Saturday, September 16, 2006

Oakleys and Lasers

originally published on 9.16.06 (update at end of article)

There is a story here, I promise :-)

Okay, most of you know that I have a propensity to stay up late typing and editing. Most nights, when I'm finished, I put my computer to the side and I put my glasses on top. More often than not "to the side" means off the bed.

Well, recently, while slumbering on the Cape, I thought "I'm in a huge bed, I'll just put it next to me," conveniently forgetting that I move around quite a bit in my sleep.

Sometime during the night I think I kicked to the right and heard a horrible noise that sounded like a laptop hitting carpet. Too terrified to confront the possibility that I had broken my darling Mac PowerBook, I went back to sleep and willed it to be a nightmare.

When I woke up some time later I gingerly picked up my dear laptop and even more gingerly opened it. It turned on, Yay! Huge sigh of relief, prayers of thanksgiving to God, etc. I then naturally looked on the floor for my glasses. At which point I picked up one half of the severed body you see in front of you.

It's supremely ironic that on falling 3 feet from a bed onto a carpet, the $1500 laptop doesn't have a scratch, but during the fall the $200 Oakleys managed to somehow get under the laptop and get broken. I should be thankful for small mercies, shouldn't I?

However, the breaking of the Oakleys (a very favorite pair of glasses among years of having generic cheap ones that broke easily - at least this one went down under the weight of a falling laptop - I'll give it a proper burial, according such honor) re-occasioned an internal debate that has been going on for some time. Lasik eye surgery.

I've had at least 3 friends who have had it - the expensive custom cornea one that maps your eye and uses all lasers and no scalpel - they all see 20/15 or better now. And no more glasses.

Really, the hassle of glasses and contacts are not understandable by those who don't have to deal with them. And yes, I hope that I don't sound whiny because I know there are people who won't have food to eat tonight and here I am complaining about my eyes, but hear me out - eyes are particularly sensitive. They gather dust easily - and anyone who has ever had contacts on while wind was blowing can tell you how much they cursed them at that moment.

Laser surgery is a freedom from this. In his monumental work of theology known mostly to Catholics (the Summa Theologiae), St. Thomas talks about makeup sometimes being a necessity in the case of "covering defects" as a way to "restore nature." Broadly speaking, one could argue that all defects of any kind are a result of our Original Sin, and that we must bear them bravely. I agree, to an extent, but I guess surgery is a temporary reprieve of this burden. Almost universally the doctors tell you that you will need reading glasses in your early 50s even if you get surgery, but in the meantime, 20-30 years of waking up in the morning and not being blind. I think it's a reasonable desire, especially for those of us who have to reach for glasses every morning.

It's not cheaper, for sure. The new, highly accurate, back-to-work-the-next-day type is $1000 per eye out here in Kansas. At $2000, for 20 years of no glasses, that means I pay $2000 now instead of paying $200 every two years for a decent pair of glasses. No cash savings.

Is it simply vanity? I think part of me wants to think so. But part of me just hates rubbing my eyes because my glasses have made them tired. :-(

I'm still undecided.

Overland Park, Kansas

(except that I'm not undecided anymore. I took the plunge and got surgery in late 2007. And it has changed my life.)

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