March 27, 2009

First Person:

Arms 2 short 2 read

By Al Carlos Hernandez

Poor vision snuck up on me like credit card interest when you make the minimum payment. While inattentive, you keep paying a nominal amount every month but the principal doesn’t go down, negative debt accumulates, and the next thing you know you’ve paid eight grand for a 500 dollar washer you bought at Sears. Once it’s paid off it no longer works.

I didn’t know that I was farsighted. Farsighted meaning that one can clearly see things far away, rendering everything up close kind of fuzzy. Very much the same way the Feds see domestic economic policy.

Quite rapidly all of the pictures shown to me of babies all looked like Elmer Fudd, even the ethnic ones. Every restaurant menu looked Chinese, the gas gauge always looked like it was on “E.” My mustache looked like an upside down U, and I couldn’t tell if it was a frown or a gastronomical reaction.

Before long my arms were not long enough for me to read anything. I would place documents on the table, then stand back trying to position myself far enough away to bring something into sight. Reading was no longer pleasurable and watching TV for news was making me stupider by leaps and bounds. The computer screen caused me to squint into a Clint Eastwood grimace.

The good news is that all women looked cute. Very much the same way TV cameramen shoot divas like Joan Collins and Raquel Welch -through a lens filter. Doing the nails were a problem. My hands varied from crack addict long one week to obsessive compulsive nubs the next. Don’t ask about the toenails. Suffice to say I bought longer shoes for a while.

Fed up with my Mr. Magoo machinations, my wife, who looked quite lovely at the time, took me to the mall eye doctor to get my eyes checked. “A or B? One or Two? Obama or Yo Mama? Cheech or Chong? Boxers or Briefs?”… Okay, I wasn’t paying attention. The doctor says, “Did you know that you are farsighted?” I said, “No. I consider myself an optimist and a pragmatic opportunist.”

He said, “No, you are farsighted.” I was in denial, made a comment about if he was “such a good Doctor why was he working at a mall?” This is when he called my wife in to “have a serious talk about eye care.”

It was more complicated than I had feared. He fitted me with progressive lenses. As punishment for insulting the doctor I was guilt tripped into purchasing expensive Mark Echo frames.

The good news was that the specs were not needed all the time. Only to read and to look smart while teaching my ¾ load of university media classes. Or to visit school principals when one of my sons is scheduled to get suspended.

Progressive lens glasses work on three levels:

LOW - to objectively critique baby pictures, order normally, and for personal grooming.

MIDDLE - to see how your friends have really aged, check email and write random National Latino columns and insultery TOP Ten lists.

TOP- to check for police hiding in the cuts while high speed driving.

The glasses made me feel like I spent an hour on a tilt-a-whirl ride at the fair. I was dizzy and kept bobbing my head up and down trying to see right. I had a headache. It was as if I’d slammed my dome in a car door. I was too recessive to go progressive. The shades usually sit on the shelf to this very day, ironically because I usually can’t find them.

Precipitously while at the 99 cent store I went over to the reading glasses rack. Came up with a fistfull of knockoff specs, trying on various ones to see which lens strength filled the bill. Suddenly BINGO! 2.0 reading glasses and it was all to the gizzel. The bad news was they looked like they belonged to Mrs. Doubtfire, Adam Ant, or Eydie Gorme.

The world in an instant became different. Within several months I became a voracious reader again. I also became an expert at forgetting and losing glasses, which defeated the purpose. I now have several pair: one in each car, in the saddlebag of my bike, brief case, bathroom. And the vanity is gone.

“A wise man sees as much as he should, not as much as he can.”


Al Carlos Hernandez writes from Hollywood.

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