A Jim of All Trades

Posts Tagged ‘eye exam

The Magician Optometrist

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I had a very entertaining eye exam the other day. My normal eye doctor, who I thought I would be seeing and who I like very much, had not come in that day and an older gentleman was filling in for her. I wasn’t excited to hear this when I arrived for the exam. I had never been examined by the substitute doctor before, but I had seen him in the office before and had not been impressed. He is old. I would honestly guess somewhere close to 80 years old. He also seems somewhat slow. Not that he is unintelligent, but he just moves at a slow pace and when speaking comes across as being not altogether there. I am not the discriminatory type and am not proud for passing judgment based on a simple observation, but I did so none the less and was not excited when I was called in for the exam.

The exam didn’t exactly start out smoothly, though I can’t say it started badly either. I tried to tell him about how my eyes had been performing and a change that I thought might have happened, but he didn’t really pay attention to me. He explained what he would be doing, found my file and chart, and spent some time reviewing my information and rehashing some information about my eyes that I had just been telling him.

He did turn out to be a very kind and friendly person though, and I warmed up to him a bit as he started running some tests. It was difficult to be pessimistic with him being so nice and polite. The fun really started when he truly began giving me an eye test.

If you’ve ever had an eye exam before, you’re probably familiar with the routine. The patient sits in a chair, an instrument – a phoropter – is placed in front of their eyes, and the eye doctor will make adjustments while asking a series of questions to examine their eyes and determine the needed prescription. Any eye exam I’ve had has always followed the same routine, and for the most part all doctors have asked their questions in the same manner. They will say something to the effect of, this is number one [with a specific setting set on the phoropter] and this is number two [with a change to the phoropter]. Which is better, one or two? I will provide my answer, the doctor will make an adjustment, then ask again, which is better, one or two? The exam carries on like this, rather monotonously, until the prescription is determined. It is rather boring, but it’s what I have come to accept as normal for eye exams.

This older doctor went about it slightly differently though. Instead of simply asking, which is better, one or two? He did the exam more as a performance.

As he set the phoropter he said, “ah this is fuzzy, isn’t it Jim, but watch what happens when I do THIS,” and he sort of waved his hand in front of my eyes, which were still behind the phoropter so all I could see was his waving hand, and he quickly made an adjustment. My vision cleared up considerably and he said, “it’s better, isn’t it?” I confirmed, and he went to it again.

“Ahh, but watch what happens when I do THIS!” There was another wave of the hand in my field of view, another quick change to the phoropter, and my vision became blurrier. “Things got worse, Jim, didn’t they?” I confirmed, and he made his next change.

The whole exam was like this. Instead of just asking which lens or setting was better, he predicted the outcomes as he made changes, then asked me to confirm. He was very dramatic about it. He never made a change to a setting without flapping his hand in front of my eyes and wiggling his fingers a little bit. It seemed as if he expected his ability to predict how my vision would change and the effects of the phoropter would impress me. It also seemed rather similar to a magician performing his act. This is just an ordinary empty top hat, but watch what happens when I do THIS! [flick of the hand] There’s a RABBIT INSIDE!!!

At first I was troubled by his behavior. I was worried that if he was just answering the questions before asking them I wouldn’t be able to give feedback. I also thought maybe he was a little crazy. But as he went on I found it funnier and funnier. He seemed to exaggerate his delivery as time passed. There were more waves of his hand, more excitement in his voice, and the questions became more open ended to include my feedback as he fine-tuned. I began to smile and quite literally had to bite down on my tongue to keep from laughing till the end of the exam.

At one point he abruptly made a change and said, “oh no, it seems as if you have double vision!” And sure enough, the singular eye chart I had been looking at had become duplicated. He began rolling a control on the phoropter and asked me to tell him when things were better. I remember having to do this during eye exams in the past, but not executed the same way.

When we were done he informed me that my left eye hadn’t changed but my right eye would require a bit more correction. As he ushered me to the door he stopped, did a little dance – stepping forward and back while swinging his arms at his sides – and said, “so we’ll just PUNCH that right eye up a bit,” and he thrust his fist into the air as he said the word “punch,” then he continued, “and you’ll be able to see like a HAWK!”

After initially being reluctant to have him check my eyes I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I’m also sure not all patients enjoy his tactics. While children and the light at heart probably get a kick out of it, I can image more serious folk being put off. Since he is older and only works part time as a substitute for other doctors I would hope people don’t give him a hard time. Despite the theatrics, he did seem more than competent. I also doubt I will see him again. No matter, I’m glad I had his special brand of eye test and the experience will give me something to laugh to myself about whenever I have my next one.

I don’t think eye exams will ever be the same for me.

Written by Jim

December 10, 2011 at 9:52 am