This afternoon I had the dubious pleasure of getting my eyes checked. (This story will probably be more interesting if I reveal that I have an eye phobia.)
Everything started well enough -- the doctor's office was just a couple blocks away, and after a short wait I was told the doctor was ready. I stood up to meet... a kid. A Jewish kid, unless yarmulkes are suddenly popular, but still, a kid. But I thought, who am I to argue with someone who looks young?
I followed The Kid into a little room with a bank of machines on a table. Someone had very carefully designed these machines to announce unequivocally, "Chin goes HERE; eyeball goes HERE." I sat at the first one and obeyed. It was okay. After we accomplished whatever we were trying to do, I moved to the next machine. I leaned my head against what looked like a giant lens for the SLR screwed into it. "This," The Kid confirmed, "takes a picture of your eye." Then he added, "Try not to blink." I wondered why that was necessary, and then the camera's flash was inside my head.
Though stunned, I could nonetheless make out an image on the monitor behind him, and it looked suspiciously like skin. "Oops," he said, "Try not to blink this time." Only four flashes later, I graduated to the next machine.
The next two devices failed to stun or startle, but the thought that they might weighed so excruciatingly on my mind that I began to sweat and could only keep my eye open by tensing one arm (my brain is easily distracted by such tasks). At some point I managed to piece together that The Kid was not, in fact, the doctor. It all really fell into place when he revealed he was a sophomore at CUNY (finance major!).
The last machine placed my right eye in front of a small nozzle. I confirmed to Steven A. Cohen, Jr. that I could see a little green light inside. He told me I might feel a little puff of air, and then the nozzle started moving toward my eye. I began to panic; my right bicep was begging for release. There was a moment's pause, and then it shot me. It shot me in the eye.
I reacted so strongly that my head flew backwards and I banged my knee on the table. "You blinked," observed The Kid. I forced myself to lean in again, and after a few false starts was rewarded with another jarring blast. It turned out the machine was "smart," and if I blinked or even moved a little bit as the nozzle extended it would give up and retract. Well, I'm not an idiot, and it only took two shots to the eye for my brain to take action, which it did by absolutely refusing to leave my eye open. I switched sides; the nozzle came out; the nozzle went back. We did this for almost ten minutes, and I'm proud to say The Kid gave up before my defense mechanism did. Straight up, there is no air-cannon test result for my left eye.
So, with the torture finished, I met the doctor. He looked only somewhat older than his predecessor, but from there out it was pretty standard stuff -- look here, read this, let me crank your pupils open with some eyedrops. We had a little trouble with that last bit. And we had more trouble when he needed to pull up my eyelid for a better look. I shudder even writing it. Anyway, in the end my eyes were fine and my perscription didn't change. It was so worth it.
I stumbled out of the office and my eyes were so dialated that I had to check with a woman in the elevator to make sure the right button was pushed. Finally, only two busy avenues remained between me and the office. Lexington was fine, if a bit out of focus. However Park Avenue was drenched in sunlight and thanks to a helpful reflecting pole on the opposite corner, I could not look directly across the street. I managed to get over only by putting my hands around my eyes like blinders on a horse; the sunlight was overwhelming. I crossed huddled in the midst of a bunch of pedestrians and praying they had collectively decided to walk at a reasonable time.
In the office, I passed another hour trying to read emails and IM's. Eventually I gave up and called R to talk about hedging and Black-Scholes derivatives.