Confusing the man

Often we forget that I am a foreigner here. 

Well, I don’t forget. 

Especially when I encounter people who do not know me. 

Like the optometrist yesterday. 

Who, with one eye on my chart said,” So did you watch any of the Olympics?”

“No. I am sorry” I said. “I don’t watch television.”  He looked up at me. Losing his place. No TV?

“I write,” I said.

I went to the optomotrist yesterday to get another pair of glasses to wear about the farm. My present pair are about 10 years old and bedraggled. I just wanted a replacement.

“You are not from round here?” he said in response to my accent.

“Oh Yes.” I said, “I live on a farm about 20 miles that way”. I pointed at his East wall.  His brow furrowed trying to think of a delicate way to say but you sound foreign.

“But the Olympics were in London.”

“Yes,” I nodded.

He looked back at my chart.





His head came up and he looked at me hard.  “Who  is your  doctor then?”

“I don’t have a  doctor.”

He shook his head. “You must have a doctor.”

“But I am never sick.”

“You don’t have a family doctor? What about your wellness checks.”

“But I AM well.  I don’t need checking.  Everyone has an imperfect body. No-one is in perfect health. Wellness check is such a strange expression anyway.”

The optometrist stood and began to shuffle about with strange looking instruments of torture.

I carried on. “That is like going to a car salesman and saying do you think I need a new car. Of course he will say you need a new car.  But I am happy with my imperfect car. I mean body. It is all so confusing. I knew a funeral director once who always said Be Well, just before he said good bye to people. I mean it was obvious that what he meant was ‘be well until you drop dead and then I will bury you for a fee.’  Then he would pass them his card with the little cross and drawing of a casket on it. Hoping they would leave it lying about in an obvious place in case they dropped dead in the night. People don’t say what they mean anymore. Euphemisms rule. ”

“Well. he said into the pointed silence. “I feel I should encourage you to get a doctor and check on your blood pressure and so forth.  It is a concern”.

“What is a concern is that Americans don’t use cutlery anymore.” The gloves were off.

“You mean we eat with our hands?”

“That too.” My eyes widened in horror “But no-one uses a knife and fork that I can see. When did you evolve to just using a fork. Who decided not to offer knives at the table. Some people even cut their food with a fork, with a lot of difficulty I might add. I have met people who cannot even Hold a  knife”

He grunted.

Then he swung the peculiar glasses mask in front of my face, and we began Guess That Letter.

Later as he made the last of his notes.

“So. Do you read?” 

“Oh yes.” I said and smiled. “I read all the books I can get my hands on. I read everything. I can quote the Weetbix box, verbatim.”

“What kind of books do you read.” He asks.

“Oh, well, um.. all of them. I read anything that comes into the house or anyone elses house for that matter.”

“You don’t have a preference?”

“No. Well, I like colourful covers. I pretty much choose books because for their covers, I like orange covers the best.   Though, I prefer my books to have words in them.” I picked up my shoulder bag with its notebook, book and purse.

“Words,” he said?

“Words. Words. Words” I said standing back so he could open the door for me.  “I don’t like cartoons I mean.”

“Oh,” he said.  Relieved.  “Well. Your eyes are in perfect health and your prescription has not changed by the way.”

I smiled at his back as he led me to the front. Perfect health you say. But I did not say it aloud.

“I have these old frames of my Mother in Laws I would like to use these please.”  The whole lobby went silent and all eyes turned to me now standing at the counter. “New frames are way too expensive and I only use them on the farm anyway. These are only two years old and quite strong.”

The optometrist smiled with delight, handed me over to his dour assistant and made his  hurried goodbyes.

“But these are not Our frames. We can’t do that. You will need to choose a new pair.” She attempted to give them back to me.  I folded my hands on my purse.

“No, that is fine.  I want to use these old frames. I would prefer to recycle these ones. They are perfectly good.”

