KAFKA GETS HIS EYES CHECKED
I’m not a lawyer, not by any stretch, and my knowledge of the Canadian legal system is on par with my interest in the rules of ice hockey – which is to say utterly non-existent - but I feel fairly certain that had I acted on my feelings toward the Snippy Optometrist I encountered this week, I would likely as not be writing to you, dear reader, from deep within a dungeon somewhere beneath the surface of British Columbia.
We are in the “Prep” period of “Ice Blues” and “On The Other Hand, Death”,
- two more of our “here!” private eye movies starring Chad Allen.
(go to www.heretv.com to order!!)
For those of you outside the motion picture business, “prep” is a film term meaning “let’s shove the director into a little van and drive him all over hell’s half acre and force him to make small talk with local hicks in order to convince them to let him take over their homes and lives long enough to shoot a movie in their town.” This process general requires LOOKING at the locations in question, which obviously requires very good eyesight and, having been yanked out of my zen-like desert retreat with only a week’s notice after my last movie wrapped, I didn’t have time to attend to something as simple as a trip downtown to pick up some new contact lenses.
(By the way I know some of my fair readers have seen my picture in the various media outlets or perhaps have watched some interview with me on Entertainment Tonight, and I would like to set the record straight here and now: NO my contact lenses are NOT tinted, and how DARE you even consider it; the dazzling blue of my eyes is just another of nature’s little gifts to me, and every morning as I prepare myself for the onslaught of human mundanity I gaze in the mirror and thank her for them. )
And so I was forced to take a few hours off from interviewing prospective thespians for my upcoming feature films - a process known as “the audition”, generally involving me in a stuffy room watching a parade of unemployed waiters act out the same scene one after another for hours and hours until I can’t even remember my own name – and make my way down to Ye Olde Eyeglasse Emporium, nestled deep in the heart of the Vancouver Gay Neighborhood; always trying to help the community, that’s me.
In my most polite tones, I asked the reed thin young man behind the counter to order for me a supply of my weekly usage contact lenses, as I’ve done in at least half a dozen countries around the world over the years. But instead of simply doing AS HE WAS TOLD, the Snippy Optometrist glanced over his own obviously discounted eyewear at the document I’d given him – a valid prescription from my very own opthalmologist in Palm Springs -
- a place which knows a thing or two about failing eyesight I might add – and said “I can’t take this”. He handed it back to me, pursing his lips as if daring me to rise to the challenge.
And of course, like a fool, I did.
“What do you mean you can’t?” I asked. “It’s a prescription, if you don’t have them in stock can you order them?”
“We don’t accept prescriptions from the U.S.,” he replied. “We have laws and rules here in the Canadian Health Care system.”
“But,” I said, trying very hard not to reach across the counter and test the strength of his larynx with my hands, “I’ve done it before. Lots of times. All over the world. In South Africa, for heaven’s sake! It’s just a prescription for contact lenses-“
“I’m sorry, sir,” he sniffed with pride. “We legislate health care in Canada. Isn’t it a good thing we legislate health care in Canada?”
Frankly, at that moment, I felt legislating a national Retroactive Abortion Service would be a better use of government funds. Was he suggesting that my doctor, a man I trust with my extremely valuable body, was just some unregulated moron who hung a sign on his door and starting poking people in the eyes?
But Canadians love their free health care, substituting their ability to get a free bandage on demand for any kind of national identity or patriotic pride, and I’ve learned over the years not to even attempt an argument along the lines of “well, if the wealthy could pay for their own, there would be more left over for the poor…”
Instead, I decided to throw in the towel immediately and just go along with the poor, deluded nincompoop. I’ve dealt with his type before, and they tend to take out their frustrations from years of being teased by schoolyard bullies for lisping and throwing baseballs “like a girl” on anybody who dares challenge their power Behind The Shop Counter.
“So what do I have to do?” I muttered, trying to act the part of a beaten man, hoping to get a bit of mercy out of this Ichabod Crane in eyewear.
