I Was Going To Call This "I Can See Clearly Now" But Basically I Can See Exactly The Same

Tell me, have you ever been to a Lenscrafters? I had an appointment there for an eye exam this afternoon and it was such a bizarre experience that I don't think I've fully processed it yet. The only way I can think to explain it is....well, have you seen Austin Powers? You know that bit at the beginning where he's being thawed after being cryogenically frozen for thirty years, and he has to move between all those different stations doing strange things while a team of poker-faced technicians clad in white lab coats look on and take notes and periodically recite things in a robot monotone? Well, that's kind of how it was.

I'm not even sure why I chose Lenscrafters to be honest, just that I've been paying for this vision insurance every month and I suddenly realized the other day that here we were, at the end of 2009, and I hadn't done anything to justify its cost all year: no eye exam, no new glasses, nothing.  Sean goes to see a pretty awesome eye doctor in North Beach called Benny Wong and what I should have done is just made an appointment with Benny Wong, but instead I thought "Lenscrafters! I'll just do it there! It's near my office! How convenient!" and so I rang them last week, booked an appointment for after work today, and considered the whole thing done. I guess what this basically means is that the VP of marketing for Lenscrafters should get some sort of fatty year end bonus, because whatever ads he's been putting out there for the whole of 2009 have obviously been working a treat.

Anyway, the whole thing was just so....weird. I felt like an extra in a sci-fi film, shuttling between rooms with my white-coat-clad guide---who wasn't the eye doctor or anything, just some dude who said hello to me at the door when I walked into the cavernous store, I mean I kind of just thought he was, like, one of those greeters they have Wal-Mart and Home Depot or something---offering myself up as a willing guinea pig in all sorts of bizarre eye test EXPERIMENTS that I've never had to do before. I mean, I haven't (cough) had an eye exam in (cough) about two years (whoops!)---and actually, I don't think I've ever had an eye exam in America, come to think of it---but still.....can eye exam technology have changed so much? Can it vary so greatly from country to country? Going to the doctor is pretty much the same in America as it is in England and Singapore and Hong Kong, ditto going to the dentist. So why in the name of Transitions tinted lenses is going to the optician such a totally disorienting experience?

Like, seriously, have you ever done the one where you have to rest your chin on a bar, stare at a white screen with a black square on it, then squeeze this clicker thing they give you whenever you see some wavy lines appear near the black square? I felt like I was playing the Wii or something: Wavy line! Click! Wavy line! Click! Wavy line! Click! Got you! Bring it on! Where's the next wavy line? Ah, there it is! Click! Oh, you're going down, wavy line! There's another one! Click! Got you, sucker! Click!

After a while, some of the wavy lines were kind of faint---I mean, maybe I was even hallucinating them in my quest to BRING THOSE BAZZITCHES DOWN---but I clicked when I saw them anyway because I was all like, whatever, that looked like a wavy line, I WILL CLICK ON IT AND WIN THIS GAME. And then towards the end I suddenly thought "wait, what if the object of this game was to not see those wavy lines, instead of trying to see as many of them as possible?  Whoops! Because if that's the case, then I've royally screwed myself over." So then I started easing up on clicking the wavy lines, just in case I'd got the wrong end of the stick somehow---damn me for not asking for the rules of the game before starting!---but then afterwards the guy in the white lab coat was all "you have excellent peripheral vision!" so what do you know, I guess I basically did win after all.

Also, have you ever have a puff of air blown into your eye? I've had this done before, so it wasn't exactly a huge surprise to me, but what was a huge surprise was that it was sandwiched in there between his fourteen other different experiments. So by the time I sat down at my eighth machine and stuck my chin in the chin rest, you see, I'd settled into a sort of bring on the eye tricks! sort of nonchalance, which meant I was only expecting to have to read B H D X P S in increasingly small letters from the screen, or decide whether the circles on the left were clearer than the circles on the right, or correctly diagnose a pulmonary edema using only a very small illustration of a man drawn by the lab technician himself while humming Bach's Cello Suite No.1 and translating Anna Karenina from the original Russian, and instead, BAM! AIR IN MY EYE! WHOA! BUY A GIRL DINNER FIRST!

