I noticed a scratch on the right lens of my glasses. Actually, somebody else noticed and pointed it out to me. Actually, it’s more like a bunch of scratches, all told about half an inch wide and running the length of the lens top to bottom. I have no idea how this happened, but it didn’t seem to affect my vision so I didn’t make a priority of doing anything about it. My left eye is definitely the dominant one, the one I look through cameras with, the less nearsighted one, although it’s the one with the astigmatism. But today I was at the mall and I thought I’d go back to the store where I got my glasses and see if they could do anything about the scratch.

The LensCrafter looked at my glasses and made a face I couldn’t identify since I wasn’t wearing my glasses. He said, “That’s a scratch all right. Do you work around a lot of chemicals?” and reached for a tissue and started to clean my glasses. I said that I didn’t work around any noxious chemicals, only a couple of noxious people, and if it’s really a scratch, there’s not much that you can do about it with a tissue. “Can you fix it?” I asked.

“There’s nothing we can do.”
“Can you replace the lens?”
“Sure, but you’ll have to pay for that.”

I indicated that I was in fact prepared to pay for the service and he wrote down my prescripton on the tissue he had used to clean my glasses, with a sharpie that left marks on the glass top of his desk right through the tissue. I was starting to have second thoughts about paying these people to replace a lens, even though they had originally installed both lenses in my frames, which I had bought at this very outlet less than a year ago. (Fortunately, the damage protection plan was still in effect and would reduce my bill.)

$90 later (did I mention that I am very, very nearsighted?) I walked out of the store with instructions to come back in about an hour. I had my prescription sunglasses, but it wasn’t very bright in the mall, and it was pouring rain outside, so I walked around the mall for an hour without any glasses.

I’ve worn glasses for about 30 years, nearly every waking moment excepting episodes of washing, snogging, and more and more lately, reading small print. It’s like having a phantom limb on your face – you want to push them up your nose but they’re not there. The feeling of air flowing fleely across my eyeballs was strange, too.

I can see well enough not to bump into people or walls, but faces and signs were unreadable until they were very close. Shopping for clothes wasn’t that different since you have to look pretty closely at them anyway, but tags had to be brought almost to my nose to be read. But I had to work my way along from display to display like I was feeling my way along the walls because it wasn’t all that obvious to me what was on each rack unti I was close enough to touch it. Good things stores like the Gap have more or less the same layout wherever you go.

I can’t claim to have learned much from my hour of near-blindness except maybe that it’s not that easy to kill an hour in the mall if you aren’t hungry and can’t go to the bookstore.