Confessions of a four-eyed squinter

March 2, 2011

I never planned to have four eyes.

I was fine with two, unaided eyeballs, squinting into the distance like an overacting extra in a Clint Eastwood movie. But genetics, as always, had other ideas.

By the time I was in junior high, it was absolutely clear my eyesight was perfectly normal. The problem was everyone else seemed to have these super-human eyeballs that could read signs that were 20 feet away or more. Show-offs.

Until my parents dragged me to an optometrist, I followed the Moammar Gadhafi school of thought. When presented with an obvious problem with my eyesight, I chose to deny, deny, deny.

It wasn’t that I couldn’t see the chalkboard from the back for the class, it was that the teacher wrote in such a fuzzy, unreadable way. My eyes are fine! It’s those out of focus road signs that have the problem. Someone should really do something about that.

Besides, glasses — those were for geeks and nerds. And I certainly wasn’t one of those. No sir.

But, eventually, inevitably, I didn’t have much choice. As my eyes grew worse and worse, I couldn’t do anything without glasses. What started as an occasional thing I’d sneakily put on  — trying to stay out of sight, like I was some kind of leper — became a permanent feature on my face.

Now, in my advanced age, my eyesight has gotten so bad I can’t do anything without corrective lenses. Even typing on a keyboard is impossible. Watch this: tjhedfkjwehui iouendjnstheya hsdklwh! Yep.

Waking up in the morning, I was groping around like an old man in the dark. Playing catch in the pool had become a hazard to everyone involved. People’s heads looked like beach balls, and vice versa. I can’t tell you have many times I’ve poured lady’s liquid soap on my hair, thinking it was shampoo.

Earlier this month, I’d finally had enough. After years of squinting, I had decided to do something about it. I was going to try a procedure. Laser surgery, it’s called. And it’s the way of the future!

No more glasses sliding down my nose when I sweat, or fogging up when I open the oven or come inside after a cold walk. No sir. From now on, I’d be glasses-free, walking around like captain of the football team, doing really athletic things all the time.

I walked into the laser surgery clinic like a born-again man. After a battery of eye tests, they sat me down. The eye doctor explained what she wanted to do.

Most people only need a simple incision to cut a new flap for their eyeball, she said. It’s relatively painless and quick procedure and is fairly affordable.

But that’s most people. The problem with my eyes, she explained, has something to do with having thin corneas. That and being half a prescription away from being legally blind. My procedure would cost significantly more, hurt like heck and leave me functionally blind for a week.

“Basically, what we want to do is use a technique that involves buffing the surface of your eye,” she said.

Uh, pardon? They’d like to use the same technique used on hardwood floors to re-shape the surface of my eye? With lasers?

It’s not fair, I said. Why me, doc?

“It’s genetic,” the doctor explained, smiling in the sympathetic way you would if you just told a kid they’ll have pimples for the rest of their life.

Gee, thanks, Mom and Dad. I’d pick up the phone and give you a piece of my mind, if only I could figure out where I put those darn glasses…

Greg Mercer is a Guelph-based freelance writer. His column appears Wednesdays. He can be reached at, and past columns can be read at

Guelph Mercury, Mar. 2/2011

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