Whenever I visit the eye doctor, he invariably tries to interest me in either contact lenses or some form of laser eye surgery. His obvious assumption is that I am not wearing glasses by choice; that I'd ditch them in a heartbeat if it were an option. In the end, I had to tell him the following true story to explain just why I like wearing my glasses every waking moment of my life.
It all boils down to one thing: if I didn't wear glasses, I would be wearing an eyepatch over the empty left eye socket.
In August of 1996, I worked for a local ISP in Austin, Texas. Despite being the third largest in a high-tech town, we were a relatively small operation. And so it came to be that I was the only technically inclined person manning the phones one hot summer afternoon, waiting patiently for the more senior people to return from lunch so I could take a break from help desk duty myself. While I hated playing lone phone monkey, I was fairly comfortable with it, and I'd been there long enough to know which of the other guys were expert in various areas. I was speaking with one ISDN customer who was having connectivity problems; explaining that the systems administrator who handled our ISDN setup was at lunch, but expected back shortly, and for once the customer seemed perfectly content to leave a message and wait for a call back.
It was then that everything started to go horribly wrong. I was approached by the terrifying behemoth from the front of the office, the only other person who was working during the lunch hour. We'll call her 'Anna,' since that was her name. She was the treasurer for the company, and the only one with an actual office, since she had lent money to the president to start the operation up. So I dutifully asked my customer to hold for a moment to see what she needed.
She had another customer on hold on another line, and wanted me to take care of them. I said I would, just as soon as I finished getting the information from my current call and logged the problem for the sysadmin to fix on his return. The situation became increasingly ugly as she insisted I basically hang up on one customer to handle her caller, simply because she had answered the phone and didn't think the person should hold. I reiterated that I would indeed handle the call in just a moment; I was almost done with my current one. Somehow, and I'm not terribly proud of this, things devolved into a profanity-laced shouting match, during the course of which, I managed to blaspheme gods even the priests had forgotten1.
In the end, she ordered me from the office, telling me I was fired. I grabbed my bag and slammed out, though I knew being fired by Anna meant I probably had the rest of the day off with pay, and the VP (her son) and the President would explain to her in the morning that she needed to quit harassing the staff. I learned later that most of the staff had been fired by Anna at least once, and all had just come back to work the next day as if nothing had happened. But fate had something different in store for me.
I walked out of the elevator in the lobby, and headed straight for the front doors. I put out my right hand to shove the door open, but I missed the metal frame and somehow managed to push my hand clean through the glass instead. For a brief moment, I just stood there, realizing the plate glass had shattered and wondering how the hell I was going to be able to pay for repairs. Then I looked down.
If you've never had the opportunity to see one of your own bones at the bottom of a deep gash, I do not recommend it.
My memory is pretty spotty from that moment on. I pretty much went into shock immediately as I watched what seemed like an endless stream of blood pour from the wound. Somehow, probably through screaming, I managed to get the attention of the security guards from the bank in the lobby, and they managed to get a bandage wrapped around my forearm while we waited for the ambulance to arrive. I remember not being able to get ahold of my fiance, and paging her with the number of the ISP, hoping someone would go up there and tell the guys what had happened when they came in from lunch. I remember arguing with the paramedic in the ambulance about whether I was going to pass out. My position was that I would, and that it seemed like a really good idea at the time; hers was that I needed to stay conscious. I think she won by using the argument itself to keep me with her.
The VP met me at the hospital, and arranged through one of our clients, who was a neurosurgeon, to get me the best guy on the ER rotation. He also somehow managed to force the nurses to let my fiance come back to be with me despite the fact she wasn't yet family. When the doctor started stitching me up (something like a hundred stitches in my arm and hand, more than I'd had total to date), the VP turned positively green, while my fiance announced that it was pretty cool to see him first stitch the layer of muscle, then do the skin. I myself didn't look; I had a problem with needles2.
Now, finally, the story comes back to my eyes. I had to sign some paperwork at the hospital, so I had someone get my glasses from my bag. When I held them up to put them on, I'm told I turned positively white and nearly passed right out. There, amid a smear of blood on the left lens, I saw a deep scratch running from top to bottom, almost cutting the lens in two. The scratch lined up perfectly with a cut through my eyebrow and another on my cheek. Had I not been wearing glasses, that cut would have gone right through my left eye.
Roughly once a month, I still have nightmares about that day, and any situation involving sharp things and eyes still freaks me out pretty good. And I wear my glasses every waking moment of every day. Always wear eye protection is my motto. I've also got an impressive scar running from the inside of my elbow diagonally along my forearm. It's a great conversation piece, though I usually say it's either from a knife fight in Tiajuana or a catastrophic masturbation injury. But here I've written the truth, as I remember it.
To tie up a couple loose ends pointed out by dannye, I returned to work after a week of sitting around my apartment medicating myself every four to six hours, as recomended by my physician. Though I don't think I ever spoke more than two more words to Anna in the four months before I quit to get married and move to Oklahoma, she did remain with the company until late 1997 or early 1998 when the President and CTO managed to rid himself of her and her family. He never told me how he accomplished it, and I never asked too many questions.
1 Ok, maybe this is an exaggeration. But I liked the phrase so much when I read it in Roger Zelazny's Dilvish, the Damned that I just have to try and work it into conversation whenever possible.
2 I eventually got over my problem with needles, six months of weekly blood tests will do that. But that's another story entirely.
Many thanks to Brooksmarlin for the title suggestion and pre-posting review ;)