“We don’t do that in this country.”  I let my head drop to one side letting her words sit in the air for a few seconds “Well, I will have to check.”

“Oh I think it will be alright. It is a simple prescription. These technicians know what they are doing.”

“But we can’t guarantee them.”

“Thats fine.”

“But if you break them, we will not pay to fix them.”

“Thats fine.  I promise to be careful. I can’t guarantee I won’t break either. It will be OK. These frames cost three hundred dollars. I am not having them just thrown away, I want to reuse them. Can you do this?”

“Well.  I will have to check.”

“Good. You will call me when they are done?”  I put my head back down to write the check. Trying not to catch the eye of the optomotrist who I could see was grinning to me from his office,  just out of sight of his beleaguered assistant. I raised my eyebrow ever so slightly in his direction. He snorted a slight chortle and bent back to his work.


Good morning. I hope you all have a fab day. We are going to have another lovely day.


On this day a year ago. I found a stunning bridge on route 66. Not far from here.

130 Comments on “Confusing the man

  1. I’ve been “taught” how to eat with the fork in the left hand and knife in the right by a certain Brit here 😉 Morning Miss c for confusing them LOL

  2. Had he known, the optometrist would have accompanied his grin with a “cheeky Kiwi”… and you have become quite acclimatised – check or cheque ? I can’t say it any better than you – the Route 66 bridge photos are simply stunning. You have to find a place for them.

  3. Aah, good to see you are in fine fettle as always miss C. Back home from my travels and the first thing I did was check up on the farmy – I missed you all. Amazing how people think it is foreign to recycle! 🙂 Laura

    • Actually i was more just genuinely confused especially by the woman in charge of making the glasses, she was a wee bit hurumphy with me.. c

  4. This is hilarious – ‘But the Olympics were in London?’ – ‘Yes.’. Classic. I used to work in an opticians and I can assure you that, at least in the UK, the notion of recycling frames is not as out there as it seems to be with your optician! Loved this post so much, thank you Miss C!

    • Thank goodness, because it seems a terrible shame to waste them. At the very least we can recycle them to charities though.. c

  5. A spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down! That is why the optometrist was smiling in the most delightful way 🙂 Lesson well delivered!

  6. This was a good chuckle. I’m a Canadian living in Canada but very much perceived as an alien!
    Have you been watching Dancing with the Stars?
    No, I don’t watch TV
    Did you read in the paper about….
    No, I don’t read the news.
    Over here is our selection of frames.
    Oh I will just keep the ones I have, thank you.
    Don’t you want new ones?
    No, these are fine. I’ve had them 7 years and they are still in good shape.
    Have a great day!

  7. Americans can be hilarious… in 1979, my wife and I were in the US. We hired a car in California, and drove it to Seattle. Obviously, the hire car had CA plates. We stopped for a picnic lunch in Oregon, where another couple in a CA plated car also stopped nearby…. After a few minutes, we struck up a conversation, and soon they asked us where we were from. Upon replying “Australia”, and without batting so much as an eyelid, they replied “oh, we’re from Santa Monica”….. They obviously thought we came from Australia California…..! Later it came out they thought we were English because of our funny accent… I don’t think they had a clue about Australia. I guess, it was 1979…!

    • Oh the 70’s. I used to live here (US) in the 70’s when I was a teenager and I told the other students that at low tide we would WALK over to Aussie from New Zealand for a quick lunch as long as we got back before the tide changed we were ok!! No-one called me a liar! So funny. Mean though. (I laughed!) And the States are so big!! It would take a lifetime to see all of this country, let alone the world outside of it.. c

  8. Considering how big a country the USA is, it’s amazing how insular some Americans can be, compared with folk from the tiny British Isles – or New Zealand for that matter.

    Bully for you, Celie, for sticking to your guns.

    • I think the reason so many Americans are insular is precisely because the US is so big. You can travel your whole life, and travel long distances, and never leave the country. When I first married Brett, he was 51 and he had never been outside the US — but had visited almost every State here. …appalling. I set that to rights, pronto!

