I am not sure why I was heading down the road with my Uncle Jack to the Optometrist but I think it had something to do my second grade teacher Sr. Nicholas telling my mother her 2nd grade son was squinting and making faces when looking at the front black board while sitting 10 rows back behind Algae Lynch and Bobby DiMartino and 8 other more interesting characters.
I can remember a number of similar excursions with my Uncle Jack - who was the legendary singer in the family, something of an untamed Caruso – and while sitting in the passenger seat he would sing and whistle the classic, “Ghost Riders in the Night”. And on that day, the ambience was no different as we drove into the West Baltimore Sunset in his 4-Door Black Rambler.
I had never been to an Optometrist’s Office and I never took an Eye (I) exam. The only I (eye) exam I got at home was when my mother asked “Who made this mess” and I would reply “Not I (EYE).”
I was told to sit in a high back chair which faced a white chart with a jigsaw of consonants and vowels A, E, I, O, U, and sometimes Y. Well I learned something in the 2nd Grade.
The Optometrist instructed me to identify each letter by going from left and right and then row by row. First with the left eye and the right eye covered and then vice versa. “A Piece of cake, these eye exams are not so bad,” I thought.
I then wondered to myself, “Maybe people who did not learn these scrambled letters in the 2nd grade were the ones who ended up wearing glasses.” Then the Optometrist asked me to READ what was on the exam chart with both eyes.
Now at this point in the story you may ask, “What could possibly go wrong? “
Well a lot.
You see I remember when I was young taking a flight of stairs down into the basement of the grammar school and sitting in Sr. Ascension's music class - a very diminutive nun and the school’s music teacher. She would start her class the same way by having the students warm up their throat muscles by singing a series of words up and down the scales and NOT the standard “Do, Re, Mi Fa, So La Te,” but instead “new, New, NeW, & NEW”
I can not tell you how many times I sat in that class and wondered why she would ask us students to annunciate - in rising scale no less - that her classroom was NEW. It was NOT new it was OLD, and the walls were painted robin’s egg blue, and there were big fat insulated steam pipes, waxed smelling tile floors, and in the front of the room another one of those black boards - which made a 2nd grade boy squint while he sat in his chair behind Algae Lynch and Bobby DiMartino and 8 other more interesting characters.
Well now you can imagine the rest of the story.
When then Optometrist asked me to READ the chart with both eyes open, I thought the real exam was starting and all those letters made up words and sentences, and well, I could not READ them.
“I can not read them, I said.”
I am not sure what if any logic reasoning went on inside the head of the Optometrist after my response; for he was soon dropping fluids in my eyes to make my pupils dilate, and was fitting me for glasses. I was then given shades and then told to go home and to NOT look into the sun for I could go blind.
Oh boy was I confused. I was now one of those people who needed to wear glasses until he learned to READ those scramble letters. This was going to be rough since my dad and uncle – both geniuses – were not able to figure them out since they still wore glasses.
Well I had glasses and some dark shades and my eyes hurt and my head hurt, and I was driving back to East Baltimore with Uncle Jack in his 4-Door Black Rambler away from the “OK DONT GO BLIND CORRAL.”
Uncle Jack –who paid $20 for the glasses was not singing “Ghost Riders”, but instead something like “Get out the way oh Dan Tucker, your too late to eat your supper.”
Well a week later while still blurry eyed, I lost the glasses in some bushes. My mother and uncle were not pleased with my carelessness but for myself all I could say was: