When I go to the eye doctor, as I do at least every other year, he sits me down in that big, comfy chair and slides the world's largest pair of eyeglasses in front of my face.
They aren't really eyeglasses, of course, but a machine that, with a few flicks of a thumb, can mimic any prescription. I settle my forehead against the machine -- called a phoropter -- and stare at the eye chart projected on the wall in front of me. Without my glasses, it seems as if the fuzzy black letters swim in space.
The ophthalmologist makes a few rapid adjustments: Shunk! Shunk! Shunk! I feel something brush against my eyelashes -- an eyelash guillotine? -- and suddenly the eye chart is legible.
Now the doctor slows things down. He's rotating lenses at a more sedate pace. When he's finally arrived at his idea of ocular perfection, the game can begin.
He instructs me to look at the wall chart as he pivots between a pair of lenses and asks a simple question, although he phrases it as two: "Better?" (Shunk!) "Or worse?"
Oh, that the rest of life's choices could be so simply stated and pondered! Take the job in Tulsa or the one in Fairfax? ("Better? Or worse?")
Stay with the high school sweetheart or date the hottie from the gym? ("Better? Or worse?")
Give U.N. sanctions a try or invade? ("Better? Or worse?")
Paper or plastic? ("Better? Or worse?")
But even so simple a decision -- with the options quite literally in front of my face -- isn't easy. Sometimes I just don't know how to respond.
Yeah, that one looks nice -- looks better, the black letters firm and dark -- but now that I think about it, the letters look smaller.
And maybe smaller is worse. Or maybe it's better, since the letters have more definition.
So I guess my answer is, the second one is better. No, um, the first one. Yeah. That's my final answer.
Then he moves to the other eye. "Better?" (Shunk!) "Or worse?"
I grit my teeth and make my decision. The second one.
He seems pleased at that and offers me more choices: "How about now? Better? Or worse?"
Now he's just messing with me. There is no discernible difference. They're exactly the same, aren't they? He wants to see how confident I am in my decision.
No, no, he protests. They're different. Better? Or worse?
But it's too late. My eyes are watering, everything looks blurry and I just guess at what he wants to hear.
I can't muster much enthusiasm when he covers each eye in turn and has me read the bottom line of the chart. If it was "DKNWTL" with the right eye, I bet it's going to be "DKNWTL" with the left eye.
Now the scary drops go in, and it feels for a second as if he's Super Glued my eyeballs. But no, he's just dilating my pupils so he can look inside my brain.
As I sit in the darkened room I imagine that the eye doctor is looking forward to that evening, when he'll get off work, head to his favorite bar -- the 20/20 Vision -- and regale his ophthalmologist buddies with his latest triumph: "I switched between a -2.0 spherical diopter with a 130 axis and a +3.25 spherical diopter with an 80 axis and he picked the -2.0! Isn't that rich?"
Then he'll order another round of rum and Visines.
Ice, Ice, BabyWe loaded up the minivan and drove to Massachusetts and back over the weekend. I'm not content to experience only our local idiot drivers. I wanted to sample them from up and down the Eastern Seaboard.
I'm talking about people who don't clear all the snow from the hood or roof of their vehicle. The medians of Interstate 95, the New Jersey Turnpike and the Massachusetts Turnpike were littered with chunks of ice, remnants of the sheets that had gone airborne and come crashing to the ground.
We were lucky enough to see it happen over and over again: great coffee table-size hunks of ice that would sail up, hang for an instant in the blue sky and then plummet to the asphalt. We didn't see any cars get hit but did pass two vehicles by the side of the road whose windshields were caved in.
It might not snow again this year, but if it does, take a few extra minutes to clean your entire car.