Is that what they do in Nebraska?

I am typing to you with dilated pupils after leaving the optometrist’s office minutes ago. I know it seems like an extremely banal topic, but it was unexpectedly uncomfortable and surprisingly reflects how I feel about Pittsburgh so far. Nothing has met my expectations. Things have either been better (can’t complain there) or worse.*

Anyway, back to the eye appointment scheduled for tomorrow. Yes, ‘tomorrow.’ But I went today. That’s how desperate I am to have things to do during the day: I was looking forward to an eye appointment and came a day early in my anticipation. I had picked this eye center after seeing signs for it around campus and I thought I should support a local business (when did I become the kind of person who says things like that?). This, despite the fact that have a super cheesy name and their logo looks like they sell $1 pizza slices.

When I walked in there were a few guys lingering in the office looking like their mothers had forced them to come, but all-in-all a pretty standard office. While I was filling out paperwork a girl emerged from the back room and commanded her boyfriend (ah ha! moment) to help her pick out glasses. They guy behind the counter and, as it happened, one of the owners of the chain was wearing a loose-fitting, short-sleeve, brown button-up with a pineapple pattern. He had the angular features and disposition of a car salesman. He was friendly and made conversation enough. We talk about where I’m from (Nebraska), what I’m in Pittsburgh for, and fun things to do in the area. Normal small talk. But I could not shake this the itching feeling that he saw me as a dumb customer and that he was an expert manager. The way he would make dad-jokes, greet and host the other patrons of his eyewear palace, and explain things to me just had this salesman aftertaste. Impossible, right? I try to shoo away the thought. He’s a normal guy who operates a normal eye clinic. Sometimes I think I’m hyper-judgemental.

The eye exam itself was with a very professional young doctor. But can I ask: Don’t you feel like you need a degree in decision sciences to choose between “One? Or two?“? More than once she could sense my anxiety and told me not to get flustered, “It’s not a big deal. There’s some wiggle room in a prescription anway.” I feel like I am so bad at these tests. And like, when you switch eyes, give me a moment! My eye needs to readjust, I need some time to make sure everything’s clear, reflect on my life choices, and think about how I came to this moment in my life…You can’t just ask me about these numbers…Also, also, also: I have to stick with this prescription for two more years! This is important! Am I qualified to make these decisions?! Like, I mean sure it’s my vision…

Ok, actually, now that i’m reflecting back on this I think I might just be a weird patient. Like, are you filled with terror when your doctor closes the right lenses to switch the left? I’m always like: “Wait!! I meant 2! I meant 2!” I also get dazed and sleepy when my pupils get dilated even though she’s shining a beam of light into my eyeballs.

Exam over (I failed) and I get passed back to guy #1 to get my contacts ordered. He convinces me to get 90 pairs of contacts when I really only want 30, even that’s whatever.

But then I ask him if I can get my pupillary distance read. Why?

  1. You need your pupillary distance to order glasses online.
  2. I also have gotten two different PD readings so I wanted a third, definitive one that will tell me which one was correct.

“We only do PD readings for when you get glasses” he said dismissively as he runs my credit card. Type, type. Hit print. Precious moments slipped by and—yes–what’s this? after a brief pep talk to work myself up…I can can ask for the things I want! I’m an adult! Be brave, be brave, be brave….

“So you won’t give my my pupillary reading?” [quietly]

Sensing weakness as he hands me my receipt with an annoyed look, “We don’t just give that information out. It’s for people who get glasses here,” I stare at him (through my glasses) as I hand back a signed receipt for $240 dollars for my comprehensive eye exam plus the $140 contact lenses (another surprise because throughout our entire conversation he only quoted me for a single eye of contacts but now was not the time to fight that battle). Seeing my unmoved expression he continues: “Is that the kind of thing they do in Nebraska? Just give it out readings? We don’t do that here.”pdreadings-sm

I was flabbergasted. For one thing, you’re not “giving it out,” I just paid for a full exam plus the extra $60 for a contact lens exam. Secondly, you and I both know what a pupillary distance reading is. It’s holding a ruler up to someone’s eyes and measuring the difference between their pupils. Not complicated. But you have access to a glasses-shaped tool that makes it a lot easier and more exact.

Ugh! I don’t know, something about this rubbed me the wrong way. He knew I wasn’t going to buy glasses from him so he was with-holding normal, simple services (even though I did buy contacts from him, I’ll remind you). Why? Why would you do that? And what kind of oily phrase is that: “is that the kind of thing they do in Nebraska?” Umm, it’s the kind of thing they do everywhere.

___     ___

It’s this kind of mild annoyance that I keep experiencing here. I think moving is really hard, especially when I move somewhere where I don’t know anyone from somewhere I really liked. So, of course I feel like I have some gray-colored glasses (also, Pittsburgh has 300 of overcast days a year). Ok, there’s like a 95% chance I am just in a bad mood and just want to complain.

… It’s just tiny, tiny things that, if I listed would sound so trivial and like whining, but I feel like I’m dragging my feet through mud every day going uphill…I just believe that everyone should just be nice to everyone else. For example I think people should not:

  1. Drive a public bus and drive pass me. (3x).
  2. Have your first text message to me be a sexist and creepy comment after I very reluctantly gave you me real number even though you were creepy in person as well.
  3. In fact, just never be sexist. It’s not appreciated.
  4. Have extensive street construction outside my apartment for multiple weeks only during the hours of 7PM to 5AM because you don’t want to disrupt traffic.
  5. Give me a dirty look when I try to look at your audio book collection. Listen, I did not know that we are not allowed to browse the collection and we have to submit our requests to you to get the media item.
  6. Have a super boring orientation that makes dampens my excitement to going to grad school.
  7. Have a confusing and slow financial aid system.

On the other hand, Pittsburgh was more beautiful that I thought it would be and is constantly dazzling me with new sights. The people I meet all really love being here and have a glowing pride for their city. My housing situation is better than I expected, which is always important. It really isn’t all bad, but it’s just never quite comfortable either.

I think maybe…


I just miss my dear friends.



*As Jonathan Haidt would point out, we tend to focus on the worse anyway.

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