On the first of every month, I:
1) Verify and repair the permissions on my hard drive;
2) Empty the trash on my hard drive;
3) Throw my contact lenses away and start wearing a new pair.
I have no idea why I do the first two, except that someone told me it’s a good idea, like flossing. OK, whatever. The contact lens thing still bugs me, though. I believe I paid $300 for my first pair of Bausch & Lomb SofLens, in the early ’80s, or approximately $50,000 in today’s dollars. That was two months’ rent for me, but so worth it. They were revolutionary! B&L bought magazine ads with a photo of water droplets on a pane of glass. “Can you tell which is the Bausch & Lomb SofLens?” the copy ran. No, you couldn’t. That was also the experience of millions of early adopters when they dropped one of the slippery little buggers on the sink. But unless you were a millionaire, you learned to tell them apart; after all, each one cost $150.
That was only the beginning. There was a whole chemistry set of solutions that came with them — cleaners, storage, disinfectant, a weekly soak that involved tablets fizzing in little plastic vessels. Or you could go for heat disinfection, which meant boiling your lenses for a few minutes. Both were a pain in the ass, but the contacts were wonderful. You didn’t get that squint the hard-lens wearers all had, and soft ones could never “pop out,” which happened frequently. It was common, at the time, to walk into a room and find one or two or three people on their hands and knees, searching a shag carpet for a tiny piece of plastic, which might or might not be found. If it was, the grateful party would scurry off to the bathroom for a re-insertion or, depending on his or her comfort with carpet germs, merely pop it in the mouth for a re-wet and do it on the spot.
That was pretty gross. But it happened all the time. What were you going to do? Carry it home in your pocket? Lenses, hard and soft, were expensive. You could buy insurance for contacts.
Hank Stuever once wrote me about losing a lens when he was a kid, on a hayride. His mom took him back to the scene of the crime to look for it, hours later — expensive! — and they actually found it, a single contact lens on a hay wagon, which must be the modern equivalent of the needle in a haystack. And what did young Hank do next? Squirted some solution on it and put it back in his eye. I understand Hank’s mother is now a nun. If she’s ever nominated for sainthood, I think the fact her son isn’t known today as the blind TV critic should count as one of her miracles. (Finding it could be No. 2.)
I wore my last pair of contacts for five years. I’ve always been scrupulous about care, and I didn’t wear them every day, but often enough that my optometrist gaped in horror when I told him how long it had been since I’d re-upped. In that time, he informed me, pretty much the entire industry had gone to two-week or four-week, even daily disposables. You bought lenses by the box now, and it was important to throw them away on schedule, lest you tempt eye infections. Part of me thinks yeah yeah and wants to mention all those shag carpet lens searches, and once I did. My current optometrist replied with a confession to having once retrieved a lens from the sink drain at a college party, rinsing it a little under the tap, and popping it back in.
But you don’t need to do that anymore, she added. Lenses are cheap now. Kate wears daily-wear and I, month-long multifocals, and my total expenditures for both of us, including solution, probably is about what I paid for my first pair of SofLenses and all their attendant solutions. Today she told me she was coming to the bottom of her box, and would I please order more, the way you ask the designated grocery-buyer in the household to put ketchup on the list.
I spared her the 700-word lecture you just read. Why bother?
A little bloggage before I go? Sure:
My former colleague Dave Jones, an Ohio State grad and now a sportswriter in Pennsylvania, speaks to the Jim Tressel affair from the place where it matters most. Mr. Albom, this is how you stir emotion in a sports column. Not the way you do it.
This story — about how one guy, Joshua Kaufman, was able to retrieve his stolen laptop, using a program called Hidden — just about sold me on it. Funny, too.
In keeping with today’s theme of God I Am So OLD, may I just say that reading today’s news, about
Andrew Anthony Weiner and the underpants-boner picture, only underscores the above. God, I remember when John Tower was run off the reservation for drinking too much and hitting on women. Imagine, in 1989, being told that the news in 22 years would involve whether an elected official did or did not send a photo of his wing-wang — with his phone! — to a woman, and that the stories the morning of June 2, 2011 would be led by the elected official’s failure to categorically deny whether that was his wing-wang.
I hope I live another 22 years. God knows what we’ll be talking about then.
Happy Thursday, all.