Friday, June 08, 2007

No More Glasses!

I want to describe, for you, some of the benefits of replacing your glasses with contacts or laser surgery.

If you wear glasses, then you probably share my love/hate relationship with full-face helmets. Not only do you have to take your glasses off to don or remove the helmet, then put them back on; but you need something for sunglasses as well. Exposure to light, especially UV, causes the lenses of your eyes to yellow and is one of the things that reduces night vision with aging.

I still love the full-face helmet for its complete protection. In winter they keep me warmer. If I am riding without a faring, I appreciate the improved ability to keep dust and bugs at bay that comes with wearing a full-face helmet. While I’ve learned how to hold my glasses with a few fingers while dealing with the helmet so that they can be replaced without needing to be set down somewhere, the drill is always a humbug. Never mind the time it took me to become good at changing shields.

My eye doctor, a few years ago, asked me how old I was. When I told him, he asked me if I worked outdoors a lot. After I explained, he cautioned me to get sunglasses as well as UV protection.

If money were no object, I might have just ordered some of those automatic tinting glasses. However, with me, money seems to always have places to go and generally goes there before it goes to such luxuries. Instead, I purchased a tinted visor and began changing the visor on my Arai helmet. Fortunately, a spare visor fits easily into my tank bag and somewhere I read about the use of the protecting cases that are sold by many dealers …well, many BMW dealers, anyway. I do not remember seeing any during the few forays that I’ve made into forbidden pastures.

Last month, a few years later, I was finally ready for self-tinting lenses. It helps to work for a corporation that provides a medical plan with vision benefits. When I explained all this to the doctor, however, his suggestion was to try soft contact lenses. Not all doctors are willing to go to the extra trouble to fit them to people with astigmatism, but this one was. Moreover, because my benefits year ends within a few weeks, I can get soft lenses in this year’s plan and still get some auto-tinting lenses with next year’s benefits, in a few weeks.

A few days later, I visited the doctor and received the trial lenses. I looked forward to being able to use ordinary sun glasses. He informed me that about anything plastic, polarized, and with UV protection would be sufficient, and that I need not pay a lot for such glasses.

The last thing he told me was that I would need some reading glasses, since I normally wear bifocals. That was a surprise. My next stop was CVS and reading glasses ran between ten and twenty-five dollars. A friend, who I refer to as “the Takoma Park pet-rescue lady with the Prius,” since tells me that I can get reading glasses at The Dollar Store.

I thought I also needed some of those tight-fitting glasses to keep dust out of my eyes. Such was one of the concerns that I shared with the doctor regarding wearing contacts on the motorcycle. The Aerostich catalog had WileyX goggles that looked like just the thing, so I called around to see who had them. Battley’s did. Sabrina was most helpful. I told her that I would be by to see her later and learned that they closed at seven. Madigan, at Bob’s, suggested that I try the Bobster’s. While I chuckled at the coincidence of the name, I learned from the Internet that they might be a better choice: nearly as good and they cost less.

Bob’s closes at 6, so I went by there, first. I was riding John Galvin’s motorcycle and did not realize that its clock was an hour and ten minutes slow. I knew its time wasn’t right, but figured it was only off an hour because of daylight savings time.

Arriving at Bob’s, the bikes were already rolled into the store. I was able to put the side-stand down just a few feet from the door and without removing my helmet went to check to see if it was still open. It was.

Inside bikes parked closely together slowed my progress. The sales manager, Rick, was at his desk and looked up.

“Are you closed? Is it past six o’clock?” I asked.

“It’s six-ten,” he answered, with a chuckle. “What do you need. If it’s something small we can probably take care of you as the cash register is still open.”

“I was just going to look at sun glasses,” I said as I began to remove my helmet.

Once I got my helmet off, Robyn looked over and in mock surprise says, “Oh, its just J. If we’d known that we would have told you to get out of here.”

Several of us got a chuckle from that.

Once I navigated through the bikes, Madigan met me at the counter. He showed me the choices and had me on my way with a new set of Bobsters in a short time. I was amazed at the low price.

“Are you all trying to ruin Bob’s reputation?”

Riding out from Bob’s, I did not feel like going home. John’s Rockster is a fun bike to ride. I dawned on me that I could still get to Battley’s and see what the expensive glasses looked like. I did tell Sabrina that I would see her that evening, and I might want a more expensive pair of sunglasses as an addition, someday. It might also let me enjoy a few back roads. First, I checked John’s clock against the time on my cell phone so I would know how far off it was: one hours and nine minutes.

I really couldn’t waste any time and got to Battley’s with only a couple of minutes to spare. A sales clerk standing by the door hurriedly locked the door upon seeing a last-minute rider approaching their loading dock. I circled a couple of times, laughing at my urgency to get there and headed to Starbucks.

It is now a week-or-so hence. I have to say that soft lenses work just fine with motorcycling. Even without the tight fitting Bobsters, I get along fine in a full-face helmet. This I discovered on a ride with Chris Zink, a riding companion who has been living with soft lenses and pushing their limits for years. The feeling of freedom in not having to mess with glasses as I put on or take off a full-face helmet still feels rewarding days later. There is also another benefit.

When it gets wet out and lens surfaces fog up, you have one less surface to worry about so visibility is immediately 50% better in such situations. Instead of having to open a face shield to dab at your glasses in the hope of some partial improvement, you just blink your eyes.

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