The Sandoval Signpost (Web edition) is pleased
as punch (diet punch that is) to bring you the humor
and insightful human observations of Daniel Will Harris,
author of My
Wife and Times. —Ed].
EYE YI YI TEST
TESTING 1, 2, 3...
By Daniel Will Harris
I can't help it—I cheat on medical tests.
I don't mean the kind they give in Med school—I couldn't
be a doctor because I get nauseous easily—even by things
as minor as the wrong kind of tuna.
I mean the kind where they poke and prod and probe you in
every existing orifice, and some new ones they create just
for the occasion.
There are some medical tests you simply can't cheat on. I've
yet to figure out how to lie on a blood test. Or look at the
blood of the person next to me and copy it. Can't be done
as far as I know, and my friend Karen, who is one of the world's
most accomplished liars and considers it a sport, couldn't
figure out a way, either, so other than giving them someone
else's blood, I'm pretty sure it can't be done.
The reason I cheat is because I find many of these tests
annoying, if not downright rude. A few weeks ago I'd taken
a normal eye exam of the "which looks better, this way...
or this way? This way... or this way?" kind. This test
is simple and they didn't have to stick anything into me,
so it almost got my seal of approval.
The problem was the typeface they use on the eye chart, which,
frankly, is a poorly designed face where the "O"
looks nearly identical to the "D" so it's all too
easy to make mistakes on that test. It's not my eyes, it's
poor typography. I don't think it's fair to give people poorly
designed tests. I felt that about the SAT test, and I feel
that about eye exams.
Today I took a "field of vision" eye exam. It's
designed to tell the doctor how good my peripheral vision
is. My peripheral vision is just fine, but I don't take chances
with my eyes, so if the doctor says, "you should take
this test," I start sweating and wheeze, "Why, what's
wrong?" and agree to anything. If I take it and then
have eye problems can I sue you?" No, I don't really
say that, I say "yes," and I never sue doctors,
even the one who almost let me die. I lived so I have better
things to do than sue.
This test is one more of those things where you have to put
your chin on this holder thing apparently designed for orangutans.
It doesn't fit any human chin, except perhaps Jay Leno's.
Then you put your forehead against a rubber bar that countless
other people have put theirs against and it has no protective
paper of the kind you put over toilet seats and right there
I'm finding this unacceptable because I don't know where other
people's foreheads have been—and I'm getting queasy
just thinking about it.
Once in position you must look into this blank white half
sphere—like one of those giant Imax movie screens, only
re-sized as if to show movies to mice. Looking at this thing
is like having temporary snow-blindness. I can't focus on
anything, which makes me dizzy right off the bat, and then
it's so blank my brain starts making up stuff to see so I
don't go insane.
In the middle of this unnatural orb is a small dark circle
containing a yellow light glowing mysteriously like a HAL
8000. As I stare at this, tiny almost imperceptibly faint
dots of light jump around the screen. Each time I "see
the light" I press on this little buzzer thing that looks
like someone stole it from the set of Jeopardy.
And, oh—did I mention they've covered one eye with
a black leather patch apparently ripped from the face of Blackbeard
the pirate? And the room is like 90 degrees.
So I'm already annoyed when the tests begins—and it's
hard not to cheat. Every time the light flashes there's a
faint click of the projector moving. It moves once every two
seconds. The clicking seems to have a kind of like a Samba
beat, so I want to press the button in time to the rhythm.
So maybe it's a good hearing test, or a reflex test, but it
seems like a poor excuse for an eye exam.
I'm sorry—white dots on a white background? With one
eye closed and the other staring into endless whiteness I
start seeing things that look like ghosts with unruly hair.
I finally realize that it's my bushy eyebrow which is sticking
down in front of my eye, pushed there by the black elastic
of the eye patch.
I ask the nice woman to stop the test, which she does. I
explain I am seeing things and she says everybody does, but
then I point to my eyebrow and she goes, "Oh, that."
I say "Does everybody hate this test as much as I do?"
and she says, "Usually more."
So it's back to the test. It's really hard to see the dots
because my brain is so busy creating non-existent patterns
on the whiteness so I have something to look at. I have to
blink a lot otherwise the lack of motion makes everything
kind of twinkle, then disappear. I'm sure this means I have
some kind of personality disorder where my eyes must constantly
be entertained because my ancestors were hunters. This is
news, as I thought they were jewelers.
It's so annoying I find myself clicking the button even if
I'm not sure I've seen any light. Each time I press the button
I it makes a loud click, though sometimes it makes two which
makes me wonder if the machine knows I haven't really seen
anything and am just mercy clicking.
Now I become unsure as to whether I'm seeing spots in front
of my eyes, or seeing the little bitty flashes. It can't tell
the difference, so it's not really cheating, it's more like
an inability to distinguish between imagination and reality
and I didn't need a test for that, I know it's always been
Then there's one horrifically long span of time where I hear
the clicking but see no light and so I imagine I must have
a blind spot the size of Drew Cary. (In reality, everyone
has a blind spot where the optic nerve attaches to the eye,
so I guess if I'd cheated too badly the blind spot wouldn't
have shown up and they would have thought I was either a liar
or an alien).
Now I take to imagining that I'm in a sci-fi movie and I
have to click the button to fire a laser at nearly invisible
intruders to the space station. This helps a little bit, though
I begin to resent the space station designers who'd come up
with something like this to begin with.
After eight torturous minutes I hear a buzz that sounds like
a smoke detector has gone off adjacent to my forehead, and
the test is over.
For that eye.
Now it's time to do the other eye.
As I pull my head away I notice that there's a glare off
a piece of metal on the right side, which explains one of
the white lights I saw constantly. How can they expect me
to see nearly invisible lights when something that I'm not
supposed to be seeing is glaring like the sun off the back
window of a car? I show it to the woman running the test and
she says, "Oh—someone else mentioned a glare but
I could never see it." I think I should get extra credit
on my peripheral vision test for this.
The test on the left eye is easier because there's no glare,
and I've given up trying to see the light. If I think I see
a flash I press the button. I assume that I'm actually seeing
something, and if not, my imagination is sufficiently vivid,
and that is a good enough substitute for reality—at
least it has been all my life.
The first eight-minute test seemed to take 80 minutes, and
this one seems to breeze by in a mere 40. The woman running
the tests says the results look fine. I ask the woman running
the test if my eyes are OK, and she shows me a printout that
looks like a bunch of even dots which she says is fine, even
though she's really not allowed to tell me that, only the
I find it hard to stand, but I am eager to leave the little
room, even if I'm madly squinting and blinking.
I stumble into the waiting room and my wife looks at me and
says, "You're not going to drive like that, are you?"
I say, "I'm fine just as long as it isn't snowing."