And so I jumped back and sort of inhaled sharply and Mr. White Coat sighed noisily and said "oh, you blinked, now I have to do it again," and I was all WELL MAYBE I WOULDN'T HAVE BLINKED IF YOU'D TOLD ME TO EXPECT A SMALL PUFF OF AIR IN MY EYE, ASSHOLE, except I'm British and polite so I just said "oh, okay, sure!" and sat then there while I had air blown in my eye 57 more times. This is kind of what my whole life is like, by the way, in case you ever wondered what it's like to be me. I guess there's a metaphor or something in there somewhere. Also, another thing about being me is that waiters never understand when you pronounce basil "bazzell" so I've found it's usually easier just to adapt and say it the American way instead.

Anyway, I did eventually get to see the proper eye doctor, by the way---for all of three minutes, since she was apparently on her way to a hot date somewhere, given the fact that she was wearing five-inch heels, and also given the fact that she was basically twelve---and she gave me some new contact lenses that I've got to wear for a week and then report back on (I just looked them up on the Internet and it says you can SLEEP in them, no THANK YOU), and I also had a cursory look at eyeglass frames, but then I basically had to give up after a while because I couldn't tell which were for men and which were for women.

I found a pair I sort of liked, mostly because they were the cheapest, and so I did a loop of the store and spotted my white coated cyborg again and asked him if they were for men or for women. He was all "Oh, it doesn't matter," and I was like, "au contraire, mon frere, I think it does"---again, since I'm British, it was just in my head---and so then we just agreed that maybe I'd come back again next week when I was more in the, uh, MOOD for making big decisions like this, so I paid my ten dollar co-pay and left. (Ten bucks! I know! To play an awesome wavy line game and have air puffs fired into my retina! Bargain of the century! I think I know what we're doing for date night NEXT week!)

Whew, writing this really took it out of me, Internet. I don't think I've got that worked up about something in months! I've been all wedding wedding wedding and then all honeymoon honeymoon honeymoon and I'd forgotten, for a while, that eye exams are the stuff that blogs are made of! Chuckles galore! Now, however, I need to go and pack for Mexico City, where I am going for work in approximately nine hours, and where the temperature seems to oscillate between 43 and 75 degrees with alarming regularity. I have no hilarious way to end this, so I will just say WOW, that is a lot of LAYERS I am going to have to pack. However, I am staying at the Four Seasons, so I am pretty sure they will have some sort of cashmere throw made from organic, vegan, NPR-supporting goats I can borrow.  (ALSO, DUDE, FOUR SEASONS. HOW EXCITED AM I.)

Dec 03, 2009

Oh, I am seriously laughing so hard at this post- especially at the "air puff" test. I'm just like you- sure! Blow air into my eyes and give me mini-heart-attacks again and again and again! I love it! OMG! Best thing ever!

*said as she clenches the seat she's sitting on so hard her knuckles go a deathly shade of white*

Dec 03, 2009

Oh oh oh the sleep-in lenses are absolutely brilliant! I've had them for a couple of years and they are completely fantastic! Far more comfortable than the daily disposables, next best thing to having laser surgery, methinks. I'm trying to psych myself up for that, but it's all a little too Clockwork Orange for me as yet. . .

Dec 03, 2009

I had to take my toddler with me to the opticians the other day. It was all going swimmingly until the white-coated, mouth-masked man turned off the lights & started dragging all this high tech machinery across the floor. Then there was howling. I think she thought the machines were trying to eat me. It really put me off my spot the lines clicking.

(I've done the same tests at some eye checks in the UK. Not at all of them though. I think it depends how bored they are)

Dec 03, 2009

Sounds very much like Specsavers in the UK/Ireland. They also rather like playing games with colours (red or green?) and squirting orange dye into the testee's eyes for, oh, no good reason at all.

