The Eyes Have It.

One Friday afternoon I left work early and went to get my eyes checked. It was just a routine checkup, or check in, or, just a chance for the ophthamologist to ask if my eyes were “Better like this or better like this?” I hadn’t been to have my eyes checked since, well, let’s just say it was an earlier decade and I didn’t have any problems, but my wife thought it would be a good idea to just let a doctor gaze into the abyss of my orbits and give me a chance to gaze back.

While I was waiting to be examined one of the doctor’s assistants came to me and said, “Um, sir, put your pants back on. We’re only going to look at your eyes and this is the waiting room.” And then another assistant came out and took me to a back room and put some eye drops in my eyes.

I don’t remember anything unusual about the amount of eye drops–although it had been so long and there had been so many advances in technology, such as the invention of the contact lens, in the intervening time that I wouldn’t have known if there was anything unusual. In retrospect though I think the assistant had a bit of a free hand with the eye drops. For hours afterward the whole world sparkled.

My wife drove me home and I kept saying, “Whoa! Look at the streetlights!” They were no longer just streetlights but stars surrounded by amber nebulae that shifted and spun as we moved, or as I blinked. Headlights of oncoming cars were brilliant white stars and the taillights of other cars were red eyes. We went out to dinner with friends and she had to take the decorative candle in the middle of the table away from me because I couldn’t stop looking at it.

It was like I’d taken a little trip to Colorado, but without the dry mouth and paranoia.

So a few years later when I went back for another checkup I was really excited, although a little concerned because it was an early morning appointment and I wondered what it would be like going back to work with pupils the size of golf balls.

I’d also taken the bus to my appointment and I hoped the trip back would be just as visually exciting as my earlier trip. It was a rainy day so all the cars had their lights on.

Except this time the assistant didn’t quite have such a free hand. The eye drops were wearing off before I even got out of the elevator and left the building.

At least this time I did remember to put my pants back on without being told.


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  1. BarbaraM

    Bummer. Getting my eyes dilated always feels like they’ve grown two sizes larger and hurt like hell. I guess that’s why I haven’t seen an Ophthalmologist in about 15 years – my Optometrist just checks to see if my glasses still work – he doesn’t do anything else (thankfully). I’m already night blind so this procedure is pure torture – I need to be led outside and into the car. It’s amazing that you can take yourself home by bus after that, no matter how few drops were used!

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      That’s awful that your eyes hurt when they get dilated. My eyes are blue which they say makes them really, really easy to dilate. That’s why the assistant who had such a free hand the first time left me with such a fun experience–and also why the stuff they use takes effect and wears off really quickly.

      1. BarbaraM

        I have blue eyes too, but nobody has ever said anything about them being easy to dilate, or that it wears off more quickly. It might have to do with my night blindness – I may be more susceptible to the discomfort. Going from the office to the car is especially miserable, as there’s no hiding from the light (south Florida)!

  2. mydangblog

    My only reaction to having my eyes dilated is not being able to see things close up. That’s normal for me anyway though. My best eye experience was laser surgery where, in the space of ten minutes, I went from being close to legally blind to having 20/20 vision. I actually cried with joy!

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      That is amazing. I’ve heard it predicted that laser surgery will eventually make contacts and glasses a thing of the past. I feel very lucky to have had 20/20 vision most of my life. I can’t imagine being without it.


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