      • Not many can say they have visited every state though, that is a pretty awesome feat all in itself! I am fairly sure that john will never leave his country.. I always travel alone, which does not bother me actually.. c

  9. I laughed through the whole post! (In solidarity: The knife thing bothers me to no end…I do NOT want to see anyone, especially not myself, pushing food around a plate with a thumb. Or stuffing oversized – allegedly bite-sized – hunks of food into the mouth at a buffet. I believe the loss of the knife has directly to do with buffet-style eating at parties. I personally can’t eat standing up or with a plate precariously perched on my lap because then I can’t use the knife. What knife, you ask ? The one I have to ask especially for before I cozy my chair up to a corner of the buffet table and sit and eat like a human being!)

    • I also find it hard to eat on my knee and using paper plates on the knee is terrifying. let alone trying to cut something and the plate bends in half!! hilarious.. c

  10. This may be the best post yet! I could just see you and the optometrist and the optician. You ruled! My husband has recycled glasses frames (maybe once too many times; they’re looking pretty worn out, will hardly stay on his face now), so it’s not unheard of to do that. Their job is to sell those shiny new ones, or they think you odd for not wanting them. I have to come down on the side of having a family doc, though; that might not be such a bad idea. Someone older, and kind, with a gentle manner and soft voice. Someone who doesn’t charge an arm and a leg. Someone who would make house calls to the farmy. Oh, but they don’t make those anymore, do they. : )

    • Morning Gerry. I try to live chemical free, so taking pills is not going to happen is it?!! Don’t worry. i do not expect to live forever! I had a doctor just like you described. He was a wonderful old man. He was my family doctor while I was having children and then for a while after. But then he retired from medicine so I did too. This was over twenty years ago. c

  11. Good for you! Aside from the recycling ethos, why should we feel obliged to ‘choose’ new frames? There is after all no real choice. Fashion dictates that all frames currently have a certain style, more often than not, one which doesn’t suit your face.
    P.S. I find the ‘fork only’ method of eating weird too!

    • It happens all over the world. When we encounter someone with an accent sometimes we assume they are vastly different and maybe even a little stupid. Just because WE cannot understand them well. It was naughty of me to play up the alien in my nature though. c

      • I always find myself speaking slower and louder to someone with a foreign accent, which must come across to them that I think they’re stupid AND deaf. Oh my.

  12. Not to lecture…. Only because I care…. You really should have a gynecological exam. The rest only if you feel necessary. Breast and ovarian cancer seems to sneak up with little warning until you are overwhelmed.

    • I know anna. We have such a history of cancer in my family that the docs wanted to put my sisters and i into a special programme so they could monitor our demise. No. I am fine, really. I would rather it snuck up on my undetected. i promise you I will live longer and better without intervention. My Mother walked into a doctors office with a healthy alert spring in her step and walked back out dying. I won’t be overwhelmed. Don’t worry for me. c

  13. I’m so glad to be in England where we still use knives and can get new lenses put into old frames. The problem is that whatever happens in US, we’ll be doing it in a couple of years. I did enjoy your post.

    • Eating with a fork as a scoop has been here for years and years. It is a cultural thing. I don’t mean to insult anyone. What I AM interested in is when and where did it begin and how did it become so widespread. And this is a piece of research I have had trouble tracking. c

    • I try not to upset people – i am just interested in stuff. And you can’t recycle a can and not your glasses. You can’t be organic and eat medications. This just feels sensible to me really. c

  14. Obviously your opthamologist either didn’t know or remember you. I’ve a feeling he will the next time you visit, even if it’s another decade. Yes, you really are that memorable. 🙂
    Have a great day, Celi!

