Hard Not To See the Vanity in This
June 1974 -
For the past ten years, I'd been unhappily putting up with having to wear eyeglasses. Don't get me wrong, I was happy to have a solution to my vision problems but I wished there was another way for me get around and not bump into walls (okay, it wasn't that bad but not being able to clearly see a traffic light with my naked eye was no joke).
After a passing conversation with an acquaintance, I found out about the existence of hard contact lenses. This guy Robert was standing in front of me, talking about how blind he was without his glasses. The fact that I could not tell that he was wearing lenses, made me want to jump up from my chair and run (not walk) to the nearest eye doctor. I had to have this amazing innovation. Little did I know that this idea was not so new.
Back in 1888, Adolf Fick was the first to successfully make what could be called a contact lens. The fact that it was made from blown glass did not make it very appealing to most. You see, the surface of the eyeball has to breathe and this cannot happen through glass. By 1929, Dr. Dallos perfected a method of making molds from living eyes (Yes, I did say, "molds from living eyes". Please don't ask how). Anyway, for the first time, the lens actually conformed to the shape of the eye. Trials with these lenses were difficult to say the least. A gel had to be placed on the lens in order to avoid irritation and damage from the wearing of the glass lens. The gel made it difficult to see at times but I guess when it comes to vanity, you have to take the good with the bad.
The previous lenses were pretty large and covered most of the visible area of the eye. It wasn't until the 1930's that a type of Plexiglas had finally been developed and the clinical trials with glass stopped (how could you put glass in you eyes anyway?). About 1949, the smaller lenses, which cover only the corneal area, were finally produced. Up through the 1970's these "hard lenses" still did not allow air to pass through its surface. No air passing through means possible adverse effects, meaning you could hurt that delicate organism. This brings us back to 1974 and me.
While I was at Sterling Optical, the eye doctor and his helper, showed me how to carefully put in my newly purchased hard contacts. Unfortunately, there is a huge natural defense that I had to move pass in order to purposely stick a foreign object in my eye. Forcing my eyelids open and placing the lens directly on what I'd spent my life protecting, at first felt like a horror movie. Eventually I learned that as long as they were clean, they were comfortable. For a short while, I experienced the same feeling as when I first put on my "I hope they don't look like bottle-cap" glasses, but wait, this was different. These were no glasses. No one could tell I had them on! I felt like a new man. I had gotten my face back!
,The real story was that after about five or six hours, my eyes would feel dry and irritated. As much as I wanted to leave my lenses in, I couldn't. Then there's the other problem. I had to be careful not to get ANYTHING in the lenses just before I put them on. It was bad enough getting a piece of lint in there but a stray eyelash felt like there was a rock being pushed unto my eyeball. I found that I couldn't be in a hurry prior to putting them on because if I hadn't cleaned them well enough I'd have to snatch them out to avoid the stinging pain. My worst nightmare was being at the beach and a grain of sand... Never mind, too frightening.
The next few years, I'd learned how to time out wearing the hard lens according to the occasion. Of course, I was still wearing my glasses but having the option of not wearing them, made a big difference to my ego (no, I didn't say vanity). At least I was happy until the night of the party.
I merrily danced and talked and laughed with my family and friends that particular night. I was successfully able to ignore that rational inner voice, which had always signaled me, like clockwork. "The time is up Cinderfella," it said. "Take those things out of your head!" But I kept saying, “Shut up, stupid. I'm having too much fun." When I finally got home, about eleven hours later, my eyes felt a bit dry but that was about it. Usually the technique for taking out hard lenses was to pull the outer side of my face near my eye, with my finger and then blink. I did this a few times but neither lens would do their usual pop out. Finally, I had to move the left lens off the cornea, unto the white area of my eye and then blink. The lens did pop out and I was relieved. I proceeded to do the same with the right lens and got it out of my other eye.
After doing so, I found that any amount of light was irritating my eyes to the point that my only comfort was to keep them shut. As I attempted to peer through my lids, the light was blindingly painful, especially to my right eye. I was scared but I wasn't in any real pain. I decided to wait it out and see what happened before I ran to the hospital. As the hours passed, my eyes slowly returned to their normal state.
Eventually, I found that no real damage had been done. The eye doctor warned me to be more careful. It was weeks before I dared to place the contacts on again. I did not dare to wear them longer than I should and I listened to the little voice. Fortunately, there was another voice that talking about a new type of lenses. These were soft and some were even called "extended wear." Hearing this new voice, pretty much made me punch the old one in the face.
To be continued...
I love my New York home. Its diversity inspires me. I would not for the world trade my multitude of experiences there.