Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 11.09.16
Stanstead, Quebec


An unfocused look at optometry

Optometry is one of those professions where I think, "Hey, I could do do that." It doesn't seem that complicated. With some basic equipment and an instructive YouTube video, I'm sure I could manage it.

After all, the equipment is doing most of the work. The optometrist is merely taking the readings. There is that eyeball-gazing wand, but its sole purpose seems to be to blind the patient just before he has to read some faraway letters, so it may exist more for kicks than anything else.

Plus, if it turns out there is something seriously wrong with your eyes, the optometrist refers you to an ophthalmologist. If you need glasses, he'll refer you to an optician. It's classic middle management, except with eye drops.

Undoubtedly optometry is more complex than this, and I'm sure I will soon be receiving angry letters explaining how. If I do get letters, though, I sincerely hope they tell me my arguments are shortsighted and lack clarity.

Ignorance notwithstanding, the big reason I question optometry is because it seems heavily dependent on guesswork. And guesswork not by the optometrist, who has at least watched the video, but by the patient. Speaking as one of those patients, I can assure you that this is not a reliable method.

"Are the letters clearer with this lens? Or this lens? This one…? Or this one…?"


This is how my eyeglass prescription is determined: by my vague sense that one lens kind of looks clearer and the letters are sort of easier to read. All the while, my answers are tainted by the anxiety that I'm going to flunk the test.

But of course there is no wrong answer. These are my eyes, after all. This is what I see. At least, that's what I told myself last week as I sat in the chair with my face in the giant torture goggles.

"This one…?" asked the doctor. "Or this one?"

"Ummm, the first one," I said.

"Really?" the doctor replied.


So apparently there is a wrong answer.

"I mean, yeah, the second one…"

And that's how I got my new prescription.

After the exam, the doctor and I discussed the arguments for regular lenses versus progressives. When I learned that it was $200 versus $500, the argument was quickly settled that I would continue taking off my glasses to read.

Next, I was sent out front to pick some new frames, which seems a bit of a racket. But I was willing to overlook this fact because my current frames are being held together with electrical tape.

Picking frames is tough, knowing you'll be stuck with this look for the next two to five years. Nonetheless, I began the elimination process by deciding against the cheaper frames that were out of style and opting for the more expensive frames that will be out of style in six months.

I narrowed it down to two.

"This one…? Or this one…?"

It was the end of the day and the office was quiet, so three employees were happy to help me out, and by "help me out," I mean tell me how good I looked. I can assure you that having three women simultaneously say I look good has never happened before in my life and is unlikely to happen again, so you'll forgive me for savouring the moment.

"I'm sure whichever frames you pick, your wife will find you very handsome," said one of the clerks.

Naturally, I didn't want to leave.

But it was closing time, so I made my selection (the cheaper frames, of course) and left the frames behind to be readied with my prescription. First, though, I took a selfie on my phone, which for me is as uncomfortable and unnatural as that puff of air in the eyeball. And the expression kind of looks the same.

I came home and showed my wife my phone. "What do you think?" I asked.

She paused. She continued pausing. The pause was going on far too long.

Finally she said, "Why do you look so angry?"

I'm not angry, I said, and then I explained how hard it is to take a selfie. But the frames, I asked, what did she think of the frames?

"They're awfully big," she said.

You lied to me, three women. You lied! I knew it was a racket

! But then, coming from the optometrist, I should have guessed.

* Drop by Black Cat Books in Lennoxville, QC this Sunday from 2-4 p.m. I'll be reading from my novel A Hole in the Ground and other works and discussing whatever there is to discuss. See you there!