(Six euro discount rate, too. Bargain.)

Dec 03, 2009

That was a thoroughly entertaining read! Especially the part about what it's like to be you. :)

Dec 03, 2009

Ah yes, the British politeness. Our inability to speak up for ourselves, even when someone else is patently in the wrong, and the waves of guilt and frantic backtracking whenever we do succeed, thus rendering the whole process pointless. I know it well!

Dec 03, 2009

Yeah. I'm not British. And there are some times that I think I'm really going to be one of those cranky old people who beans someone with a cane in frustration. (Don't worry, I'll never attack someone polite and British.)

Dec 03, 2009

There really does need to be a better way to do optometrist visits. Like just take my prescription automatically and go from that. I always stress out that I'll answer the wrong thing with "does this look better or that" and get the wrong prescription. This year they weakened my prescription even though my vision hasn't changed, so I'm pretty skeptical of the whole process. And I haven't been wearing contacts that much, so I haven't even filled the new prescription. Take that, eye doctor.

Dec 03, 2009

Holly, the eye puff thing was just...well, I have to change my sweater now because I may have dribbled coffee on it a little from the giggling.

And, seriously, don't go back to Lenscrafters. I won't go into a whole sordid tale here (I don't do the whole, "NEVER SHOP AT STORE XYZ BECAUSE THEY SUK AND WON'T RETERN MAH CALLS" thing in online forums, email me if you're really curious) but I really would just find an eye doctor, maybe Sean's, and go there instead. I know! Waste of time and money, but at least you got to play Wavy Line Wii!

As my dear old Dad used to say, you only get one pair of eyes in this life and the second one isn't meant to be a spare--treat them well.


You CAN sleep in those contacts, I do and it changed my life. I still can't sit throught that air puff though...

Dec 03, 2009

I think they have all of those tests because eye doctors are now lazy and rely on those crazy tests to do their job. Eh hem. Not all of them, of course. It took me about three years to finally find a decent eye doctor.

Dec 03, 2009

I would have made the appointment with Sean's doctor just so I could insert the phrase "I have an appointment with Benny Wong" into casual conversation multiple times a day.

Operation Pink Herring
Dec 03, 2009

This whole process sounds very time consuming. Isn't the whole deal at Lenscrafters that they can have you in an out in "about an hour"?

I have to say, though, I think their marketing director needs to get fired. Have you seen that commercial where a flight attendant announces the flight will be delayed "about an hour" and then the pilot and co-pilot run off to Lenscrafters (because they can! They have about an hour!)? First of all, I find it very confusing. Is the flight delayed BECAUSE they're slipping off for new glasses? Or are they running out because the flight is delayed? It's not clear, but I'll tell you what you don't want your company associated with, ever: delayed flights. That's just a little bit of free advice from someone who's never taken a single class on marketing, but has been on plenty of delayed flights, and possibly now knows why.

Dec 03, 2009

This is very interesting since I am, at present, waiting for a delayed flight. I would now bet you money that it's because the pilot has run off to Lenscrafters for new glasses. If only I'd had time to warn him about the puff of air first! On the upside, however, presumably he will now be able to fly the plane with 20/20 vision. (Also! Wait! Aren't pilots supposed to have 20/20 vision anyway? There should be no reason for that pilot in the Lenscrafters ad to be running out to buy glasses!)

Dec 03, 2009

I don't know how they expect you to stick your head into the machine and KEEP YOUR EYE OPEN when you know A BIG PUFF OF AIR is going to be racing toward you with the velocity of a small bullitt. The eye doctor is the only doctor where I have ever cried. Bring on the dentist any day of the week!

Dec 03, 2009

Operation Pink: No, you get your glasses in about an hour- not the eye exam. It takes longer if only for the waiting.

It's the same tests most places. Even private docs, unaffiliated with LensCrafters or EyeMasters do those test too. Or at least, that's been my experience. I've seen a lot of different Optometrists (5 in 10 years).

