Yesterday I went to the eye doctor for my yearly exam. I love the guy. He’s smart, cranky, old-fashioned, wildly energetic — not much older than me — and he won’t do surgery on a healthy eye for moral and ethical reasons.
He doesn’t believe in laser surgery to try to improve vision for profit. He teaches Ophthalmology. He’s been married for 34 years. He listened to John F. Kennedy speak in person at a New York City Union Square rally when he was in high school. He works with the United Nations by donating his time to doing free eye surgeries for children in underdeveloped countries.
He’s a man’s mensch and a great guy and he doesn’t have time to suffer fools… like me. Much.
My prescription correction lowered a bit and, to me, that meant even though I am getting older, my vision is improving, and when I asked my doctor how that could be he said: “I don’t think in terms of better or worse. I choose to think in terms of ‘different.'”
Now he had just returned from a long vacation and I was his first appointment of the morning. I had to get up super early to get to his New York City office by 7:30am so we both may have been a little wonky from traveling. I’ve known him for over 15 years and, for the first time — I had no idea what he was talking about… I asked him what he meant my eyes weren’t getting better if the correction needed to bring them up to 20/20 vision had dropped.
“Think of it this way,” he said in a volume that got louder with each spoken word , “If you gain 30 pounds or if you lose 30 pounds your clothes will get bigger or smaller but that doesn’t mean the quality of the clothes changes.”
I sat there, blinking blind without my glasses, pupils dilated and unresponsive, wondering if I should dare to ask him to explain it a different way.
His neck tightened and his eyes drew down as he saw I didn’t understand. “What’s the difference between a one dollar bill and a hundred dollar bill?”
Before I could say anything, he answered for me.
“The printing. That’s the only difference.”
I blurted out I wasn’t following how this discussion related to my eyes. “Look!” He was yelling now, “The curvature of your eye is always changing! That’s all! There’s no “good” or “bad” or “better” or “worse” to be had here!” and with that he did my least favorite thing and turned my upper eyelid inside out and told me my allergies were still there and to keep using my rewetting drops for my contacts each time I ate because “if you stop to eat you should also ‘stop to drops!'” and to continue on with the Optivar.
Then he was gone.
And then he came back and gave me a free sample of Optivar with a coupon for $25 off the $70 price.
Then he was really gone.
And I was left there wondering then and wondering now with you here, what that was all about and what the change in prescription really means in the scheme of variances in quality, clothing and dollar bills.