Velcrometer Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks
Monday, September 16, 2002
I was in the grocery store the other day, and someone in the produce department was staring at me owlishly through a pair of circular, wire-frame glasses. I glanced away and continued shopping, still aware of the bespectacled eyes following my every move. As I looked back, my watcher abruptly let fly with a wordless, high-pitched shriek. No warning whatsoever. One moment he was glaring omnisciently at me, and the next he was splitting the pesticide-laden air with the sonic equivalent of a magnesium flare. It was like the end of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. My eyes darted around in panic; I’d been found out! Sinful thoughts I didn’t even know I’d been having were being brought into the unforgiving light of day, to the attention of fellow shoppers who would certainly be so overcome with revulsion at my subhuman nature that they would be pummeling me to death with a hail of ugli fruit in a matter of seconds.
Then my accuser fell silent and thumped the restraints holding him in his stroller. I relaxed. Somewhat.
The thing is, I’ve never seen a six-month-old baby wearing glasses before. I’m here to tell you it’s a little unnerving. I’ve never watched Baby Bob, and it’s been years since I saw an episode of Family Guy, so I’m not as media-prepped as I might have been for the sight of an infant who looked smarter than me. And even if I had been, unusual-looking people have more of an effect on you when you see them in person. So a baby wearing glasses on TV is one thing. A baby wearing glasses is something entirely different when he’s six feet away from you, and his face is being made sinister by lenses cannibalized from a pair of binoculars that manage to simultaneously magnify and focus the ocular beams of infantile hatred into the keen, bright coherence of a cobalt laser. Babies tend to resemble each other quite a bit. But slap a pair of baby-sized prescription glasses on one—any one—and you’ll immediately see just how badly he wants to kill you.
Intellectually, I’m aware it’s an optical illusion, but it’s an uncommon one and therefore fairly convincing. It boils down to a simple dichotomy: you see a baby, and you see an adorable, innocent, unspoiled bundle of pure hope for the future. You see a baby with glasses and you see a Nazi war criminal still seething over his run-in with a shrink ray.
Above: “That was very foolish, Mr. Bond.”
I’m not begrudging the little anklebiter’s right to visually experience his surroundings. Quite the contrary, as a fellow glasses-wearer. What I want to know is how anybody realized he needed them. What gave away his vision problem? Is it that he allows adults to dress him in bad outfits? Does Tinky-Winky fail to set off his baby gaydar, no matter how hard he squints at the screen? Did he consistently misread the destination signs on the top of city buses and end up in the outer suburbs one too many times?
And how do you determine the proper prescription? I’m thirty-two years old, and I still have trouble with the vision test sometimes. That part where the ophthalmologist switches lenses and asks, “Is that better? Or that?” To be honest, I can’t always tell the difference. Some times, I can tell the difference, but I can’t objectively say which view I prefer. I mean, the letters on that eye chart may have edges that are sharp enough to cut diamonds, but do I really want to see the world that way all the time? If I, a voting adult, am barely equipped to handle the situation, how do you subject someone to it when his entire vocabulary consists of undifferentiated vowels?
Yet another question is how they keep the specs on the kid’s head. My niece Deniece, seven months old the last time I saw her, has two main pastimes: 1) touching her head, and 2) flailing. Sometimes she combines them, but the end result is that the only way to keep lenses on her face would be to surgically implant them into her eye sockets like that character in Gibson’s Neuromancer. And I don’t see the ‘rents going for that, so much. Maybe this kid’s glasses were held on by an elastic band wrapped around his otherwise naked scalp. I wouldn’t have known, since establishing that would have required him to point his death-beacon gaze in some other direction than mine, and obviously that wasn’t about to happen.
I thought about going up to the parents and asking them why the tyke was wearing the coke-bottles, but that seemed a little nosy and rude. And, to be honest, if I had a pre-toddler who’d been to LensCrafters and someone asked me that question, I’d probably say something completely unhelpful like, “Because he keeps going to sleep with his contacts still in.” Or, in order to forestall such questions in the first place, perhaps I’d just strap a tiny bass guitar on him and try to trick people into thinking that he’s none other than U2’s Adam Clayton.
Above: “Gaaah ehhh bblblblblbblaaaaaaaaah.”
I kid, but I’m curious. If someone could fill me in, I’d appreciate it.
Disclaimer to parents of children who got glasses before they got hair: I have no doubt that your offspring are sweet natured and lovable in every respect. Your attention to their optical health early in life is admirable, and it is no way your fault or theirs that they kind of freak me out. If it’s any consolation, I’m sure they don’t know they’re freaking me out. It just feels like they do. It feels like they know everything. How do you not get freaked out, anyway?
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