As a child, I was what you might call “bookish” (a.k.a. a big honking nerd). I spent many nights up past my bedtime, reading the book I had hidden under my pillow, by the light of a similarly hidden flashlight. Not only did this add cred to my “total rebel” status (illicit reading!), it did a number on my eyesight. It wasn’t long before I needed glasses. Fifth grade, ten years old: my first battle with the air puff.
(“Illicit reading” makes it sound like I was reading something really racy and sensual. This is false. I was probably reading the latest Newberry Medal winner. I like to live on the edge.)
If you have perfect vision, or are otherwise unfamiliar, one way to test for glaucoma is to puff a short burst of air into someone’s eye. In some magical way that I don’t understand, this measures the amount of pressure in the eye. Too much pressure in the eye is an indicator of glaucoma.
Simple. Easy. You put your face up to this machine, it puffs air in your eye. Do the other eye, and your done. Except that when something is coming at your eye, your instinct is to close it. And you have to keep your eye open during the air puff test, or it doesn’t work and you have to do it again. And again. And again.
I hate the air puff test. I hate it. It gives me a level of anxiety that I can’t even describe to you. Words do not exist. I would take getting 15 injections in my arm over getting that air puffed in my eye. I handled giving birth to a nine-pound baby with no drugs better than I handle the air puffer. (And for the record, I didn’t handle the no-drugs thing all that well. I may have told my doctor that I wasn’t going to push anymore.)
On Saturday, I went to a new eye doctor, which meant a whole new group of professionals in front of whom I could embarrass myself. I hear that there are eye doctors that don’t use the air puffer to test for glaucoma, but I can never seem to find them. Plus, I don’t have vision insurance so my options are limited. I explained to the technician during the pre-exam that I had a crippling fear of the air puffer, but I don’t think she understood that I legitimately have a crippling fear of the air puffer.
Take one: I allow my face to get close to the chin rest. Then I pull back. Deep breath. “I can do this.”
Take two: I put my chin on the chin rest for approximately three seconds before pulling it off and covering my face with my hands. “I’m sorry. I just need a minute.”
Take three: I lean in, and then lean back out again. “Stop it! You are a grown woman! It’s just AIR! Do you know how ridiculous it is to be afraid of air?” (That was me talking to myself. The technician was much more polite about my lack of cohones.)
Take four: The technician says to me, “We don’t have to do the glaucoma test. You probably don’t have glaucoma.” THANK YOU! I feel very relieved and very ashamed.
Then I go back into the exam room and meet my new eye doctor. My ridiculously handsome new eye doctor. Seriously, he’s probably the best looking eye doctor in the country. And the first thing he says to me?
“So, you couldn’t handle the air puff, huh?”
Yep. Hot Doctor was mocking me. As if I didn’t feel like enough of a loser.
The rest of the exam was uneventful, other than a few comments about my crazy prescription. (one eye nearsighted, the other farsighted. I know.) Then, right before I left, Hot Doctor said to me, “Next time I’m going to try it.”
“Your glaucoma test. Next time I’m going to try it. I bet I can get a result.”
Ha! Ok, first of all, I COULDN’T EVEN PUT MY FACE IN THE MACHINE. Unless you have a laser that can puff air across the room, it ain’t happening. Secondly, having Hot Doctor be the one to administer the torture will only increase my anxiety. But, I’ll let him live in that dream world, and hopefully he will forget about my crippling fear over the next twelve months.
So the good news is, I didn’t have to do the air puffer test, and all it cost me was my dignity. And I’ve got two new pairs of cute cat-eye glasses on the way, so I can run around the house in my favorite black dress reenacting the Lisa Loeb “Stay” video. Best of all, I don’t have to worry about that stupid puffer for at least another year.
It’s the little things.