Your post made me crack up. It's totally cavernous and space-agey and the puff in the eye SUUUUCKS. I hope next time to just go to my soon to be in-laws who are Ophthalmologists.

Dec 03, 2009

Ha, I loved this post. I have had IDENTICAL experiences at LensCrafters, but they at least warn me when they do the puff of air. Did you get the printout of your eyeball? That's kind of cool.

The temps in Mexico City really do vary that much, so layer layer layer. Also, remember to take lots of deep cleansing breaths since the altitude is ridiculous. (Or at least as cleansing as you can get in a city with that much smog. *cough*)

Locusts and Wild Honey
Dec 03, 2009

I have a lot of health problems but you just made me thank my lucky stars for having good vision.

Eye exams sound truly bizarre, like something out of Clockwork Orange.

Have fun in Mexico!

Dec 03, 2009


As an American who's spent years going to places like LensCrafters and thinking nothing of it, I was spitting my coffee out laughing at your perspective of the whole shebang.

It IS pretty ridiculous, but then again, we Americans feel that getting a cheap deal is the main thing... as long as we can see when it's over, we complain loudly at the air puff machine (you have to learn to bitch properly, to hell with the politeness) and pay our ten bucks and leave.

Have fun in Mexico, and remember: DON'T DRINK DE WATER!

jennifer in sf
Dec 03, 2009

I made the mistake of going to Lenscrafters once when my eye insurance was nonexistent. I had to do the air puff test SO many times that the guy was like "you know, kids do this all the time and don't have problems." Yeah, thanks dude, that really helps.

And for frames allow me to recommend checking out Optical Underground on Sutter for frames. They have a MUCH better selection than Lenscrafters.

Dec 03, 2009

Wow. I had a near exact experience as you when I also decided (for the same reason "but it's near my office!") to go to LensCrafters for the first eye exam I had had in about (cough cough cough) 5 years. Tests and buttons and air and lights and letters. Oh my. Though my experience differed from yours in the fact that I had my eyes dilated for the first time ever. And wow, was that a carnival-ride. I always thought that 'puffing the air' was the same thing. It is indeed, not.

Dec 03, 2009

I get the same way about trying to prove myself during health exams, like it will make me a better person if I DON'T need a new prescription or if I DON'T actually have strep throat. You'd think I'd realize the whole point is getting an accurate diagnosis so I can get an accurate treatment, but the way it always happens is that my competitive, perfectionist side rears her head and gets all "I'm not blind! I'm not sick!" which is obviously to no one's detriment but my own.

Dec 03, 2009

"NPR-supporting goats." Awesome.

If the lenses are Night & Day, I sleep in those every night and _love_ them. They make camping trips and traveling sooo much easier. Occasionally they're fuzzy in the morning, but some rewetting drops take care of that. Also, I take a break once a week or so (::cough:: or every month...usually) and take them out for a day or so.

Dec 03, 2009

I have the worst vision ever* and have had glasses or contacts since I was 3 so I'm used to the tests. But I always seem to have overweight, heavy-breathing eye doctors and I can never seem to get used to that part where they're, like, 1" from my face with their little scope, lingering and breathing and lingering and breathing till I want to scream, "OH MY GOD, PLEASE STOP BREATHING ON MY FACE ALREADY!!!"

Maybe it's just me....

*grossly over exaggerated

Dec 03, 2009

i have a great eye doctor in SF (Eye Carumba - clever, huh! They're in the Embarcadero center so really convenient for downtown). They hardly ever to the eye puff test - only once every two years I think - but they have a version of the wavy line test that has dots of lights and I always surprise myself by getting a little burst of adrenaline when I'm playing it - who am I competing with exactly?!

Also, I LOVE Mexico City - I was there for work last year and was surprised how much I enjoyed it. If you have time go down to Frida Kahlo's house and then walk around that neighborhood a bit and peek around the wonderful houses and gardens!

