Every now and then I tend to do something a little bit stupid. We’re not talking epic stupidity here, more like putting my mobile phone through the washing machine (err, twice) or dropping my phone in to a pint of beer (err, again, twice) or putting a mobile phone in to an open pocket of my backpack walking to the office and discovering with innocent horror that it was no longer there.
This week I decided to be stupid in a whole new innovative way which didn’t involve a mobile phone. Being a computer geek means that I have to spend rather more time sat in front of a computer than you would imagine is healthy, or rather is healthy for an average human being. Fortunately computer geeks are far from average and we can aimless surf around the Internet looking up things like what is a Beadle, how kidney stones are formed and discovering that the tune to “The Animals Go In Two By Two” is actually stolen from an American civil war marching tune called “When Jonny Comes Marching Home” for hours after the average person has given up and gone off to be sociable with real life actual people.
However, the super-human ability to sit in front of a computer screen does come at a cost, namely the eyes. I can barely look at a computer screen for more than 5 minutes without glasses before I feel the tell tale strain in my left eye that informs me that “buddy, we’re preparing one hell of a banging headache any minute now“. So yeah, my glasses are fairly important to me which is why it would be a really stupid idea to leave them on say, oh I don’t know, a plane.
I flew back to India yesterday. I left my glasses on the plane. I had to go to work today in my capacity of Online Marketing Manager, which as the designation implies, involves lots of computer work. Damnit!
Now this being India, some people who are a little less illuminated about this great country might think you have to go through hell and back to get a pair of spectacles. Hah, not a chance my ignorant friends. India is a land of programmers and call centres where people have to stare at computers all day long. There is an entire army of opticians waiting on every street in every town serving the never ending stream of Mechanical Engineering graduates who have toiled away for the last 4 years calculating complex matrices and partial differentiation and have realised that while finite element analysis is fascinating in every way, answering the phone and saying “Hello you have reached HSBC customer services, Brian speaking, how can I help you today?” pays well better and you even get a cool fussball table in the staff room. All you have to give up in return (apart from your innocence and soul) is your eyesight as you stare at Mrs. Grimbal’s account details on the computer screen for 10 solid hours a day.
I manfully soldiered through 8 hours of office work today by installing a piece of software called workrave which is the cyber equivalent of a health and safety executive standing over your shoulder and telling you that your chair is wrong, the desk is too high, the foot rest is at the wrong angle, the fluorescent lights are the wrong frequency and you have sharpened your pencils to a degree that could cause significant discomfort if you were to drive it in to your ear absent mindedly. The software basically forces you to take a break every 10 minutes by locking up your computer for 30 seconds and if you even dare attempt to move your mouse during that time it pointedly freezes the count down, looks at you with a stare which suggests that it can pause all day if you want it to, before resuming a few seconds later when you’ve stopped moving the mouse around.
And so it was thus that I managed to do my job without getting too great a headache and seeing how I can’t do anything without the Internet these days proceeded to look up where my nearest optician was. Foolishly I forgot that this was India so felt rather sheepish when I found that there was one on the same street as my office.
When you go in to an opticians in England and say I want to buy a pair of glasses, the receptionist will look at you, make a show of putting down the phone to indicate that you dared to interrupt her daily gossip, flick through the appointments book and inform you that they’ve got a slot coming up in two weeks on Wednesday at the convenient time of 11:00am. In India, you walk in to the opticians at 8pm and a crowd of assistants descend upon you, lead you to the examination room, the optician comes in and does a full eye test, gives you the prescription which you take to the sales staff and then have three people helping and advising you on which frames to pick, you make the payment and are informed that the glasses will be ready to pick up at 5pm tomorrow afternoon.
God I do love India sometimes!