  15. ROFL – here’s one for the optometrist – I live in London and I didn’t watch the Olympics either 😉

    • Bloody English! No. the Poor fellow was only trying to make conversation. I should have been more pleasant and said something like Oh yes, wasn’t that entertaining! But if he had started naming names I would have drawn a blank anyway. c

  16. I’m imagining the conversations the optomeritist and his assistant will have in their respective homes, “you never guess what, I had the starngest woman in today….. she wanted to recyle her frames, except they weren’t hers…. yes, and she buys books that have orange covers” !

    • The orange covers is quite true. i have great big bookcases and I love to see bright spines! Yes i am shallow enough to use books as wallpaper!! Except of course for the bookcases in my room which only house the really good ‘will read again’ books and very few of them are orange! And yes I am not recycling my own glasses, I am keeping them for ‘just in case’ .. funny! c

  17. So many people believe that our economy’s health is tied to consumerism which in many ways translates to waste. I’m sure you were the topic of much consideration upon leaving the premises. Hilarious! I get into the “no television” conversation frequently with people and you might as well say you read by candlelight, too. There are so many ways to enjoy a life well lived…and you express your particulars beautifully, Celi. And I noted your post from a year ago…fun for me to see as I sit in my office parked strategically on Route 66. Yep! I am on Route 66 right now…simply a few miles west! 🙂 Debra

    • OO.. Route 66 is easy to find! Maybe one day we might have lunch on good old Route 66. How few are those miles, 66 is awfully long! .. c

  18. I think you’ve hit on the big reasons for the world’s economic woes: bad manners, too much tv, not enough reading, big lack of info about our neighbors in the world, and the mind set that we must spend the money we don’t have on everything new. Loved the post and I have recycled my frames with the same litany from the optometrist’s assistant.

  19. Honey, I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love this post. I have a no-tv policy at the dayhome that raises eyebrows and causes heads to shake in disbelief. The kids don’t need television. They need words and mud and trees to climb. And me? I’ve had this same conversation with my family doctor (who I visit for fifteen minutes once a year) about why there is no record of me or my kids dropping in at the walk-in clinic. We don’t. And, come to think of it, I DO require that they use both a knife and fork (and a spoon when appropriate) when they are eating at my table. It does seem profoundly un-North American, of us. 😉

    • Mud.. we love Mud around here.. ! And Desi you are such a star with all your kids.. you do fantastic work.. c

  20. that was awesome!! i am so proud of you. this country is way too much about money, especially the health care department. glad you stood your ground!!!!

    • The need to pursue illness is a worry. Why would I go to a doctor if i am well. And why can’t i decide if i am well or not.. I know that you deal with these people on a daily basis. And they are all doing the very best they can. But it must just wear on a girl.. c

  21. Good grief – jolting them out of their everyday patterns are you? How funny.
    (Maybe it’s different there, but everyone here recycles old glasses and frames which are put to good use – there are big boxes that collect them)
    It’s only sensible to use a perfectly good frame – and to keep the old pair just in case! Those old ones have saved us more than once in emergencies.
    Oh, I’ve been told eye doctors and dentists are supposed to be checking for health warning signs like blood pressure – it’s part of the new healthcare plan.
    Great your eyes aren’t changing. Farm life is probably helping with that (insert giggles here)
    Those eyes did a lovely job spotting subject matter with the water picture and the rain gauge shot.

    • How interesting that they are all after our blood pressure now, This is one of the things he said i should be checking on. Ah well. Maybe a good wack in the head from Daisy was just what I needed!! (insert more giggles!) morning mouse.. c

  22. Excellent- one of the best posts I’ve read in some time…most “rules” aren’t really rules at all…people just want your time and $…and expect you to give it to them…

  23. Celia you made our day! Are you sure you’re not a fly on the wall in our home? My husband has the same issues re glasses and frames. The prices are now obscenely outrageous.
    We were taught to eat with the knife in the right hand, the fork in the left hand. In my years in the restaurant business I saw some appallingly bad table manners, It has nothing to do with buffets or eating with a plate on your lap. It is as simple as this. Parents did not teach their children correct table manners and boy does it show when they are adults. Virginia

    • I absolutely agree. My mother used to say eat as though the queen is visiting. We always used napkins in silver rings and the butter was in a dish and the milk in a jug. A knife and fork and a dessert spoon and fork. We were not posh. but we were consciously taught how to recognise and handle cutlery.. and i am SO grateful. So very grateful.. Virginia i swear one day i am coming to visit! c

      • It was the same in our house growing up, and it still is. Even to using linen napkins all the time. I haunt Thrift Shops and collect the beautiful linen that no one wants to iron. I figure I score.

