I went to the eye doctor yesterday to get new prescriptions for glasses and contacts. I'm always struck by the extremely subjective nature of the eye exam. My doctor today was one of those doctors who is very nice but also only about 45 minutes older than me, which is unnerving. We did the usual thing where you read the letters in varying sizes on the wall, and he's busy flipping lenses in front of you and comparing different kinds, asking, "What's better, this or this? How about this? Can you see this one? How do you feel about that? Really? Tell me more," etc. Shouldn't he know the answer? I go to the doctor to rely on medical expertise I don't have, yet the eye doctor seems to take a much more relaxed, "you're the expert in your own body" approach. The entire diagnosis is based on how you respond to these prompts, so I always end up providing more information than he probably needs: "the first is a little better, but not really...this one is almost a negligible difference, but I feel happier looking through it...can you go back to the first one again...uh, which one do most people think is better?" I don't want to screw it up. (You would think they could standardize this easily enough: make a tiny line of type everyone should be able to read, like maybe the preamble of the Constitution, and give people whatever lenses they need to read it. That might be an improvement over this incredibly subjective, lens-flipping, is-it-cheating-if-I-squint system we operate on now.)
The flip side of the touchy-feely conversation-based diagnosis is the insane technology optometrists use. They have all those giant plastic machines (do they travel through time? Are they robots?) where you put your head in a sling, open your eyes as wide as they can go and stare at the vertical beam of light that is presently dipping into your cornea and scrambling it. They had a new one yesterday, a machine that I was told would send two "puffs of air" into my eye to test for glaucoma or lupus or something. When I felt the first "puff" my head jerked back so fast and so hard that on the return trip it knocked the chin brace out of alignment. That was not a puff, it was a horizontal geiser aimed at my eyeball. I could barely brace myself for the next three "puffs," and was giggling nervously, stupidly, in anticipation. When they finally finished attacking my face with the air machine, I asked the technician if she had tried it. "No," she said breezily. "Some people seem to be bothered by it though."
Anyways, I survived the appointment. I need to not wear contacts as much; I'm getting blood vessels in my eyes because they are under-oxidized. And nobody wants to walk down the street hearing other people's whispers about how the whites of your eyes seem over-vesseled. So I will be getting plenty of use out of the cool, hipster-ish new glasses I'll be getting in the coming weeks: something to look forward to.