It’s been a few years now since the voodoo witch doctor optometrist put a curse on me.
He was my wife’s eye doctor at the time and we ran into the fellow at the grocery store. After the usual grocery store pleasantries (“I see you bought the Charmin two-ply. How’s that working out for you?”) the doc asked me about my own eyesight.
“Perfect,” I told him. “You’ll never have me as a customer, bruh. I can read road signs a mile away and I can see individual pixels in each letter on the back of the tiniest medicine bottle. Up close, far away, doesn’t matter, bruh. My eyes are bionic.”
That’s when the curse began.
I don’t know how he did it, exactly. He didn’t utter the curse in Aramaic or do a weird little voodoo dance right there in the canned goods aisle. He just spoke a few cryptic words and the withering of my eyes began.
“You know,” said the evil fiend. “It’s around your age when the up-close vision typically starts to fade.”
And like that, BAM! I went into the store Steve Austin and walked out Helen Keller. I swear, the hex of the mad voodoo witch doctor optometrist worked so quickly that a week later, I was squinting so badly to read tiny print, I began to look like Gilbert Godfrey.
Worse still, I found myself speaking in the language of the very old and the very cranky.
In the kitchen, trying to read the directions on the back of a Hamburger Helper box: “Dadgummit! Since when did they start printing these things so tiny?”
In the hardware store, holding a cordless hand vac at arm’s length in an attempt to read whether that’s the 12- or 16-volt model: “Dagnabbit! What’s wrong with the light in here?”
In my driveway, squinting at the engine while trying to replace a doohickey on my dual sport motorcycle: “Dad blame it! Is that a bolt or a screw I’m looking at? Damn foreign vehicles.”
Turns out it wasn’t my motorcycle at all I was trying to fix. It was the paperboy.
There was a period of weeks when I thought our pressroom guys must have been on a bender, because in order to read the newspaper, I had to stand 6 feet away and go all Gilbert Godfrey on it: “Goldarnit! Why are the words so small and fuzzy?”
When it came to my inability to see up-close things (which is called farsightedness for some bonehead reason), I went kicking and screaming through the long and bitter straits of denial. When my wife suggested I pick up some reading glasses, I almost filed for divorce. Would have done it, too, if I could’ve read those damn forms.
I ultimately DID pick up some of those cheap reading glasses and, what do you know? An investment of one dollar solved the issue and magically reversed the dark world of old doctor-what’s-his-name with the curse and the fancy two-ply toilet paper.
At least in theory.
My advice to the newly cursed: Go to the Dollar Store and buy every pair of reading glasses in the place, and then go to another store and pick up a hundred more.
Scatter a few dozen around your home, a few dozen more in your car, and at least 10 pairs of the things at the office. Stuff your coat pockets with them, wear a pair around your neck, and buy a few special eyeglass holsters and wear them strapped to each ankle. When it comes to reading glasses, you’ve got to be Special Forces prepared. Because no matter how many you own, when you need them the most, they will vanish on you like the cheap, one-dollar traitors they are.
The other day I rode my motorcycle to a crime scene on Lincoln Street in Lewiston. Hopped off the bike, interviewed a few witnesses, business as usual.
Until I got a text message from a photographer, that is. I had come on my motorcycle, so the supply of 400 reading glasses kept in the car were not available. I was wearing my riding coat which had not yet been equipped, and I had apparently forgotten to strap a couple of pairs to my ankles that day.
“Dadgummit,” I muttered. “Forgot m’ spectacles.”
I squinted. I held the phone at arm’s length and, when that didn’t work, at leg’s length. As far as I could see, the message from the photographer said: “Goobit ofig to mammogram foot amid stilt your horse to a poonrick.”
I could have asked a stranger to read it to me, but all things considered, I think I’d rather stilt my horse to a poonrick. Admitting to failing eyesight is admitting that you’re no longer bionic. Next thing you know, you’re at the hardware store begging some random teenager to read the ingredients on the back of a Bengay box. And maybe next week you can’t bend over to tie your shoes, you need someone to pre-chew your food and you can’t remember why you came to the hardware store in the first place.
I’m not prideful about many things, but this miserable failure of the eyes definitely falls into the, “I’ve heard it happens to all guys, but I never thought it would happen to me” category of shame.
I just thank God that the rest of me is still bionic.
And I pray I never run into a proctologist at the grocery store.
Mark LaFlamme is a Sun Journal staff writer. You can email him in a tiny, Italicized font at firstname.lastname@example.org.