        Celia my husband said – of course you are coming to visit. We have your room ready! Hugs Virginia

  24. We do use a knife and fork around here, but have some of the same issues at the optometrist office. Mine has a lovely sense of humor and could care less if you buy frames from him, but his office staff is a different matter. I want to either recycle or buy my frames and scripts cheap online and have to practically snatch the written prescription out of their hands so I don’t have to pay them a fortune!

    • Interesting .. I did have more surly looks from his staff! How sweet! Now, i need to know more about this online thing.. i can buy glasses online?.. No wonder they are worried c

      • Oh yes, you can buy them online. You just need your prescription info for the lenses and measurements which you can take yourself if they aren’t already on the script…then order whatever frames you want. My husband has gotten very cool designer frames and his prescription filled…2 pairs for $35!

  25. My first large conference was a dinner event, we had CEOs and CFOs on both sides of us. Neither knew which bread plate was theirs. Incredible. I’d never seen people eat with just a fork until I started working. Abysmal! Good for you for sticking to your guns about the frames.
    My sun glass frames broke and they no longer made that style but the lenses were perfectly good, so I searched high and low until I found a pair of frames that would fit the lens properly. The eyeglass store replaced them with little to no fuss.

    • Good for you. My favourite sunglasses disappeared in a security x ray machine at the airport! No-one ever saw them again!! poo.. c

      • I actually had that happen to my passport and there was panic (me, not them) for about 10 minutes until it found its way out. Then they tell me you don’t have to put your documents into the box. REALLY? Not the first time I’ve flown, could you not have said something about a million years ago? ARGH!

  26. Oh yes! I don’t watch TV either, “I draw.” And I reuse the glasses frames. I hate the changes in style. I have some that look ridiculous that don’t go out of the house because they are just for drawing, anyway. And I don’t take meds, although I do get an annual check-up because I get “wellness points” if do healthy stuff, which translates into gift cards, which translates into Christmas gifts. So it’s all good.
    I guess I picked up the habit of using my fork in the left hand and the knife in the right to cut with when I was a child and we were traveling. Everyone thinks it’s odd.
    The kids in the schools have “sporks” and styrofoam plates. Now that is truly uncivilized. So sad.

  27. I recently sacked my GP – like you, I figure I’m not going to live forever and I’d rather anything nasty snuck up on me. I have heard many stories similar to that of your mum, and sometimes wonder how it would have ended if they did not get the bad news and just kept on – until they stopped (if you know what I mean?)… XO

    • Janet i wonder this all the time. What if they just left her alone and did not chop her up and fill her with chemicals for years.. I do absolutely know what you mean.. It is my haunting.. c

  28. Lovely post.
    In our town one can donate old glasses to go to 3rd world nations so that even if one can’t reuse the frame themselves at least there is a second life.
    I do get wellness checks but I live in Canada and have health coverage. I would recommend checking one’s BP occasionally if only at the drug store and sadly I do think things like pap smears, mammograms, and the smear test for colon cancer are important.especially as one ages.
    however, when the doctor recommended I take Lipitor for cholesterol I said “No, I’ll try something different>” and I have had old fashioned oats oatmeal with a dollop of peanut butter every morning for a good number of years. Cheap and simple.

