A truly tragic spectacle

'Complications have arisen since I adopted the specs. The optician never mentioned that I might strangle myself on a bicycle saddle'
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The Independent Online

The day I bought reading- glasses, my life changed. I started falling over. Every time I got up from my desk, forgot to remove my specs and walked away, I fell over. I couldn't see where I was going. What I had forgotten was that although reading specs bring into wonderful focus everything within three feet of you, they turn the rest of the world into a sudden blur. So, if there was something on the floor for me to trip over, and there are many such things in any place where I work, I would fail to see it through reading-specs and I would fall over it.

The day I bought reading- glasses, my life changed. I started falling over. Every time I got up from my desk, forgot to remove my specs and walked away, I fell over. I couldn't see where I was going. What I had forgotten was that although reading specs bring into wonderful focus everything within three feet of you, they turn the rest of the world into a sudden blur. So, if there was something on the floor for me to trip over, and there are many such things in any place where I work, I would fail to see it through reading-specs and I would fall over it.

Without glasses, I can actually see with remarkable clarity any distance further than four feet away. Planes in the sky are easy. The titles of the books on the shelf opposite are legible. But if you were to bring them up to my nose, I would have trouble. If I were taking my driving test again, I would have no difficulty if the examiner asked me to read that car number plate over there. It would be when he asked me to bend down and read my own car's number that I would hesitate.

(Are you like me? I can never remember my car's number. I can remember my previous car's number. Not the present one. It's very embarrassing when you are asked to write it down when registering at a hotel. Because I always have to go outside and read it from the front of the car. They always think I've just stolen the vehicle.)

There are other complications that have entered my life since adopting reading-specs, and that the optician never warned me about. Apart from not warning me about falling headlong, he didn't mention the fact that I might strangle myself on a bicycle saddle.

I have nearly done this three times. It works like this. Because you keep losing your specs, you fit them out with those strings that go round the neck. The specs can then dangle from your neck on to your chest and are there every time you want them. But if you lean over a bicycle to do a bit of pumping or to put the lights on or to just inspect the tyres, then, inevitably, the specs will swing unnoticed under the saddle, or the handlebars, as you bend down, and when you get up again you will find yourself trying to lift a whole bicycle by the neck with your spectacle strings. Which is quite painful, if not yet fatal.

There are other problems that opticians blithely ignore. The first time you try to wear earphones and spectacles at the same time needs some tuition. Then there's the difficulty of knowing, when you drive a car, whether to wear the specs over or below the seat belt, being gloomily aware that they are both going to get entangled either way, and that as soon as you release the seat belt, it will whip your specs off, and half your nose with them.

I also went through a phase of losing my lenses. One or other side of the specs would simply fall out. Even when I found them again, I would have trouble putting them back in, and they never seemed to stay in, until a friendly optician pointed out that I wasn't keeping the tiny screws on the glasses tightened.

"They should be given a little tighten regularly," he said. "There's a tiny screwdriver made for the purpose. I can sell you one."

And so he did, and now I have a tiny screwdriver on my key ring that I regularly use for specs maintenance. Trouble is, when I take my specs off I can't see the tiny screws I'm trying to tighten, so I have to have a spare pair of specs to use for that purpose. And I have several times nearly blinded myself while doing it. The screwdriver is too fiddly to get off the key ring, you see, so I have to revolve the whole key ring while manipulating the screwdriver, and sometimes this whirling bunch of keys reappears while I am not expecting it, and nearly takes my eye out.

If only the optician had given me a little briefing about all these problems, I would not be the scarred and battered veteran I am today.

Nor would I have acquired a reputation for sexual frigidity.

There was a time when I happily embraced female acquaintances and gave them great greeting hugs. But when there is a pair of specs suspended between you, it's a different matter. Each time I feel my forgotten specs shudder and buckle under the impact of an advancing bosom, I leap back aghast to remove them before I resume. But no lady wishes to resume an embrace after being rejected for a pair of specs, and there are now very few of them who wish to undergo a hug from me in the first place.

So, if anyone out there is thinking of getting reading-specs, don't forget to demand a little talk from your optician on the wider implications of your change of life, from sex to bicycle maintenance.

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