Now I Am Miserable
[This column was originally published in the May 1948 issue of The Exponent, a University of Dayton student publication of which Erma Fiste (Bombeck) was associate editor from 1948-1949.]
I felt the need for glasses in my junior year of high school when I ran headlong into a steel beam and promised it a Coke date at Gallahers after the sixth period. From then on, things went from bad to worse . . . I called my mother a "flirt" when she took my arm at street crossings . . . I gave my class ring to a bust of Caesar . . . I couldn't tell a traffic light from a nose in an Alka-Seltzer ad. That's why I took the advice of . . . oh, what was her name . . . small matter, this creature suggested an optometrist.
"Hello, Doctor," I said, extending my hand to a pair of bookends.
"Come in, come in," He boomed. "Now, young lady, I'm going to have you read this chart on the wall for me . . . just the top line now . . . no, no, come back from the wall and sit in this chair. Now, just the top line."
I pondered. "Does it say, 'Soft Music-Party Neat-Gal by Side-Burma Shave'?"
"Or how about, 'I didn't know I was in love with you, til I heard you had a way with the Bureau of Internal Revenue'?"
"Really, my dear . . . I'm afraid you can't see that far . . ."
"Maybe it's 'Tippecanoe and Tyler too'."
"No, no, let's go on with the examination. Answer me this. Is the purple circle with the red dots slanted at a left thirty degree angle above the pink square with the green dragon print, or is the purple circle with the red dots to the lower right with a forty-five degree slant below the pink square with the green dragon print?"
I ran to the washroom and shut the door. The doctor spoke softly. "Come now, my dear. This is merely an examination. I didn't mean to frighten you with my questions. All you have to do is think about them and answer me in a straightforward manner. Come out now, dear . . ."
I groped my way to the door and peered through a thin crack. I could give it a try just once more. I sat in the big leather chair.
He placed an instrument in my eye and we sat facing each other, like we had a cardboard between us. "Now you just look straight ahead." I watched the doctor's eyes and there in the middle, our crossed eyes met. He blinked. I blinked right back. He blinked twice. I blinked in response. He straightened and cleared his throat. "Do I win?" I asked.
Ignoring me, he continued. "Do you get headaches often?"
"Well, no, not really, Doctor . . ." A voice came from the opposite corner, "Yes, Doctor, quite often."
I became indignant. "I don't know who you are, but would mind waiting for your bus at the bus stop . . ." The doctor interrupted. "Please, Miss, you're talking to your father." I reddened.
"I think we're going to be all right. Here, try on these three-inch lenses that magnetize things 3,000 times its size. What do you see?"
"The year 1960."
"Foolish child. Now what kind of frames do you think suitable? Here, take your pick from this selection of two. Here is the 'So Long Youth" model and the 'Mother, Look Again, It's Your Baby' style." I chose the latter.
"There now," he said, adjusting them behind my ears, "you can see the world as it really is."
I saw . . . Father didn't look like Gregory Peck anymore, I hadn't really passed my mid-terms at all, that bus driver that I was mad for had a wart on his chin, dresses had gotten longer, and I was miserable.