It started off as a simple eye irritation. This happens to me all the time, especially since my eyes tend to be dry and itchy as a result of all sorts of irritants, such as dry winter air, allergens, and election years. I carry eye drops by the quart.
My thought, then, was that it was an eyelash, or a speck of dust, or a Clinton campaign speech – seeing Hillary often enough would make anyone blind, or perhaps drive them to put their own eyes out. If I have to go to the hospital because of her, I’ll make sure she gets the Bill. (Get it? Sorry.)
I put in eye drops, but that didn’t wash it out. Then I looked in the mirror, doing that thing where you’re trying to see into your eye while also looking up and down to see what’s in there, which by the way doesn’t work even if you cross your eyes.
“I’ve got something in my eye,” I told my daughter.
“It’s an eyeball.”
Hardy har-har. Hey, I’m suffering here! I feel like my John McCain is jumping up and down on my face, could I please get some sympathy?
So pretty soon my oldest daughter and my girlfriend gathered around, shining a bright light in my face and gazing into my eye. I had sympathy, but it wasn’t exactly comfortable, and to make matters worse they couldn’t find anything.
“Couldn’t you pretend to find something, to make me feel better?” I asked.
“I think I see Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher in there,” Emi replied. “They’re being chased around by Barrack Obama.”
“Don’t you mean Injun’ Joe?”
“Injun’ Joe’s not looking for votes.”
Clearly I had one of those little invisible scratches: the ones that irritate an eye, then heal a day or so later. So I waited a day or so. No dice. Unless the dice were in my eye.
Next stop: Irrigation. I started a nice stream of lukewarm water in the kitchen sink, and had Emi hold my head under the water and pry my eyelid open. Frankly, I think she enjoyed it a little too much.
At first it seemed like the irritation was gone (well, the election’s still on), but after awhile it became clear that a jet of water sprayed straight into my eye had merely made the entire eye irritated. It’s like the old joke about making your headache go away by stomping on your toe. Which doesn’t work, by the way.
“You’re going to have to go to the optometrist,” Emi suggested. “You’ve been meaning to go for a checkup, anyway.”
“No, wait. I’m a firefighter, I have access to a much bigger stream of water. We’ll fire up the water cannon, and I’ll stand there while you aim it at me.”
It’s not that I dislike the optometrist. He doesn’t use needles or drills. He’s never given me a shot. But there are two strikes against him: One, I don’t like to spend money. Two, he always wants to poke around in your eye, as if that was his job or something. I don’t like people poking around in my eye. I’ve got an eye thing, maybe optophobia. After the episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer where Xander got his eye poked out, I went on a three day screaming fit and ended up in therapy.
I remember it well: “So, tell me about your mother?”
“It’s the eyes, doc! The eyes!”
“Okay, then – how do you see your mother?”
There’s also the fact that I needed to trade my old glasses for bifocals. Bifocals are common for a person my age, but I didn’t want to be a person my age. Also, I didn’t want to see better until after the campaign commercials were over.
So why did I go? Because there is very little in this life more irritating than that little thing in the eye that you just can’t make go away. Pauly Shore movies, maybe. Whatever happened to him? Is it true he’s Ralph Nader’s Presidential running mate?
The doctor set me in a chair, then swung around an array of thousands of dollars worth of advanced diagnosis equipment, all of it dedicated to shining a little light in my eye. “Do you see anything?” I asked him.
“Trust me, Doc – optometry pays way better than making bad jokes.”
“Okay, I’m going to have to dilate your pupils, then take another look.”
“How do you dilate my pupils? Drops? Drugs? Playboy Centerfolds?”
“I want you to read this: Hillary Clinton’s socialized medicine plan.”
Sure enough, my eyes dilated within minutes. Turns out her plan didn’t just die in Congress: It’s being used in the medical field for everything from anesthetics to mental health research.
“Ah,” he said, on closer examination. “Trichiasis. Epilation will take care of that.”
“You’ve got a tiny little eyelash growing into your cornea. It’s a tiny thing -- I can fix that up in a flash.” He turned around, and came back with a set of forceps long enough to deliver a baby elephant with.
That explains the claw marks on the wall of his exam room.
“Relax,” he said, while the entire staff held me down. “We only have to do this once. It’s not like an election year.”
So he reached in, his hands steady and inexorable as the federal debt, and after a moment he said: “Shoot, the eyelash broke off; I’m going to have to do it again.”
Did you know a person can move himself across an entire exam room just using the muscles in his butt? It’s most common in the dentist office.
Still, he got the eyelash out, smeared some antibiotic on my eye (that explains the second set of claw marks), and sent me home good as new. I even went back, to get the bifocals, because I love reading more than I love thinking I’m still twenty.
The bifocals are, of course, another story.