Sunday, January 20, 2013
Another Set of Eyes, Part 1
It’s not a cliché as much as a commonsense statement that might spill out of anyone’s mouth: “This document needs another set of eyes.” That’s what I’ve been doing, one way or the other, for most of my life: serving as someone’s other set of eyes. Publishers are people, too, my friend.
“Another set of eyes” is shorthand for “I’m so tired of this document that I don’t want to think about it anymore. I’ve long lost any perspective on it, and I’m certain that I can’t uncover any remaining errors or improve it any further.”
When those eyes are in the head of a professional copyeditor or proofreader, people and publishers are willing to pay for renting them for a little while. Obviously they are — or you can make a dinner reservation for me at the Salvation Army Bistro.
But when that other set of eyes happens to be mine, things get a little tricky.
I was reading at age three. My great-aunt Etta Kaganov, a New York City schoolteacher back in the 1940s–1980s, told her principal that her three-year-old grandnephew was reading the New York Times. I think that when the principal disputed it, I was hauled in to prove it.
[My father said a few weeks ago I was probably just reading headlines. I’ll bet Aunt Ettie would beg to differ.]
Apparently I was a smart child. From the Jewish Community Center on Staten Island where I went to nursery school in the early 1960s, some way misinformed person thought it might be a good idea if I skipped kindergarten and first grade and went straight on to second grade.
Sure, that’d be a good idea in the long run. Put an already-too-shy five-year-old in with second graders. Add about seven years to get into the dating years, and watch the serious emotional damage really take hold.
Thankfully I didn’t make the jump to second grade. However, my folks did send me somewhere other than kindergarten for a day or so (maybe to be tested at the school I would be attending?), and the report came back: Is something wrong? The kid’s an idiot. He doesn’t belong here.
Hmmm. Let’s check his eyesight. Maybe he can’t see the blackboard.
I’ve been wearing glasses since I was five years old. I ended up in first grade, still a year younger than my classmates. It was the first step in how I ended up graduating college at age 20 — not because I was a great student (I wasn't, by any means — after fifth grade, anyway), but more out of a desire to get to work and get the hell out of school.
When I was a teenager, optometrists said, “Your eyes will stop getting worse when you’re around 18.” I’m almost 53. Hasn’t happened yet. My prescription even impresses optometrists.
Bottom line: My only set of eyes (everyone else’s other) has sucked for years. They’ve always been pretty much correctable, though, as long as I didn’t mind inch-thick lenses, and I didn’t. (Yes, I measured. And this isn’t male enhancement.) Contacts never worked for me — first because the hard ones were too painful in the mid-1970s, and when I tried them again about six years ago, they ultimately didn’t give me the correction I needed.
I’ve said for years that my right eye wasn’t correcting as well as my left. No one listened.
In October, I went in for an eye exam because I realized that my right eye was no longer in focus, even with glasses. Like, not even close. With my glasses on, I need to be two inches away from the computer screen to read with my right eye only.
I’m at the optometrist, and we’re doing the usual “Is it better now . . . or now? 1 . . . or 2? 3 . . . or 4? 5 . . . or 6?” If you have glasses or contacts, you know the drill. But this time — after 47 years — with the right eye, nothing is better.
Think of how I make my living. Think of how a professional pianist might feel if she was losing the ability to move her fingers.
I peered around the device and asked the optometrist, “Can you please tell me what the hell is going on here?”
She reveals nothing and does a few more tests, which only exacerbate my dread.
“I’m going to recommend you for a cataract evaluation.”
To be continued . . .