It was reading Khaled Hossein’s compelling novel, ‘The Kite Runner’ that finally sent me over the edge. Even with the aid of a torch to supplement the bedside lamp, I was finding it nigh on impossible to read the small print.
“I’m going to have to get some new glasses” I said to Jack, who was holding his book so far away from his eyes that for a moment I’d thought he’d fallen asleep and dropped it. “In fact, I think we both need to get our eyes tested.”
“There’s nothing wrong with my eyes”, he retorted “I just need longer arms.”
As luck would have it, MultiOpticas is currently having one of its ‘Two pairs of glasses for €98’ offers and so I headed up to their La Villa branch and made an appointment.
“I don’t suppose the two pairs could be for two different people?” I asked, tentatively. A raised eyebrow was sufficient by way of a response and I laughed nervously and pretended it had only been a joke.
Thursday afternoon found me sitting in a large leather Mastermind-type chair in front of a pair of robotic spectacles trying to give my date of birth in Spanish and thinking how much easier that would have been had I been born in the last 8 years (a joke that only Spanish speakers will get). But the worst was yet to come.
After the robotic specs had shown me a little house on the horizon and had clicked and whirred several times bringing the picture into and out of focus, the assistant asked me to read the letters on the last row of the chart being flashed up on the wall behind her.
As I struggled to firstly see the chart, then the letters, she made adjustments to robo-specs to bring the row into focus so I could see it. But I suddenly realised that I didn’t know how to pronounce all the letters of the alphabet in Spanish and she took my continued hesitation to mean that I still couldn’t see and made further adjustments that were threatening to send the thing out of focus again.
Beginning to sweat, I started to recite the letters, stopping when I got to H and suddenly blurting out “aitch!” followed swiftly by ‘lo siento’ and an embarrassed, apologetic glance that was hidden by robo-specs in any case.
More charts flashed before my eyes and I stuttered through them, not because I couldn’t see them, but because I didn’t know how to pronounce them. The letter ‘G’ was one that constantly failed to lodge itself in my brain and kept appearing in those damn charts, followed closely by the letter ‘H’ which I still don’t know how to pronounce in Spanish.
We continued painstakingly through charts and clusters of dots with my faltering vocabulary until eventually the tests were completed and I thanked her for her forbearance. She shrugged and said it was ‘no problem’ and that she’d understood me perfectly well.
Yesterday I went to collect my shiny new glasses; one pair for near-sightedness for reading and working at the pc, and one for long-sightedness which I can’t put on without feeling slightly dizzy. And now, as I sit at this keyboard, wearing the ones for near-sightedness and looking at letters the size of a child’s alphabet and a screen that looks like it’s been made for the sight impaired, if I move an inch too far back or too far forward, I can’t see a bloody thing.
It turns out my Spanish was worse than my eyes.