12/12/06 THE MUMMY'S TOOTH #6


When I'm not wearing my glasses, I'm basically Velma. I don't have my prescription handy, so I can't give you the exact severity of my condition -- nor would I ever provide you with so ready a weakness to exploit, you traitorous devils! -- but my ability to focus tops off at about four inches from my face.

I got my glasses in second grade, around the time that the teacher, Ms. Lanham, began to suspect that my poor performance may not have been because I was stupid and inattentive, but merely because I was nearsighted. One eye test and a trip to the mall later, and Ms. Lanham was delivered conclusive proof that I really WAS stupid and inattentive, because by that point I was able to see the chalkboard as clearly as any eight-year-old who ever had a pound of shaped glass strapped to his head.

My first glasses were bifocals. Most people have to work their way up to bifocal lenses through the normal course of becoming very, very old, but I had an advantage in that my optomitrist back then was a bit of an alarmist. Soon I was delighting crowds and bullies alike with a unique optical illusion -- if I turned my head upwards, I looked like a turtle, but if I turned my head downwards, I looked like a dork.

Yes, in case the image has entered your mind, I can confirm I also wore a strap on my glasses. I think they refer to those things as 'athletic straps,' because they're supposed to keep your glasses from flying off of your face during strenuous physical activity. Now, none of the physical activity I engaged in at the time was so strenuous that I probably couldn't have balanced a soccer ball on my head in the meanwhile, but I needed the strap because I had, and continue to have, a tiny, inadequate nose. Even now, with Featherweight technology and wire frames, I'll still have to hoist them up pretty frequently, but back then, with plastic frames and inch-think, soda-bottle lenses, that strap was the only thing that kept my glasses on, even if it also kept my head pulled floorwards.

Oh, and my lenses were tinted, in case you were still picturing a kid with a shred of self-confidence. This was the eighties, so it was more-acceptable then than now, but it WASN'T the seventies, so it couldn't, under any circumstances, be considered a virtue. In fact, more often than not it was a detriment, because these things had a change rate of something like ten, fifteen minutes. Recess was only a half hour, so half of my time outside was spent with no noticeable tint change in my lenses -- not that it mattered much outside, because, really, I was never in the high-risk group for UV poisoning. However, the change DID eventually occur, and reached its peak just about when it was time to go back into the classroom. The light change from a sunny schoolyard to a dim classroom is significant anyway, but walking in with tinted lenses had a definite 'sunglasses-at-night' effect, only instead of it being so I could, so I could keep track of the visions in my eyes, it merely kept me from seeing anything, including joker classmates sneaking up to administer a wedgie.

And that's what being a kid is all about.



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