A humorous look at the little things in life

“Hard” contact lenses and nightmares about petri dishes August 5, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — ashleyolsonrosen @ 5:58 pm
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Recommended wine for today’s entry: Artesa Chardonnay, or better yet, Artesa Chardonnay Reserve. For good descriptions by a fellow blogger as well as the winemaker, visit I must gravitate toward it because of the hint of macadamia … yum!

I just sat down to order my daughter’s six-month supply of contact lenses and before I knew it, I was shirking my responsibilities and living in the past again.

Am I like the only surviving hard-contact-lens veteran? Does anyone else remember wearing those things? I know I’m old (and decrepit, according to my darling offspring), but I consider my tenure with them a badge of courage. I swear, I actually still have nightmares about having to put a petri dish — the kind from science class — into my eye. I think it’s called Post Traumatic Eye Stress Syndrome.

I guess the marketing gurus of the 1970s came up with the idea to call them “hard” lenses only after discounting “thin slivers of glass” and “teeny, tiny, clear and weight-free items that beg to be lost and cost a fortune to replace.” And they cost like $170 a pair 35 years ago. If you adjust that for inflation, which I don’t know how to really do, that would be about $3,200 today. I think.

But they were great because you could only wear them for 2 hours the first day, 3 hours the second, and so on until you got up to 12 hours, the max, or until you got an eye infection, which, once healed, set you back at 2 hours, then 3…

I got them in 7th grade, presumably so that my glasses didn’t cover up all my acne and so that my dirty blonde hair could tumble forward freely in stringy masses, without catching on the thick convex slabs protruding from the sides of my stylish-yet-impractical granny glasses.

During the “adjustment phase,” in order to remember to take my lenses out after the prescribed amount of time each day, I wore the contact case on a chain around my neck. I remember it, too – it was really attractive. More of an accessory than a utilitarian item. It was shaped like a barrel, with openings on either end marked R and L.

If you’re picturing a St. Bernard with lanky hair, you’re all caught up.

Luckily the R and L on contact cases are raised, like Braille, because from the moment I wasn’t wearing two contacts to the time I fished my trusty glasses from my Smiley face purse, I certainly couldn’t read a little R or L to know which compartment housed which lens. I also couldn’t see the chalkboard, my hands or approaching traffic.

The adjustment phase was quite pleasant. If you had these things, you know that what the doctor called “conditioning” your eyes was really allowing the lenses to gradually carve little alcoves for themselves on the inside of your eyelids.

So now picture the St. Bernard never blinking because, like their brethren observed by Pavlov, the hard contact wearer learned to avoid pain. Or for those without the wherewithal to abstain from blinking, constant watery eyes – oh, no, not water – tears.

But the best thing about hard lenses was that they popped out of your eye when you least expected it.

Like if you played HORSE (the basketball game) with your brother and if, somehow, it looked like you might actually beat him for once, your brother could deliver one sharp smack to the back of your head and … BLOOP. Out and on the pavement.

Or if you went water skiing, the first splash often rendered you blind. Personally, I learned to avoid this by having a partner ski with me. That partner’s job was to yell “DRIFTWOOD at 2 o’clock!” or “LARGE SWIMMING MAN at 10 o’clock!” or “YOU FELL, MR. MAGOO!” It was super-fun for them, and I received infrequent invitations to the lake.

But you REALLY were glad you’d mortgaged your next four Christmases worth the gifts for these little lenses when you sat on the beach trying to get the attention of the guy from Georgia two towels over. Yeah, I know I look p-r-e-t-t-y attractive with my little bitty bikini, my St. Bernard contact case necklace and my bulgy, unblinking eyes.

Except because you couldn’t blink the wind dried your eyes out and when you finally broke down and blinked, KA-CHING! Contact out and in the sand. The only thing worse in this situation would be if a sudden squall came up and you had to find your lens pronto or else your father would have your hide.

(FYI – in a pinch, a window screen makes a good sifter. And believe me, nothing will snare a hot teenage boy like a feverish search for a missing contact lens and a cussing father.)

So the next time your spoiled little children complain about their disposable, supple little lenses, tell them about the days long ago when you not only had to trudge five miles in the snow to get to school but before you left you had to put petri dishes into your eyeballs so that you could find your way there.


One Response to ““Hard” contact lenses and nightmares about petri dishes”

  1. Mary Ingmire Says:

    Aah! A walk down memory lane. I was older, about 25 when I got my first pair. They were called “fish scales” then. Even after the breaking in phase, I got beady-eyed after 4 hours. Did you ever have one slide to the top of your eyeball? Or a tiny piece of lint under one felt like a razorblade.

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