal Service, pretty soon there won't be any more mailboxes.) As long as I can zoom Microsoft Word (Seriously, 12-point type? You're just screwing with me, right? Because I don't remember you being that small before) and my browser so that my kid can read over my shoulder from across the room, I'm good. And of course, I've found the perfect solution to reading actual books when you've found that your arms can extend only so far, and all it takes is a wall, a hammer and a couple of nails. Turning pages does take some work, though.