“Make an appointment with the optician,” he said, gesturing to the woman suddenly standing beside him.
“Okay,” I said, “how about now?”
He looked at her. She smiled, shook her head.
“I could see you tomorrow at 1 pm,” she said.
“So you’re busy now,” I wondered, looking around at the utterly empty store.
“Yes,” she nodded. “Tomorrow at one.”
The two of them stood there, smiling at me in that vaguely sinister way that all Children of the Damned have when they know there is no escape for their victim.
I agreed to their terms, and watched silently as the Snippy Optometrist wrote my name down next to “1 pm” in the otherwise completely BLANK appointment book.
“See you tomorrow,” he said, and I managed to make it out the door before cursing all eyeglass selling homosexuals wearing striped sweaters to an eternity inside Wal-Mart.
THE NEXT DAY
I returned. At one pm. Sharp. There was nobody in the store, or at least that’s how it appeared, until the back door opened at the slick stench of cheap fast food smeared on wax paper drifted out to me. The Optician emerged from this haze, wiping her paws on a paper towel, and looked at me blankly until I said:
“1 o clock, here I am!”
It took a full twenty seconds before a dim light seemed to go off in her head and she said “oh yes. The American.”
Before I could tell her that, in fact, I was a Canadian who merely had the good sense to move south out of the cold, she gestured for me to sit down at her “examination desk”. She pulled out a pen and paper and held her hand out:
“Do you have your prescription with you?”
At first I thought she was joking.
“No,” I said. “The young man here said you didn’t accept U.S. prescriptions.”
Just then the Snippy Optometrist came out of the back room, French fry grease smudging his upper lip, and gave me a tight smile.
“Well,” she said, “If you don’t have a prescription you will have to see the doctor.”
“But,” I said, feeling the room begin to spin, “he said you wouldn’t-“
“If you have a prescription, we can just get it filled for you,” she said, getting up from the desk.
The Snippy Optometrist didn’t say a word. I stood up, keeping my smile frozen in place, and headed for the door.
“I’ll be right back,” I said. “Unless you get too busy to see me?”
EIGHTEEN MINUTES LATER
After a fast trip to the hotel to pick up my prescription, I returned to find the store filled with customers.
Nobody buying anything, mind you, just trying on eyewear: a heavyset woman who insisted on squeezing her melon-sized head into tiny “granny glasses”; a crying nine year old who didn’t want to wear “any stupid things” and an elderly man who shouted at the mirror with each new pair of spectacles “Nope. Not them. Not the ones.”
The Optician and Snippy Optometrist both saw me, but neither acknowledged my existence. I decided to play the waiting game myself, and just lurked around the shop, smiling over the shoulders of people looking at themselves in the mirror, until finally the Optician met my gaze.
“I have my prescription,” I said, waving the paper as if I were a five year old with a new crayon drawing for the fridge. She took it from me, looked it over, and – with the ease of a hangman flipping the switch on the gallows – shook her head.
“I’m going to have to test your eyes.”
“Why,” I sputtered? “I thought you said the prescription was-“
“It’s a U.S. prescription. I can’t just take it, I have to check your eyes to make sure they’re the same shape as they were when you got the prescription.”
“But…” I pleaded, “the prescription is only two months old! How much could my eyes have changed in two months?”
“Not much,” said the Optician. “Probably not at all. But we don’t know for sure.”
Snippy Optometrist nodded, and smiled.
“Isn’t it good that we legislate health care here in Canada?”
I am wearing my glasses today. It makes me look smart, like a Director.
At least, that’s what I’m telling myself as I’m sitting here, not in a some jail cell somewhere in Vancouver, charged with
Assault With Eyewear, but rather in the First Class Lounge of Alaska Airlines in San Francisco -
- (delayed again, I might add) on the way home for the weekend to go to my own Opthalmalogist – the savage, uneducated Witch Doctor that he is – and get my own damned contact lenses.