I’ve had bad eyesight since I was a kid. But it would be nice not to elicit it an “Ooooh… interesting…” response from the optician. In case you couldn’t guess, this week I visited Boots Opticians and had an eye test.
I remember as a kid at Junior school in the 80s we were all called into a classroom to take an eye test.
It was the only time I ever remember it happening at school. I can’t recall if there was a specific reason why it happened. Or why the school didn’t just bang on endlessly about going to the opticians in the same way that going to the dentist was drummed into us.
What I do recall is the result.
My eye test result was so poor that the school called my mum in to talk about it.
Now you may be thinking “what kind of person doesn’t know that they have bad eyesight?”. I make you right, but as an 8-year-old, you don’t know what you don’t know.
I didn’t have any obvious signs. Reading wasn’t an issue for me. I didn’t suffer from headaches and I never complained about struggling to see things clearly. There was no reason to believe I would have anything except 20-20 vision.
After mum had met with the teachers it was decided that I needed an appointment at a proper opticians.
Within a few days, I was sat down in a big chair while an optometrist explained how the tests work.
Is “seeing the optician” ironic?
“Cover your left eye. What line can you read clearly on the board?”
The triangle-shaped layout of capital letters stretched before me. A lot of it was blurry. I rattled off a few letters from one of the higher lines that I felt I could read ok.
Almost immediately I was scolded by my mum and told to “stop mucking around.”
Trying again, I was immediately rebuked for the same reason.
The optometrist was unperturbed, though. He simply switched to my left eye and carried out the same test.
I quickly spat out several lines of letters, moving further and further down the chart with ease.
Mum looked shocked. There was a soon-to-be-familiar noise of “Mmmm… interesting…” from the man doing the examination. The test was repeated again with the first eye, with the same poor results.
It turned out that I had horrific eyesight in one eye. I can’t remember how it was labelled at the time, but I remember being told that I could possibly end up blind by the time I was in my 30s or 40s.
Presumably, that was in just the one eye but it was a scary thing to hear as a kid.
I was given a pair of glasses that had the left eye misted out which, I remember, was meant to get the right eye working harder in an attempt to rectify itself.
I hated them.
Aside from the fact that they were typically 1980s style NHS glasses, the misted lens simply meant that everything was extremely blurry.
Add to that the fact that I looked like Jack Duckworth it’s safe to say that it wasn’t a great look for a kid in junior school.
Reading was hard - I could read, but it took extreme focus, and I would have to manually try to adjust my vision to make the letters clearer, resulting in me trying to look through the words or just in front of them to get some clarity.
The glasses did nothing to improve the sight in my right eye and eventually I stopped wearing them.
Fast forward to my late teens and I figured I should get my eyes tested again.
I’d been suffering from extreme tiredness and one of the suggestions given by my doctor was that it could stem from my eyesight.
This was the late 90s now and I trotted off to the opticians for another test. I got told off for leaving it so long between my last test and this one (some 12 or so years, at a guess) and went through a similar but more updated series of eye tests that I had done before.
The same results surfaced. Same response, too, as they optician moved from eye to eye. “Mmmm, interesting…”
The upshot of this appointment was that I was given a new pair of glasses with a proper lens on each side. My right eye was “technically blind”, apparently, which was news to me as despite being far from perfect, I could still see out of and could - at a push - read with.
The glasses were worn for a few months, primarily when working with computers. They did little to help me see better, though and even less to stem the horrendous tiredness I was suffering.
Soon enough I had once again ditched the glasses.
Last week my middle daughter, Brooke, went for an eye test at our local Boots Opticians. She is 12 years old and has worn glasses for several years.
I went along with her and had fully expected to see an old chart hanging on the wall for her to read letters from and that was it.
To my surprise it was far more in-depth than that.
They started by doing a peripheral vision test, asking her to stare into a machine and to count aloud the spots she could see.
After that, it was on to yet another machine. This was the one that blew me away the most. The machine took photos of the back of her eyes.
Shortly after we got moved upstairs and sat with an optician who carried out a variety of other tests including the read-from-the-chart favourite.
I was so impressed with the whole experience that I decided to book an eye test for myself. After all, in the past 30 years since it was originally diagnosed, there must be something that could fix my rubbish eye, right?
As it turns out, no, there’s not. My right eye is lazy and will always be lazy. The left eye compensates for it and although the left eye isn’t perfect, it’s close.
Once again the consultant made the “oooh, interesting…” noise as he moved from eye to eye.
It was suggested that the condition probably caused tiredness as the day drew on and that having glasses could possibly help with that.
I now have a prescription burning a hole in my pocket as I look around online to find a cheap glasses provider having baulked at the extortionate amount that Boots Opticians wanted for various frames, lenses and coatings.
Not that I predict the glasses will help me too much. Which is why I am reluctant to spend loads on them.