Thursday, November 1, 2007
eyes have it; festival; variety
I might have mentioned some time back that I was preparing materials (new business cards, marketing piece, photos, etc.) for a women's expo that was being held in mid-October in a neighboring town. Of course, after securing the photo and writing the blurb about what I do, those materials were promptly lost by the convention planners, so I inadvertently spent two hours sitting behind a desk fronted by a poster advertising some woman and her book . . . which I did not know until her husband came and took the poster away. Because I approached my perch from the back, I did not know this poster was on the front. I told the guy that if I had known it was there, I would have taken it off myself -- not that it really mattered, but he seemed to take offense, as if it disturbed me that her particular photo and advertisement were there. Not really, but he wasn't the only person who I apparently ticked off that day.
The one who got me going was a barker (in terms of a carnival barker) who was the marketing rep for a Lasik surgery center. I might as well tell the whole story, because failing eyesight is an occupational hazard here.
I'm walking around the expo, which is basically a mall transported to a convention center. Stores, kiosks, services (home- and health-based), home businesses, gift vendors, etc. All those items that in the eyes of the convention organizers would appeal to a cross-section of the Tri-Cities TN/VA female populace.
I'm strolling past a Lasik surgery desk, and I see a sign saying, "Drop your name here for a chance at free Lasik surgery." Now, if you know me, you'll know that Coke-bottle glasses is an apt description. If these numbers mean anything to you, my eyesight is -10.75 in one eye, and -12.25 in the other. Without vision correction, everything is one big blur. Lasik to me was never a consideration because of (a) the cost and (b) the small risk that everything doesn't go perfectly. Doing what I do, my eyes are rather important. I got contacts last year but never wear them because I can't see 8- to 10-point type (forget 6-point type) without reading glasses on top of them, and even then it's not so reliable.
But FREE gets my attention. I stop to fill out the form, and Lasik Lady begins her spiel. I'll give the conversation more or less as it took place, without interrupting for all the stuff going through my mind:
She: I can change your life!!
She: Look at those glasses! What if someone breaks into your house in the middle of the night? You wouldn't be able to identify them. Don't you want to be able to see as soon as you wake up?
Me: My glasses are right at my bedside. It's usually not a problem.
She: But to open your eyes and have complete vision! And without glasses!
Me: I've been wearing glasses for 42 years. They are totally reliable and I have no vanity issues about them. I finally got contacts last year and can't wear them because I can't work with them. Will Lasik be able to correct me totally? To where I won't need readers?
She: What do you mean?
(At this point we are drawing a crowd, and the marketing of her product begins going straight to hell.)
Me: Well, I need to be able to read type this small (showing her some printed material) reliably, like where I can tell a period from a comma every time.
She: But if someone breaks into your house in the middle of the night . . .
Me: I don't live my life falling asleep every night wondering if I can identify someone in a lineup the next morning. I'm more concerned about being able to do my job.
She: What do you do?
Me: I'm an editor and proofreader. I need to be able to read.
She: Well, for that kind of work, you'll probably need to get glasses after the Lasik, but you'll just need them while you're reading.
Me: OK. For $3500, you're telling me that I'll still be wearing glasses 14 hours a day. I'm wearing them now. I replace my glasses about every three years, and insurance covers a lot of that. I'm not going to spend $3500 during the rest of my life buying new glasses, which correct my vision entirely, but you're telling me it'll change my life to spend that money with you and not be guaranteed a satisfactory result.
She: (Very huffily) Well, Lasik is for people who want to see, not for people who want to read!
Me: (Leaving) Well, if reading is the way you put food on the table, you might have a different outlook.
Her last comment also speaks to a general approach to literacy that I won't go into here.
It's about 15 minutes until I have to be personable for a few hours, so I go somewhere to settle down.
Calmer, I find where I'm supposed to be set up, and realize that I am next to a Fabio lookalike who is signing calendars for a romance publishing group. After getting a calendar signed for my wife (it's a joke; her reading tastes do not include romance, pulp or the e-version), I strike up a conversation with one of their authors. She finds out what I do and says that she needs a new editor/proofreader because she's fired her last four -- three for lack of consistent good work, the fourth for plagiarizing her work. I assure her that the latter would not be an issue, and that I've got good experience and references on the former. She says that she writes erotica, and would that be a problem?
I'm thinking of what I spend most of my days reading, and how nice it would be to take a break. Can I work for denominational presses some days and read erotic romance novels the next? Last I checked, they would all pay me in the same currency . . . and while I've not mentioned it yet in this blog, my corporate credo has always been, "I will work for anyone who does not advocate violence against me or my family directly."
I'm waiting to hear from the author. She was actually rather fascinating with a very interesting ancestral history that would make for good reading, although perhaps not as lucrative. I'm also waiting to hear from the publisher, which is making the move into nonfiction as well.
For the second hour, a new author is squeezed in between me and the romance folks. She is a university professor who is self-publishing a book on living with and surviving cancer. She has a copy of the bound galleys, a review copy, as it's being sent out for blurbs and reviews to print on the cover. I mention that the book would really benefit from an index. (Damn, I'm smooth. Where was this talent when I was 19 years old?) She asks why; I tell her; she hands me the bound galleys and says, "Here. Would you index it?"
So, three hours well spent. I leave with a job, two prospects, a signed calendar, and a public denunciation of Lasik surgery. When I was speaking to the romance author, I told her about my dust-up with the Lasik Lady. The author said, "And with your vision, you'd probably end up with halos." Great. If you ever meet me, you'll know me by the Coke bottles perched on my nose.