Monday, 3 August 2015

Optical Adventure in Riyadh

Reading Run Fat Bitch Runby Ruth Field

It had become glaringly apparent a few years back that my eyesight was not quite as good as it used to be.  The  first indication that I may require optical accessories was when I kept getting headaches while at work some years ago. The idea of having to wear glasses horrified me, largely because for a gal who usually has 20/20 vision, glasses means only one thing - I'm getting old?  So I quit that job and all was good till I eventually got another role that required me to look at computer screens a lot.  Of course the headaches came back.  This time, however, I kidded myself that the wearing of glasses while looking at computer screens was not an age related thing - it was a technology issue.

"I can honestly say I love getting older. Then again, I never put my glasses on before looking in the mirror." 
Cherie Lunghi  - Read more at Brainy Quote

Eventually I had to get glasses and they were a very funky, modern looking pair because I wasn't over the hill just yet.  Things ticked along quite well for quite some time till I misplaced my glasses somewhere and they decided to stay misplaced.  A new pair of spectacles was required.  So off I went to the nearest spec place in Riyadh.  One of those little shops along the road that I've always thought just ever so slightly questionable.  But it was close to home and Hubster was happy to walk up there with me (mostly, I discovered afterwards, because there was a shoe shop nearby that he likes).

The shop guy said, 'yes, I can test your eyes', and directed me to a back room with a rather antiquated looking piece of eye testing apparatus.  After the test he declares, 'There is nothing wrong with your eyesight'. 'Do you want to buy these very expensive sunglasses?'  Ummmmm.....no.


A few weeks later (because I am an avid supporter of procrastination) the taxi I was in screeched to a halt outside Eye World on Tahalia St.  It seemed a good idea to stop there given we were driving past.  Up the stairs I went into a shop floor loaded with the latest fashion, and somewhat expensive, eye wear frames.  However, Eye World isn't just about frames.  Oh no.  You can get eye corrective surgery on the floors above, so the gentleman who came to serve me said.  And you can get an eye test.

So in I went and met a man of Arab extraction with a bit of a mumble and a very heavy accent that required asking him to repeat himself for my comprehension.  He sat me down behind the very modern looking eye testing apparatus.  For those of you who've never had an eye test with the latest modern gadgets, this machine houses a number of lens of varying sizes, thicknesses and strengths and to find the one right for your eyes, they swap them around and ask for feedback on whether or not you can see the pretty picture at the end clearly, through one or both eyes.  Once behind the machine Mr Ophthalmologist said...

...I  don't know what he said. Between his mumble and heavy accent and my not being able to see his lips move because my eyes were staring through a very hazy lens that was in the machine, I couldn't understand him.  So I said, 'What did you say?'

And down dropped another lens.

He mumbled something else...
'No, no wait, I didn't hear you,  What did you say?'

And down dropped another lens.

I took my head out of the machine and said, "I don't know what you're saying?"  And two things were quite obvious in the glance that he returned to me - one, he was very focused on the job at hand and two, it was going to be one of those days.  Days when lots of communication in a cross cultural exchange is going to be lost in translation.  On those days I really need to learn to talk more slowly.

He simply said 'Go back '. (With a 'Why are you not focusing on the task at hand?' querying look on his face).

My jaw set and one of those sighs escaped my lips (you know, those 'Sure, fine, this is going to be one of those days' kind of sighs.)   I returned to the hazy lenses, this time determined not to respond till I was absolutely, fairly certain what he was saying.  It was a long slow process because it took a while to tune in my ears.
I had the beginnings of a headache by the end of it.
He seemed quite happy with the result.

Photo credit: Not my photo.

Once out of the chair Mr Ophthalmologist was walking away and talking.  I have no clue what he's saying because I've turned off my tuned in ear - my brain needed a rest.  He turns and hands me a packet.  A square, slimy, foil wrapped, squishy packet.  I look at it and wonder to myself, 'Why have you handed me a condom packet?'  Because seriously, the only small, square, foil wrapped, squishy packets I have ever seen like this in my life, are condoms.
I say, 'What the heck is this for?'
He says, 'Blah, blah...eyes...reading, blah...Put it in.
'Ummm....what?'

It turns out the squishy pack is a contact lens.
Really, it feels just like condoms.  (Me and scientists in Australia must be on the same wavelength because in 2014 Wollongong University got funding to make condoms out of contact lens material).

'Put it in', says Mr O.
'Ummm....how', I say.
'Just put it in your eye', he says.

Obviously Mr Opthomologist had not bothered to read the extensive paperwork I filled out before the eye test which at no point said, 'I wear contacts'.

I have no idea how to put a blessed contact in.
I look at the tiny thing on the end of my finger, I lean forward and look in the mirror at my eye and go....nope, can't do it.  He was a bit exasperated at my lack of contact wearing knowledge.  'I've never worn contacts before', I say looking at him innocently with raised, contact atop, finger.  Can you do it?'  In this land of Man Must Not Touch Woman, Mr Opthamologist had to go and get a nurse to put the contact in my eye.

The instant that thing hit my eyeball water started gushing down my cheeks and my eye went into spastic blinking.  Gush, gush, blink blink.

'Just wait, it will be ok', the nurse says.
'Really?'  Blink, blink, tears streaming.

Blink, spastic rapid blink.  Gushing tear drop waterfalls.
I can't flaming see and feel around for the tissues noted previously on the shelf.
Wipe the tears off my cheek but they won't stop coming out my eye.

I blinked and cried so much the contact moved and I could feel it dropped down off my eyeball.
'Take this thing out,' I say.  Of course, by this time the nurse had left he room.
'Just pinch it out', he says.
At this point I'm thinking less than complementary thoughts about Mr Opthomologist.  For goodness sake, if I don't know how to put this thing in, ya really think I know how to take it out!

I close my eye, holding the tissue on to it trying to ebb the teary flow, and look at him out of one eye like Stuart the Minion, which, though the grandchildren may think it hilarious, I'm fairly certain is not a flattering look for me...



'Where's the nurse', I say.
The nurse is busy and Mr Opthomologist still doesn't want to come near me.
So I have to wait, tissue in hand, eye closed and contact feeling like it's down around my cheekbones, till the nurse could come take the contact out.

Thank goodness for that.
Suffice to say, I will never be trying contacts again!  That doesn't mean contacts are bad.  I know a number of my friends and family swear by their contacts - reading contacts, one day contacts, colored contacts and so forth, but given my eyes water with the application of eyeliner or mascara on the extremely rare occasions I feel I ought to try self-beautification of that sort, it is no wonder that a full assault on my eye ball by a contact lens caused the reaction it did.

Once I'd managed to compose myself and collected the piece of paper regarding the results of my eye test, I was certain things would be plain sailing from here on.  I forgot though, I was living in Riyadh. All those tears for my new glasses was just the beginning of my "Get New Glasses" optical excitement as I traipsed Riyadh from EyeWorld, to Magrabi and other random places for specs so I could see.  But we'll leave the rest of the story for another day.

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