February 26, 2003
Streamlining The Process

ytd: 132.24

This morning it's the left side that doesn't want to cooperate.

I lean across the sink, as far as I can lean without falling in, and I peer into the steamy bathroom mirror ... nose-to-reflected-nose, practically. The light in this bathroom sucks. It especially sucks at 5:47 a.m. on a Wednesday morning in the middle of winter. It especially-especially sucks when you've been standing here for twenty *#!%?! minutes already, and you've got less than a tablespoon of caffeine percolating in your bloodstream for most of that time. Unfortunately, this is the only functioning mirror in the entire apartment. At least, it's the only functioning mirror that doesn't require you to hold it with one hand while you're using it.

And I definitely need BOTH hands to complete this delicate operation.

With my left middle finger, I lift my eyelid straight up, towards my hairline: with the middle finger of my right hand, I tug the bottom lid down, exposing the bloody under-inside. Then I bulge my eyes open, as wide as they will bulge, as though I'm viewing some unspeakable private horror. (Michael Jackson starring in a "Got Milk?" commercial, maybe.) While I'm lifting and tugging and bulging, I slowly maneuver my right index finger, with the contact lens perched on the tip, in the general direction of my left eye.

A tiny sting, as probing fingertip touches bare eyeball. Position. Push. Slight pressure. Squeeze both eyes shut. Vigorous eye-roll, left to right, up and down, left to right again.

Open.

Blink.

Focus.

And then, the moment of truth: did it work this time?

Nope. The contact lens has folded itself over in half again and is lodged now in my lower eyelashes, like a soap bubble caught in Grandma's syringa bushes. Frustrated, I peel it loose and drop it back into the little plastic lens holder. Or I try to drop it into the little plastic lens holder: it instantly molds itself to my fingertip, stubborn as a second skin, and refuses to let go.

Why did I think this was going to be easy?

Getting contact lenses -- after months of thinking about the idea/considering the idea/thinking about considering the idea -- was supposed to make things simpler, not more complicated. Last weekend I finally decided to go ahead with it. The decision had almost nothing to do with vanity (although lately I've been hating the way I look in glasses: very Stern Frumpy Head Librarian With Secret Box of Doughnuts In Bottom Desk Drawer), and almost everything to do with my obsessive new desire to streamline everything. For as long as I can remember, I've gone through these periodic bouts of manic downsizing, usually when I'm feeling less than powerful in other important areas of my life. It usually passes as soon as I start to regain some control. Lately, though, I've been feeling the urge more intensely than ever before. All of a sudden, I want to purge myself of all unnecessary possessions and procedures. Pare things down to essentials. Modify. Simplify. Minimize. Get all of the excess out of the way before I trip over it. Somehow, digging around in my purse looking for my glasses every damn time I walk into the grocery store -- and then digging around in my purse looking for my prescription sunglasses every damn time I walk OUT of the grocery store -- doesn't fit into my idea of The Streamlined Life. I figure that if I'm wearing contacts lenses all the time, I can get by with carrying just one change of glasses with me: preferably a pair of groovy off-the-rack shades. (Preferably parked on top of my head, à la Stephanie Powers.) No more having to stop-and-swap my eyewear whenever the light conditions change.

That's the plan, anyhow.

Gently, I scrape the slippery contact lens from the end of my finger and place it in the palm of my hand. With my successfully-vision-corrected right eye, I squint at the tiny translucent membrane in my hand. Is that another hair on the lens? Or a piece of lint from my sweatshirt? 

I grab the bottle of wetting solution and give the lens another healthy squirt. Incredibly, the bottle of lens solution is almost half-empty already. (When the nice optician's assistant at Pearle Vision gave me the 2 oz. "trial bottle" on Saturday, I laughed at her. "It'll take me a YEAR to use that much!" I said. Now I'm wondering if the stuff comes in the handy ten-gallon-jug size.) I gently massage the solution into the lens with the tip of my middle finger, the way the assistant showed me. Then I flip it over and repeat the process on the other side. When the lens has been properly baptized and disinfected, once again, I put it back on the tip of my finger and hold it up to the crappy bathroom light ... checking to make sure that it's clean, checking to make sure that it's a little bit damp so it will adhere better, checking to make sure that it hasn't inadvertently flipped inside-out again.

(How the hell do you TELL if it's 'inside-out,' anyway?)

With grim determination, I lean once more across the bathroom sink. If I'm not successful this time, I may have to skip the contact lenses altogether, today, and try again tomorrow. I've only got a finite amount of time to get dressed and ready for work. (And I'm ALREADY getting out of bed half an hour earlier than usual this week, just to give myself enough time to do this.) Taking a deep breath, I assume the position once again ... I open my eye, as wide as it will open ... and I painstakingly lift my fingertip to my face. 

Miraculously, this time the lens doesn't flip off the end of my finger and land in the toothbrush holder. It doesn't turn itself inside-out, or stick to my finger instead of my eye, or wind up tangled in my bottom lashes. This time it goes right to the eyeball and sticks, like a starfish clinging to the side of a coral reef.

And it stays there. Hallelujah.

A brief moment of irritation as the lens settles into place. A series of rapidfire blinks. A quick swipe at the overflow solution, dribbling from my bottom lid ... and all of a sudden I can see.  (Mainly what I "see" are my bloody-red eyes, irritated by all of this early-a.m. attention. But that seems somehow beside the point.)

I can SEE!

This odious new morning chore completed, I rinse out the little plastic lens case, dry it off with a lint-free towel, and toss it into the side pocket of my purse ... along with my new over-the-counter reading glasses, my new off-the-rack/non-prescription sunglasses, my old prescription glasses (just in case), my old prescription sunglasses (ditto), both eyeglass cases, a travel-sized packet of tissues ... plus the half-empty bottle of lens solution and the last of the sample lint-free towels. That should get me through the day, at least.

The process may not exactly be "streamlined" ... but at least I can see whatever it is I'm tripping over.



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