30 January 2009

I can (almost) see clearly now.(A saga in parts.)

When we picked the car up last month (and then got the GPS, without which I refused to drive), I realized how much I don't like driving here. It's not that I can't drive. I have been driving for far more than half my life at this point. Last time we went to the States I hopped in multiple cars and even a few trucks and drove them. I have a motorcycle (still in the US).

But I was feeling a real reluctance to drive in Europe. It's not just the slightly different traffic rules and road lay out. It's not even the speed on the Autobahn, now that I understand it's not mandatory to drive like my husband (he averages 220 kph)- something I had thought for quite some time;).

No, when the German made me start driving around the city and on the highways I realized the problem: my vision is not good enough. I couldn't see road signs at an adequate distance to feel comfortable. Since I am to start taking the kids to school and back in February, I felt that I really needed to be able to see properly.

It was very depressing to need to go to an optometrist. 11 years ago, I had the then relatively experimental LASIK surgery. I was deeply myopic and extremely astigmatic and from the morning following the surgery I have had the ever new joy of opeining my eyes in the morning and seeing the clock. You can't know what a joy that is if you haven't spent your whole lifetime not having it.

About 5 years ago, after I had Thing1, I started getting eyestrain when on the computer, staring at spreadsheets for long periods, and got glasses again. I only used them at work, occasionally, and after Thing2, when I stopped working outside the home, I stopped needing them.

So last week was the first time that I have been to an optometrist in about 6 years, and the first time in a foreign country. The German looked up a chain close to us and after my German class (more on that another time) I took the bus to the U-bahn and headed over there. When I arrived, the clerk organized an English-speaking optometrist for me, which I found very reassuring (it took some sign language and pointing to show that what I was looking for: new lenses, not contact lenses and not glasses frames, with a new prescription). My little dictionary is sometimes not that useful but I find arm waving and pointing to be of great assistance.

The exam itself was just about as stressful as I normally find it. I am always afraid that I will say the wrong thing, make the wrong decision, and wind up with glasses  that are not the right prescription.

At the end, we seemed to have found the answer: wearing the "fake" glasses comprised of multiple lenses I could see through the store, across the street, and into the store across the way. Pretty amazing. And it would only be two days for the lenses to be made as the glass was available in a main store. By the way, the cost of the lenses is unbelievably high. So I will make my back up pair in the US in March.

Off I went to be home for the kids, with a quick stop at the Arab market for meat.

But wait! Where is my book? Oh no. And I don't have time to run back. So the German gave them a call, they found it, and they would hold onto it for me until I went back on Wednesday. Ok, I was enjoying it but I have other books (omg, so many) to read.

Comes Wednesday. Another interestingly stressful day at German class.

I arrive at Fielman's (the store), ask for my book, get it, am told that the manager has asked to borrow it when I am done(???),wait a short time (customer service here is strangely good), and am helped.

When I put the glasses on, I can't see. In fact, I suffer a vertigo attack. I fully understand what has happened: the axis of the lens in the right eye is incorrect. This is extremely important in astigmatism. The woman helping me tries to tell me that my inability to see is because of the great difference between the new and the old prescription: my old glasses had only a clear lens in the right eye.

I gently explain that it is not a question of strength (I actually think the strength is accurate) but of axis and attempt to demonstrate by showing that I feel better as I move my head to the right until I am almost upside down (but of course the point of clarity moves as well because the axis is twisted). The woman suggests that I try the glasses for a few days and see how they feel.

I say "no".

She suggests that I will do better with someone who speaks English more clearly and grabs the manager. The manager is a nice woman, British-speaking, and she also tries to persuade me to the view that I can "get used to" the new prescription. I point out again that if I could see without vomiting at the exam, with the temp lenses, then clearly there is a problem with this prescription. I am adamant and also point out my time constraints and she very kindly arranges for me to return tomorrow to have another exam as clearly there is some problem. We discuss my book, and I offer to introduce her to the two English language book clubs that I'm in but she only wants to read this one.

I have loaned too many books to actual friends and not received them back to start loaning books I like to strangers (no matter how polite) who aren't interested in even sharing public social activities. It's not as if The Audacity of Hope was written by some poorly published unknown writer! I gave her the names of three English bookstores in the neighborhood and mentioned Amazon.

Thursday: back to Fielman's I return. Another attempt by a non-English speaker to convince me that I should try the bad glasses and then I am given another nice English-speaking optometrist. We do the exam over and he thinks that he needs to increase the strength of the right eye as well as acknowledging the incorrect axis of the prescription as related to my eye. For the final, practical test, where the demo lenses are on my eyes and I read a chart across the room he dials the strength in the right eye back and the prescription is now exactly as I said it would be: the same strength but with the axis of the right lens changed. The gentleman said that he would see if he could adjust the axis of the cut lens, but I knew that wouldn't work: the lens is too angled and small for the gross movement that was obviously required. I was right.

The new lenses should be ready Saturday. I am hoping that this time it is correct because I don't know if I have the strength to go through this again. Not only am I supposed to (and must as the bus cancellation takes effect on February 1) start driving the kids on Monday but also this has been using up every available moment after class all week and I am just tired from the lack of "personal time", although I was able to get some reading done while waiting and travelling.

1 comment:

J said...

If I remember correctly, you live in central Berlin. I don't blame you for not wanting to drive there.

One of the problems I have with driving in Germany is how dark it is after dusk because of the lack of streetlights in cities. Also, after you get out of cities, streetlights don't exist - making even driving on the Autobahn tricky. I drive as little as possible after dark here.