Dec 03, 2009

In my entire 30 years of wearing glasses or contacts, I've only seen two different eye doctors (and only started seeing the second one because the first retired). The one time I did go to LensCrafters for an exam, they got my Rx wrong so when I went to get my glasses, they weren't correct for my left eye. Thank goodness they had a money back guarantee and I was able to return the glasses for a refund.

But even they did/do all the different tests that you're describing. Except that I don't do the puff test because my current doctor has a machine that makes actual contact with my eye to test the pressure. (I can't feel it though because he puts drops in my eyes).

Dec 03, 2009

Oh, dear me, you are so FUNNY. I just got an eye exam myself, and I swear, same experience, except no wavy lines so I missed out on that fun stuff. Thanks for the smile (oh, OK, the LOL) for the day. And I would totally buy you dinner before blowing in your eye.

Amy --- Just A Titch
Dec 03, 2009

Goodness, I hate the eye puff. Also, I am not British, but I am not a complainer, and sometimes I wish I could say things like WARN ME, ASSHOLE, too. But I don't.

I laughed out loud at the idea of an NPR-supporting goat. Oh my.

Dec 03, 2009

So, so funny.

Dec 03, 2009

That eye puff test keeps me awake with dread the night before every eye exam. There's something about a puff of air to the eyeball that REALLY creeps me out. And the one and only time I went to Lenscrafters, I was yelled at (well, spoken to in tones of frustration) for my inability to sit still and not blink. So, I feel ya. The wavy line game sounds fun, though.

Heather B.
Dec 04, 2009

So, my mother wants me to go to the eye doctor because I have to wear reading glasses - like right now - when I'm on the computer. Which is just sad. Very, very sad. Anyway, she suggested Lenscrafters. And I am going to send her this post.

Dec 04, 2009

LOVED this post..especially the part about the puffs of air. I thought that I was the only one who had trouble with that. You had me laughing out loud!

Dec 05, 2009

First time reader, first time poster, and OMG I almost dropped my drink I was laughing so hard. So I'm shortsighted, and puffs of air? Wavy line game? Whaaaat? Sounds like fun but uh ... never had the pleasure.

Also, I'm Australian so I also say Basil Bassell. How the hell do Americans say it???

Dec 05, 2009

The last time I went to the eye doctor, (not a LensCrafters, but indeed one near my work) he told me that I was currently wearing the Honda Civic of contacts and I should be wearing the Porsche of contacts. (I drive a Honda and was slightly offended but eh, whatevs.) So we go into the sample room where there are typically neat little rows of all of the different brands and prescriptions of contacts. Instead, he pulled out two cardboard boxes with a mixture of brands and prescriptions and told me to start digging for my prescription. He told me he is the Dr. House of eye doctors. I have never seen the show, but that's a bad thing, right? (I ended up going back to my Honda Civic contacts. One time I literally threw one of my Porsche contacts out the window. I was the passenger, so it wasn't so bad.)

Jenna Jean
Dec 06, 2009

I totally have this paranoia about stuff touching my eyes. When I get old as balls I'm totally just wearing glasses. I saw this dude's eye contact fall to the dirty ground and then he picked it right back up and popped it back in his eye. Then I went and threw up.

Jenna Jean

Dec 07, 2009

@ Lauren - American's say bay-zil (with the emphasis on the first syllable).

Dec 07, 2009

I also went to Lens Crafters and had the same weird sci-fi experience. Only mine was weirder for me because my dad came with me and I could hear him being chatted up by some young thing the whole time I was having the strange experiments done.

All that aside, my prescription stayed the same and I don't have vision insurance. So I couldn't justify spending three trillion dollars on new glasses. Even if they were cute and sparkly.

I saw a site - Zenni Optical - that sells prescription glasses for as little as $9 - no lie. I ordered some up and I got them on Friday. I am super happy with them. I just thought I would suggest that to you.

Apr 08, 2010

Very cool, I really enjoyed it. Do you know of somewhere I can check out more about it?

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.

More information about formatting options

Just to make sure you have a pulse
Enter the characters (without spaces) shown in the image.