are they all just quacks?

y wife tricked me into getting my first vision test for bi-focals this month by making an appointment for herself ... then telling me it was for me at the last minute.

"Well", says I, "Can't hurt."

So, after trying about 30 different lenses on my single orb, he presented me with his "prescription". I thought nothing of it till I got it filled at EyeMasters (or one of those mall stores).


Not knowing anything about bi-focals, I took the suggested "no line" progressive lenses (actually one lens since I have only one usable eye ... yes, they gave me a discount). But these didn't work out because they blur the close lens with the far lens so nobody knows you're old. It's a vanity thing.

The blurring results in everything bobbing up then down as you pan the horizon ... and ... the blurring effectively reduces the area of correction to two holes about 1/4 inch in diameter at eyeglass distance (one hole for far and one for near). And ... you can't move your eyes because of this ... you must move your whole head to view a different scene. This is tooooooo great a price to pay for vanity so I took them back and got the regular bi-focals with the line showing where the close and far lenses meet.

These were much better, though for reading I would still recommend a regular pair of reading glasses because they have a bigger reading lens. And ... you actually need a tri-focal if you were going to use them all the time. Why?

Because the reading glasses, close lens is no good for distances of say, 10 feet. If you have focus for reading 14 inches away from your face, you don't have focus for store shelf distances. And the far lens is also no good for a few feet either ... it's for long distances where the light rays are essentially parallel.

But the huge problem which pissed me off royally is the prescription itself.

302delimits many possibilities ...

The optometrist asked me a good 30 times whethere this or that lense was "Yes" or "No" (meaning better or worse). That suggests that he could have differentiated about a billion possibilities. I suspect that we can't tell the difference between more than about 1000 different lenses so ...

I expect an official doctor's prescription to read something like
1.072 far and
2.217 near.

Well, here's what he gave me ...

distance +1.00

reading 2.25

Whuddafuk! Says I. For about $40 bucks all I get is "uno" and "two and a quarter"?? It means that he's differentiating by quarters, i.e. from maybe a dozen possibilities.


The answer occurred to me right away. He's rounding off the numbers so that I can purchase the specs from a cheap mall type store (in this case it was supposed to be Sam's of WalMart fame) ... and ... they don't grind lenses in Sam's or even in the mall ... they grind the sides to fit the frame from a stock of hundreds of standardized specifications. Obviously, they can't stock a billion different sizes. So if you want a "true" prescription filled, you need to have them ground to your personal specifications ... and that costs a buck or two more (probably a lot).

Consequently, my new spectacles, though better than nothing, are still inadequate for my purposes. Whereas when I have none on ... the stop lights 200 yards away look double, one on top the other ... with the new glasses they are still double but side by side. My vision at a hundred feet is significantly improved making them useful in many situations (perhaps 50% of the time). The near lens is good for reading but not as good as common reading glasses bought for twenty dollars at the drug store. And for my computer glasses I use a pair of weak reading glasses from the drugstore that work best at three feet distance.

My new glasses re good for watching at big screen TV distances too ... but ... without them the "noise" in the reception is smoothed out and looks better than seeing it all in fine detail. They will be great when HiDef TV is commonplace though.

So, what service does an Optometrist perform that you couldn't do for yourself at a "self-testing" station in a mall store ??
Essentially, nothing. He's just another cog in the "sales wheel" ... kind of a friendly salesman type but completely worthless nevertheless.

What should you do if you need glasses?

Just try on different pairs of glasses and see what works best. If the mall store had 12 pairs of "far" glasses and 12 paris of "near" glasses ... you could just determine which was the best of each one and that would be your "prescription".

I mean something like ...

We don't need no fucking optometrist."

Addendum 01/27/04 :

I reasoned out the answer to my question about why I should see double stop lights in a vertical array (without glasses) and then double stop lights in a horizontal array with my new glasses on. It is because my natural lens has a vertical aberration [perhaps something to do with gravity and aging ... after all, everything else is sagging :o]. This would cause me to see two stop lights vertically arrayed at a distance of about 200 yards.

Now, I get a glass lens which corrects for circular lens aberration and what happens? It corrects for both the vertical and horizontal aberration. So my vertical problem is solved ... but ... it has also "corrected" what needed no correction, i.e. the horizontal has been over-corrected leaving me with another "two" stop lights ... but ... they are in the horizontal array.

Get it?

Because the optometrist is restricted to what lenses are "in stock" in the back room, he must use a circular lens to fit all of his patients. There is no way for him to order a "vertical" lens on the cheap and just grind the sides to fit the frame you've chosen. There are no vertical lenses available.

Statistically, I must assume myself to be "average" so that my vision problems are undoubtedly typical of my age group. Yet no vertical lenses are available. Why? ... Because it would cost too much to keep that much inventory in the back room ... and ... it would cost extra to have them manufactured ... so ... tough shit - do what you can with what you've got. OK ... the new glasses are better than none ... but ... I should have just gone to Walmart and gotten a +1.00 from the rack and paid $17.50 instead of going to the optometrist and paying 30 bucks for an exam and another 170 for a pair of "prescription" glasses.

I won't make this mistake again.

Excuuuuuuse me ...
The big bucks are for the "deluxe" frames. Like there is some art to frame design ... sure. If you had just 100 designs to choose from you'd certainly find one that suits you. I don't have trouble finding something off the "rack" in WalMart and they only have about 20 styles!

Addendum 02/04/04 :

What I really want (but can't get) in a pair of glasses is two pair ... one for reading and one for driving ... but the following conditions must be met.

Here, the reading glasses have an upper zone (green area - not green tinted though, just clear) for looking out to see the clock or TV or something else at distance while reading. This area is small so that it does not interfere with reading but is available for a quick, clear glance.

The driving glasses are the opposite. The red area is for reading so that I don't have to get out my reading glasses just to read a label in the drug store. They are not for steady reading, just for doing something quick.

Since I am blind in one eye, I want both lenses to be identical in each pair so that if the right lens gets scratched, I can swap it with the left and restore the original clarity of the lens (here I am assuming that I will cover the unused lens with some clear plastic to protect it for a year or so till the other one is worn out. The frame is the screw on type that I just bought at WalMart for $19.82 (titanium too!).

In fact, if I could, I would order such lenses and install them myself when needed. Then I could just get a half dozen of each or so and leave the left side with an unground lens ... or maybe a magnifying glass so I could take them off and read really small print. The possibilities are numerous ... if ... a lens maker could just ...

Do as I tell him

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