How I See Things

How I See Things
Cartoon-like drawing in shades of dark to medium purple. Eyes with beautiful eyelashes, looking through a pair of glasses.

Friday, November 22, 2019

High School Driver’s Education

In high school, a lot of people take a class called “Driver’s Education.” It’s a classroom setting, with a teacher and all your classmates. In the class, students are taught the differences between the lines in the road. We’re taught that a stop light means “stop,” even if you can go right on red - you stop first, then look. If no one else has right of way and the intersection is empty, you can proceed to turn right on red. Did you know New Jersey was the first state to say it was ok to turn right on a red light? My dad thought that was pretty cool, that New Jersey was progressive like that. 

One of the classroom tests we took that was self-directed, was a tool we used to determine our peripheral vision. The person taking the test puts their head in a little U-shape and looks straight ahead. Someone else starts moving little yellow discs - on one or the other side of you. The person taking the test is supposed to say “stop” when they first see these discs moving. 

My friend who was moving the disc got almost to my direct front of vision when I said, “stop.” She was pretty startled that I hadn’t seen it sooner. I was too. I was mad at her for moving it so slowly. 

I think the teacher called us to the front of the class at that point (we had all been taking different tests around the room and were reconvening). He told us we could finish doing the different tests later. Later, I saw what others had written on their papers in regards to the peripheral vision discs, and sort of averaged what a few of my classmates had written and fudged a reasonable number on my own chart. I figured I just couldn’t see the yellow on the disk because the paint had chipped off so it looked like the dull pewter color of the rest of the instrument. 

Well, I am now 47 years old and I went to my vision doctor. He was testing me in so many different ways, to determine what was wrong with my eyes. He used a silver rod with a gold ball at the tip of it. He used this rod for several different tests for me. He had put the rod down for a while and tested me in other ways. A bit later, he picked up a similar rod and held it just outside of my vision. I could see it, but it was clearly a silver ball on the rod, and no longer gold. I thought, “oh ,he has 2 of these rods for different tests.” 

He said, “tell me when this ball turns gold.” I thought, “what? What on earth does that mean? It will change color?” He started moving it from my left to the center of my vision. Suddenly, about 3 inches from the center of my vision, this silver rod with the silver ball on top - suddenly, the ball at the end was brilliantly gold! It shocked me. I had no clue it would suddenly be such a vibrant gold. I probably looked startled. I know I felt completely startled. I consider myself to be a connoisseur of color. And yet, I had completely missed that this bright, vibrant, gold ball was a bright, vibrant gold. I could have sworn it was a silver monotone pole nearly identical to the other pole I had been following with my eyes. I hope I have described this adequately. I feel like I have more words in my head that want to come out, but I can’t figure out what they might be. Hopefully you’ve understood me. Thank you for following this quirky journey the best you can.

The optometrist magician did this same test for me. He took the ball out of my vision to my left, and asked me, “when does it turn gold?” And, once again, I was completely startled when, about 3 inches from the center of my vision, it went from a dull gray / silver color to a vibrant, polished, gold ball. I even wondered if he had polished it a few minutes before, it was so shiny and bright. 

He told me this meant I have tunnel vision. No wonder, all those years ago, doing that test in Driver’s Education class, that I couldn’t see that girl doing the test for me, doing the peripheral vision until it was nearly in front of me. I have tunnel vision. 

I am 47 years old, and I just learned that I have tunnel vision.  

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