Wednesday, 8 February 2017

safety first

It was only when my mother rang up to ask if I was all right that I discovered I hadn't published yesterday's post.  I now have so today is a two post day, possibly the first ever.

After my recent adventures I thought I should take up the Systems Administrator's suggestion and buy some prescription safety glasses.  As and when they arrive and I have tried to do a morning's gardening wearing them I will let you know what they are like.  Buying them felt as though it took half this morning.

I don't know about other glasses wearers but I had never really looked at my prescription.  The optician gives me a copy after each eye test, which I take home and put in a filing tray where it stays until it gets thrown away about two years later, some time after the next eye test.  I was aware in theory that you could buy glasses on the internet, but having fairly severe short sight with astigmatism thrown in, and being a convert to varifocals, I always felt I wanted a trained person to fit my glasses, in a proper opticians where I could go back and complain if I didn't get on with the result.  Specifying glasses myself off the web felt too much like Caveat Emptor.

I don't think Vision Express does safety glasses, though.  One chap who used to do my eye tests tried hard and on repeated visits to convince me that as well as glasses for everyday I would like contact lenses for special occasions.  Eventually I managed to convince him that I very rarely went to those sorts of dressed up parties, and that when I did I wanted to be able to concentrate on the other people there and having a nice time, not on managing some unfamiliar in-eye hardware.  Another told me I should always wear goggles to garden.  He didn't look like somebody who did a great deal of outdoor physical work himself, otherwise he would have known why that wasn't a good idea. Nobody has ever tried to sell me safety glasses.  Maybe they are missing a trick.  Or maybe it is a strictly minority interest.

The Systems Administrator, whose eyes are not as bad as mine and who is more confident about technical specifications, has bought glasses online and assured me it was easy.  I thought I wasn't going to drive in them, so really how hard could it be to copy some numbers from my prescription to an order form?  It turned out the SA was more worried I would have lost the prescription, but I had not.  It was in the same filing tray where I always put it, and I saw it only last month when I was doing my annual desk tidy as part of filling in my tax return.

Starting on the basis of zero knowledge of safety glasses I chose a firm that came near the top of the Google search, and the CAT brand because at least I'd heard of it, and they did a model with sprung arms.  My current main glasses (which were from the children's section at Vision Express) have sprung arms and stay on my face so much better than all previous, trendier and more grownup glasses that I would never buy unsprung ones again.  I asked the optician once why my glasses always slid down my nose and was told that it was because I had a petite bridge.  I always think of safety glasses as being worn by people operating lathes and Michael Portillo visiting factories by train, but looking at the website I realised there was another whole market for people who play sport, and man sized wraparounds were not what I was after.

I did not understand the prescription at all but carefully and mechanically copied over the numbers of Sph, Cyl, Axis and Add, and gave it to the Systems Administrator to check.  The SA said very confidently that I did not have a Base or a V Prism, as if it all made perfect sense, and briskly measured the distance between my pupils using metal engineering calipers, which seemed much easier than trying to do it myself in a mirror with a ruler.  Then I had to make a decision about what sort of lens I wanted but the website quibbled over my choice.  Did I really want standard glass and not the lighter, scratch resistant and shatterproof polycarbonate?  The SA suggested that for ten quid extra I wanted lighter.  Did I want the glasses for distant or near vision or both?  I said both, and the website said I couldn't have both because I was too old and too shortsighted.  The SA said in that case I wanted Distant.  I protested that nothing was going to poke me in the eye from a distance and I wanted the glasses for close work, and the SA said that if I chose Close it would be like walking around all day in my reading glasses.  That did not sound very comfortable, and anyway for pruning I do need to be able to see where I am putting my feet.

After I fired the form off and got a confirmation email another email arrived later saying that I had failed to tick a box confirming that a number did not exceed 6.5 and would I go back to complete the form and authorise the extra payment.  I read this email twice in total bafflement and then rang them up, and at the precise moment that someone answered the phone Mr Cool jumped on to the kitchen table and walked across my keyboard.  The email disappeared.  The woman on the phone explained that I had to add two numbers together to get to the number they wanted, and as the total did exceed 6.5 it meant that I could not have normal lenses and needed extra strength ones.  That didn't surprise me.  Visits to the optician are like visits to the hairdresser in that there is no point in looking at all the current styles and choosing which one I like, instead I need to start by establishing all the ones I can't have, thanks to my bottle thick lenses or curly hair.  She sent me another email with a link to the supplementary order page and I meekly paid up for my super strength lenses.

You have to pay VAT on safety glasses.  Any guilt I felt at having made no direct contribution at all to the cost of yesterday's NHS treatment once the local pharmacist had saved me from paying a prescription charge vanished when I found out.  Delivery time is two to four weeks.  In the meantime I had better dig out the dreaded goggles before pruning the roses, and then I will let you know how I get on with the safety glasses.  Maybe they are something that GPs and the nurses at minor injuries units should gently suggest to people who come in with scratched eyes, particularly if they can see from your patient record that it isn't the first time it's happened.  But maybe there is a reason why safety glasses haven't caught on for general leisure use.  We shall find out.

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