The Awkward Guide

In every situation in life, there's always a way to make a tit of yourself

The Awkward Guide To The Opticians

For those who have managed to side-step shortsightedness, this may be slightly lost on you, and for that I apologise. But spare a thought for those of us who spent our early years labouring under the delusion that none of the other kids could see what was written on the blackboard either.

That is, until someone suggested a trip to the opticians, a place which triumphs over the meagre dentists to claim the title of “World’s Most Awkward Regularly Attended Medical Establishment”. Oh yeah, that’s quite a claim to fame. The doctors is arguably more awkward, but then, you do only go when you have managed to accidentally break yourself in some way. The opticians is something you are subjected to for simply mentioning that everything looks a little bit fuzzy.

Whilst sitting in the optician’s padded chair you fall prey to a series of stressful tests that leave you wondering if you have mistakenly wandered into ‘A Clockwork Orange’ rather than ‘Boots Opticians’. And here, in convenient list-form, are the 5 most awkward things about going to the opticians.

1. The Inspector Gadget Glasses. Every optician has a pair, and in of themselves, they are really quite entertaining. They are essentially the most complicated pair of glasses in existence, and seem to be composed of an intricate system of dials, pulleys, winches, and probably powered by some sort of miniature steam engine that only the optician knows how to operate. No sooner have you sauntered in and taken your seat than the optician has clamped a pair onto your face and ratcheted them tight so they don’t fall off.

Which would be fine, after all, what’s a bit of mild discomfort and feelings of ridiculousness amongst complete strangers? Except that the optician proceeds to ask you a series of serious questions, to which you are expected to give serious answers, despite the fact that you’re sitting there looking as though you’ve just mosied on over from some sort of steam punk convention. I imagine it’s a bit like trying to recount your family’s medical history to a doctor whilst dressed as the back-end of a pantomime horse, although I’ve never actually tried this so I can’t be sure.

The optician also invariably finds some urgent reason to leave the room for an unsettling length of time. This leaves you sitting there in your wind-up, clockwork comedy glasses wondering if this isn’t all an elaborate practical joke. Or worse, wondering with immense trepidation what strange examinations are coming next, what bizarre instrument of pain and social awkwardness has the optician just gone to fetch?

2. The board with all the letters on it. This is a very clever diagnostic tool, really, whoever came up with this method must be a genius. Particularly ingenious is the way they get you to read it first with your glasses on. Inspired. Which means that then, because you have more than a 5 second memory, you know exactly what all the letters are. Which means that for the remainder of the testing process, you have to try to work out whether you know what the letters are because you can actually read them, or because you already know what the letters are.

You have to play a guessing game with your own sense of sight. And if you get it wrong, you might end up with the wrong prescription. This might not sound like such a terrible thing in the context of life, the universe and everything, but if you drive a car then you’ll appreciate how important it is to be able to tell the difference between a large dog and a small child (although ideally you would avoid running it over regardless of whether it is a canine or an infant). And if you’ve ever tried on the glasses of someone who is more blind than you, you will appreciate how important it is to not have a prescription that is too strong if you want to avoid feeling nauseated every time you move slightly.

3. “Is it better with or without? With or without?” Ah that phrase, if you’ve ever visited the opticians, you will be more than familiar with that phrase. It is repeated ad infinitum as the optician inserts and removes lenses from your Inspector Gadget specs. Which wouldn’t be too annoying or awkward, except that the lenses seem to have absolutely no impact whatsoever on your sight, and either way you still have no hope of reading the tiny bottom line.

But don’t be fooled into thinking that “I really can’t see any difference” is an acceptable answer. Oh no! If you dare to venture this, all the optician will say is “Really? Try again. Is it better with or without?” They will just keep saying it until you give them a proper answer. And by ‘proper answer’ I mean until you’ve made a wild guess, carried out a swift ip dip doo assessment, and arbitrarily said either “with” or “without”. Once you’ve said one, they can happily move onto the next lens and begin the whole sorry process all over again, until you reach the point where you will pretty much say anything if it will allow you to leave sooner.

4. The bit where the optician peers into your eyes for an uncomfortable length of time. This is probably the least annoying but most awkward part of the whole examination procedure. When they reach for the special eye-torch thing, you know what’s coming and your heart sinks.

This is the bit where they sit in front of you, shine a light in your eye, and spend the next few agonising minutes with their face mere centimetres away from your own. You’re supposed to spend that time concentrating on not accidentally looking left when they tell you to look right, but you probably just spend it thinking: “Oh no, I can feel your breath on my cheek and your hair is dangerously close to touching me. This is a completely unacceptable level of intimacy for two strangers to be maintaining. For the love of god, we’re British, we don’t do this sort of thing.”

5. Being given glasses. Because, let’s face it, no matter how long you spend browsing the various types and styles of frames, and no matter how much money you spend on the frames you eventually select, there is not a frame in the world that will confuse your fellow schoolchildren into thinking that you have not in fact become bespectacled.

The initial excitement of ‘wow, trees actually have leaves instead of green fuzzy blobs!’ is quickly extinguished when you have to venture into school the next day. Then you will inevitably have to endure one of the world’s stupidest insults – ‘four eyes’. Now, if you were bold enough, which I never was, you should really respond to this particular insult like so: “You, sir, are an idiot. If I had four eyes, I would presumably be able to see twice as well. And if you had four brain cells, you would be able to think twice as well, but it looks like we’ll have to make do with what we’ve got, doesn’t it?”


The Awkward Guide accepts no responsibility for adverse reactions to the implementation of advice supplied herein. Side-effects can include: smug laughter, mild disdain, and temporary irritation.


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This entry was posted on 21/08/2012 by in Personal and tagged , , , , , , , , .

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