One day when I was almost 14, I was with a group of teenagers just goofing around in front of the library. Sharon, a member of our group, was holding her glasses in her hand. I took them from her and put them on intending to ham-up the delivery a Groucho Marx joke.
Suddenly, the whole world was different. I could see and read the store signs across and up and down Main Street. People nearly a block away had faces. The sidewalk was no longer just a gray slab of concrete but a mosaic of tiny pebbles. I was amazed. I didn’t know until that day that I was nearsighted.
It took a week for my first pair of glasses to arrive at Dr. 0. B. May’s office from Little Rock. They cost $28. I walked around town all day reading faraway signs and just seeing things brightly and clearly at a distance and with detail that I didn’t know was possible.
I was somewhat intimidated by the much bigger world. People looked at me differently; a few of my friends started calling me professor. A couple of guys called me four-eyes. Someone said that I looked diplomatic. I didn’t know the meaning of diplomatic but it sounded good.
I will forever be grateful to Sharon for just being there that day and to Dr. May for his kind professionalism and letting me pay in installments.
Years later, I was a training specialist in the Navy engaged in training Navy Reservist to be aviation flight crewmembers. This involved flying from time to time. Charlie Lindbergh (really that’s his name), a shipmate of mine suggested that we should receive hazardous duty pay like those we were training. This required passing a flight physical — a significant challenge since, we joked, neither of us could see our feet; me because of my vision and over-weight Charlie because of his big belly. Charlie went on a diet. I memorized the eye chart.
During the eye test, the medical corpsman asked me to read a line from the chart. I recited it flawlessly without hesitation. The corpsman gave me a puzzled look and said, “You certainly can see good, sailor. You just read the other side of that eye chart.” No one told me that eye charts have two sides.
The results of our efforts presented a life lesson to me. Charlie’s hard work paid off with dividends. My shortcut didn’t even work.
I still had to fly from time to time and without the extra pay. I complained once to my crew leader that everyone was receiving hazard pay except me. He said, “Maybe your participation in this flight is the reason the rest of us are getting the hazard pay.”
Another life lesson — it’s not just about me. I never complained again.