The Last Straw

Sometimes there is a definitive “last straw” event that pushes us over an invisible line. A precise moment in time when we decide that enough is enough.

Spaniards don’t have “last straws or camel’s backs”; instead their language refers to “last drops” as in “water that makes the glass overflow”.  However, whether a straw or una gota de agua , the point is the same.

When I met up with London Vision Clinic patient, Jon Lee, at Paddington Station, he had been happily glasses and contacts free for three weeks.

Over coffee and low-calories croissants (if only such a thing existed), he shared how he had put up with the frustrations of wearing glasses since the age of 30 (he’s 57 now) and introduced contact lenses into the mix some twenty years ago.

Jon’s situation was further complicated by his hectic travelling schedule and the frequently polluted environment in which he works.

His eyes would often feel uncomfortable on planes – due to the air purification systems. While the air he was exposed to in the refineries and heavy industrial processing plants he would visit around the word, was frequently dirty and sulphur-ridden -a far from ideal environment in which to be wearing contact lenses.

“I needed contact lenses as I was short sighted; but I also used reading glasses”, he explained.

“I also had to have a pair of back up prescription glasses for the times when I couldn’t tolerate the contacts and, of course, I needed sunglasses too.”

In addition to the general inconvenience, Jon’s travel problems began at the airport, where the bottles of contact lens solution are still banned from hand luggage under the liquids security ruling.

“I never check luggage into the hold on business trips as it so frequently gets lost and by the time it eventually turns up, I would have moved on to another country.

“Many of the places I visit don’t have contact lens solution and I would often have to soak my lenses in plain water overnight.” Although this practice is not recommended, Jon was lucky to escape any eye infections.

But despite all of this, Jon and his sore eyes put up with travelling all over the world with his readers, spare prescription glasses, a wide selection of different types of contact lenses and sunglasses in tow.

His “final straw” moment didn’t happen during a sandstorm in the desert, a frozen Russian winter or even a delayed and particularly uncomfortable long-haul flight… it happened on a spring morning a few months ago on a suburban High Street in England’s green and pleasant land.

Over the years, Jon had had many opportunities to visit opticians throughout the world and had been impressed by the equipment and service on offer even in the most unlikely countries like Iran.

“In America, Australia and throughout the Middle East, for instance, it is possible to buy contact lenses over the counter.

“Putting aside the matter of price,(they are 30% cheaper in the U.S.) which really doesn’t come into my equation, the equipment and service provided in many of these countries is far more sophisticated than used in the High Street opticians in the UK.

“These shops seem to be run by youngsters who have only completed a six or twelve month course; and they have a monopoly – it’s ridiculous.”

On a late spring morning, Jon walked in to one such High Street opticians and asked to buy contact lenses. He was told that they couldn’t be sold to him without a prescription.

“OK”, he was resigned to taking the elementary test yet again, “Do it then”.

No, it wouldn’t be possible to test his eyes at that moment. In fact the earliest appointment was on a Wednesday afternoon six weeks away.

“What about people who are working? Why can’t you make appointments for Saturdays or Sundays? And anyway I will be out of the country again in six weeks time. I’m a paying customer and I need to buy contact lenses now, or forget it!”

As he walked out of the shop, of course, he couldn’t “forget it”.

Jon arrived home in a bad mood. That morning his wife had been watching Dr Dan explaining about the advances in Laser Eye Surgery on GMTV. She sensibly, suggested that her angry husband check out the London Vision Clinic.

The rest – as they say – is history.

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