A few years ago, my husband and I took a trip to France to celebrate our thirtieth anniversary. Although I prepared for the trip by studying guidebooks and memorizing as many French words as I could, there were times when being in a foreign country just overwhelmed me. While trying to buy an apple tart at a small bakery, I finally gave up trying to find the correct change and simply held out a handful of coins, letting the clerk take what she needed. She was very nice about it, but I still felt like a clueless idiot.
Sadly, there are still times when I feel that way, and the reason is that I can no longer read regular print. Fading eyesight, combined with dim lights in many public places, has made me completely dependent on my reading glasses. The problems start when I don’t have a pair handy. If I go out to dinner and forget my glasses, I have to either have someone read the menu to me, or simply point at something when the waiter comes and hope I’ll like what I’ve ordered. Ditto for trying to read a text on my cell phone, the expiration date on a carton of eggs, or the price tag on a sweater I’m thinking about buying. It’s no fun to get into the brightly-lit dressing room and discover that the sweater I thought was $49 is actually $149. Especially if it fits and hides my back fat.
I’ve accepted that I need reading glasses, and keep several pairs scattered around the house and carry a pair in my purse. But there are times when I don’t carry a purse (walking dogs at the humane society, for instance), and also many times when I reach in my purse only to find that the glasses aren’t there. And then I am just as vulnerable as I was in that French bakery, only I don’t have the foreign accent that makes people more willing to help.
But it’s no use complaining, so like middle-aged people everywhere, I just muddle along as best I can. I’ve been known to simply hand a receipt or pamphlet to the nearest young person and say, “Your eyes are still good. Can you tell me what that says?” And they usually do. I have a friend who is more creative: when she couldn’t read the small print on a parking meter, she simply whipped out her cell phone, took a picture of it, and then expanded the picture until she could read the words. I’ll have to remember that the next time I’m in a dimly-lit restaurant without my reading glasses…..