Welcome back, peeps, to our weekly Thurs—er, Friday post. Today, I’ll be sharing a strange and mildly fascinating experience that includes eyeglasses, introversion, and an Indian man.
What some of you may not know is that my eyesight stinks. (To put it simply.) A trip to the eye-doctor has been a long time coming, and yesterday, mom finally took me—albeit a bit of kicking and screaming on my part, because “I CAN SEE FINE, PEOPLE.”
*as she runs into the door*
We generally go to the Walmart optometrist (who isn’t nearly as skeezy as most things affiliated with Walmart, believe me), and after looking through a bunch of lenses and reading tons of random letters, I was informed that I am officially blind as a bat.
After this earth-shattering announcement, I was told to kindly remove myself from the fancy chair and let my mother take my place. (She was getting her eyes checked too, you know.) Since that would probably take a while, and I was sitting there twiddling my thumbs and looking like my world was coming to an end, the optometrist lady asked me if I would take my prescription out to the guy at the front desk.
I could see the panic growing in my mother’s eyes. I was an… erm… interesting child in my youth, and the prospects of going into the Walmart optometry lobby without her, to talk to a person I didn’t know, would have once scared the living daylights out of me.
However, I am now almost seventeen. Sure, as a ten year old, I probably would have crumpled into a fidgeting heap of limbs at the suggestion. Now? Pfffft. So I took the slip of paper she gave me and headed off, feeling remarkably chill about the entire situation. (I honestly think mom was more worried about how it would affect me than I was worried about how it would affect me. These people have no confidence in my social skills.)
The Ruler Supreme of the front desk was a little elderly Indian man with a mellow, pudgy face. He was even shorter than me, and the pinnacle of roundness. Little round, bald head. Little fat stomach. Cheerfullest, mellowest, sweetest guy I’d ever met—even though he couldn’t half speak English. I gave him the prescription, and he did… something with it, I’m sure. He then gave me some papers I had to fill out with my name, birthday, address, etc.
Useful Tip of the Day: Even if you’ve moved seven billion times, it’s always wise to learn your street address. You never know when you’re going to need it. And let me tell you, it’s terribly demoralizing when a Walmart employee has to look up your previous eye-doctor forms just so you can figure out your own stupid address.
Totally not speaking from experience here.
Another Useful Tip of the Day: You should probably also figure out when your mother was born. Just sayin’.
After all that, he asked me a couple of questions about my eyesight and what I use my eyes for. “What do you like to do?” he asked. “Do you watch a lot of TV?”
That earned him an emphatic NO.
I told him that I’m an artist and a writer, so I spend a lot of my eyesight on computer screens, notepads, and books.
“A writer?” he said, his little round face slowly lighting up. “What do you write?”
This one never gets old. I can be completely polished and totally sure of my answer before someone asks me this. Then they actually ask it, and my entire mind shuts off—all except for one word that gets pitched at my mouth:
Fortunately, I didn’t have the chance to say that, because he wasn’t done with his question yet. “Fiction or non-fiction?”
“Fiction,” I said. “I’m actually writing a book.”
You would have thought I’d told him I built the Empire State building. The man got so excited, I thought he was going to explode from beaming so hard. “You’re writing a book! What’s it about?”
You know how my brain shuts off when people ask about my writing? Well this time, the first thing that popped into my head (which I did not say, just so we’re clear), was, “…a monster comes out of a hole in the ground and starts eating people.”
Some slightly put-together part of my brain managed to pull itself from the void, and I ended up saying, “I’m working on a speculative fiction novel that explores themes such as human depravity and racism.”
I felt mildly pleased with that answer, and as I was patting myself on the back for not saying something exceedingly stupid, this little optometrist guy slowly sank back into his chair, looking slightly dazed.
For a moment, I felt like Charles Dickens.
He asked me if I’d ever gotten published in magazines or anything, and I (desperately trying to sound humble, though at this point, it was getting hard) told him that I’d once won second place in a short-story contest, and earned a hundred bucks.
I have never seen someone look so ecstatic.
We talked for a little while longer, as he asked me questions about my craft in his barely understandable English, and I answered to the best of my awkward introverted ability. When did I start writing? Why did I choose it above of all the other things girls my age usually want to do? (I’m looking at you, Hollywood…) Does anyone else in my family write—does my mother?
He got really excited at this point, and almost fell off his chair. “Is your mother a teacher?!”
I blinked several times. I mean, we are homeschooled, so…
“Of a sort.”
I felt like that was a very diplomatic answer.
The mother herself showed up several minutes later, and I got up so she could have my chair while she filled out her own forms. As I stood behind her, the Indian gentleman looked up at me and then pointed to a chair close by, urging me to sit. He glanced at mom, and got the biggest, brightest smile on his face as he nodded at me and said, “She’s a writer.”
Mom honestly looked so confused.
(It must also be mentioned that in the space on the form asking what you like to do—obviously meaning what you do with your eyesight—mom wrote down, “drink coffee.”
I mean, it’s the truth…)
As we went to check out, we were slightly dismayed by how expensive our glasses were. Mine were by far the more expensive (I refuse to feel guilty about that, since I’ll probably be wearing them more), and though there was a slight price-reduction on them since I’m a minor, mom’s were still way cheaper.
“Oh no, it’s fine,” the Indian Gentleman randomly said. Mom squinted, still stuck on the “she’s a writer” part.
“It’s fine,” he said again.
And that’s when we realized that he’d just given us a discount.
Not on mom’s glasses, mind you, even though the big sign on his desk said that all discounts would be for the frames of lesser expense. Nope. The guy chopped about 25% off of my frames. To the point that they actually ended up being cheaper than mom’s. For absolutely no reason other than he liked me.
To those who say writing has no practical benefit, look again. I just saved us fifty bucks, all by my shining personality and effervescent attitude.
We left soon after. And though I’ll probably never see him again, I can still remember with perfect clarity the joy on his face when said to mom, “She’s a writer.” I think that moment will stick with me for the rest of my life. Generally, when people hear that I’m a writer, they get the “let’s see how long this phase lasts before she gets bored of it” look in their eyes. I have honestly never met someone who was so darn excited to hear I was writing a book. This random elderly man in the Walmart optometry lobby, this mild little guy, going into spasms over the fact that I write things.
To me, that’s pretty inspiring. And in a time when I’ve finally started to conquer some of the self-doubt surrounding my calling, it was a monstrous encouragement to remember that what I do will affect people, whether they’re actually reading my work, or just hearing about it. It was a reminder to persevere, to keep going, to stay confidant. People will care.
What I do—what all of us young writers do—is important. And you never know who it will make an impression on.
Moral of the Story: Being a writer will save you money and earn a Walmart employee’s undying respect.