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new glasses

I had my eyes checked and bought a new pair of glasses last week.

The opticians called today. They are ready.

It was largely a fast and easy process, but with a little intercultural surprise.

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annual eye test

When we first moved here, I got my eyes checked and bought new glasses. I love those glasses, they have served me well.

The next year, I was in London visiting, and I went to my eye doctor there and got my eyes checked. I was pleased to see him, the eye exam noted nothing new, and I left.

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The lenses on those glasses from three years ago are now scratched and the frame looks a bit worn. Time for a new pair.

I couldn’t put my finger on why, but I did not want to go back to the optician who had fitted me with the glasses I wear now. I’ve been very pleased with the glasses, and the optician had to convince me to break out and try new things — varifocal and photochromatic lenses. Big changes! But, no. The shop is at the end of my street, yet I didn’t want to go back there.

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So I went to a different one, which isn’t hard, there are several in my neighborhood.

eye test first, or shop for glasses first?

I made an appointment and turned up on the appointed day and hour and immediately sat down with Sandra, my new optician. We looked at eye glass frames and she talked about different lenses and their qualities.

….

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What?

Why are we talking about frames and lenses? Shouldn’t we do the eye exam first? I mean, after all, I’m here because I’m worried about the health of my eyes. Corrective lenses are part of the story, but the main event is the eye exam, I found myself thinking.

….

I was totally zoning out. You know when you sit there pretending to listen but most definitely are not. And then I found myself growing annoyed about being viewed  solely as a consumer — someone to sell new eye glasses too — rather than a human concerned with my health.

And then I remembered — that was what had annoyed about that first optician’s three years ago. It had felt like a hard-sell on the eye glasses first, eye exam was secondary.

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Then I also remembered — not only have I studied intercultural communication, I have lived abroad for 30 years of my life. Also, I teach people how to deal with conflict differently, how to stay present to what is alive within them and around them.

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Yet, I, like lots of people out there, can suddenly switch on auto-pilot and assume deference in the face of authority. But it needn’t be that way. I know how to deal with situations like these.

So I did.

I apologized for interrupting, and confessed that I wasn’t listening to her, and I apologized for that too. Then I explained how I was more concerned about my eyes’ health and I didn’t find it easy to think about new glasses just yet. And I played the intercultural card, explaining how other places I’ve lived, the eye exam has always come first, and that may be what is making me a little uncomfortable. And I apologized again for being, perhaps, a troubling patient. I stated my experience in a calm and friendly manner and tried to express myself in neutral language.

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Sandra was understanding about what I had said, and we moved into the examination room and got started and then finished up by selecting the frames and new lenses.

….

And later today I’ll go over and pick up my new glasses. Yee-haw!

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