    • I fully agree that a good diet of wholesome fresh unprocessed food will enable you to live a good clean healthy life. Thank you Nora and welcome, welcome.. i am going to remember the oatmeal and peanut butter too.. good tip c

  29. I read this smiling all the way as it is sooo you! I wish I could have been sitting in that office overhearing all of this! But, dear sweet C…you know what I’m going to say….wellness checks might truly save your life. My visit to my gyn for my yearly check up had her notice my neck and caught my cancer in its early stages – even tho it was the size of a baseball! Had it not been found then, well….
    You are loved by so many, animals included, we want you healthy for a long, long time!!

    • I am very very glad that it all worked out so well for you.. What a relief.. now you take good care and eat lots and lots of fresh food, though i know you do, your recipes are always so GOOD! .. c

  30. I insist on reusing my old frame whenever I need new lens, I just tell my optometrist that I still like how the old frames look on my face.

  31. Ha can spot an American a million miles away by watching them eat or not eat with their cutlery. i guess somewhere in manner’s school we were taught to put down our knife while eating with our forks. It is all a blur… I love this little story it sounds like it a great start to a book. So by the way when is that coming out? Take care, BAM

  32. Too funny, I’m with you on the no regular doctor plan though I do go if something goes on the blink. I did learn to never call because of chest discomfort, it really makes them anxious – “no, I’m sure I’m not having a heart attack’, They didn’t believe me and took some blood an discovered the triglycerides were a little high. The doctor is a dear sweet man but was totally dumbfounded when I told him, um, no, I don’t think I’ll take those statin drugs. To his credit he didn’t argue. I’m pushing 60 and still ride horses and garden and run after hunting dogs and I did pass the stress test with flying colors (the initial discomfort apparently a little anxiety) and I probably won’t see the good doctor again unless something else stops working properly!

  33. This was so funny! I just had new lenses put into my old frames by a very good optician, who told me that another big firm charges for that privilege (a bit like ‘corkage’ I guess), but he wasn’t going to. It’s funny how ‘recycling’ is a dirty word for some people. I hope the animals love your new/old frames.

  34. Oh Celi, knowing I am a European living in Australia you just have to understand i’m kind’of hysterical at this stage!! Not meaning to insult or belittle anyone, but why would/could anyone have a meal WITHOUT a fork in the left hand and a knife in the right? To me; odd and clumsy! Oh yes when I eat in US restaurants I oft notice people watching 🙂 ! On the other hand I stayed up thru’ the night for a whole six weeks to watch both Tour de France and the Olympics – well, every bit I could 🙂 ! Loved ’em! Would be up now for Pro-Cycling Colorado, but 2.30 am beginnings do cut into the following day just too much! TV – hmm, no interest in soaps or other series, but, to me, it is still the fastest way to politics, economics, current affairs etc – daresay you have BBC, Aljezeera etc et al on your computer then! Such wonderful documentaries available on TV tho’! To each their own: vive la difference!

  35. Wonderful post Celi – with you all the way, including no TV, re-cycling the specs frames, and NOT having those checks. Every time they ring me and say we’re offering a free check to people over seventy, I say no thank you, no thank you to cervical cancer checks, breast cancer x-rays and all the rest. If you don’t live in fear, why go along with it all, I feel….

  36. Celi, I’m afraid it is not because you are from New Zealand, that people react like this. I often feel like I’ve been dropped from another planet…in the same city where I was born. When I would take my own cloth bags to the market and refuse the plastic ones. You would have thought I’d asked them to put my purchases in a dirty diaper! The look of disgust. Now, it’s a given and I don’t feel unique any more…but it also feels a little like progress. “Just slow learners'” I tell myself. The teacher in me needs to be patient with the slow learners. 😉

  37. You certainly catch people off guard with your can-do attitude. I wish I could have been there to see this exchange! Hopefully you will get your new glasses soon. 🙂

  38. Pingback: And the results are in! The Northmoor Village flower and veg show. |

  39. Pingback: And the results are in! The Northmoor Village flower and veg show. |

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