Day 26: Blind

Today was supposed to be a relatively light day. The plan was to take things pretty easy - wake up when my body was recharged. Head out to the local shop and pick up an XBox 360 to play, come home - play, go bowling in the afternoon, and read/program this evening. A packed, but enjoyable and restful day.

The day started around 9:00 with housekeeping ringing my doorbell. First off, I have a doorbell? Secondly, who goes around waking people up on a Saturday morning at 9AM? What if I was out partying all night, and need some sleep? Or better yet, what if I worked a late night and didn't get to sleep until 2AM because I was working? Got up, rushed to put on some clothes, and opened my door only to find it empty. Bleg.

Since I was awake, I started my morning routine. Grab a shower, put on some clothes, eat, etc. Grabbed my wallet and hotel keys from my desk. During that transaction, I saw a bit of dust on my glasses. Took off my glasses, started to clean them, and then they broke. The bridge came detached from the left side of the frame.

Not good. Turns out, I'm blind without my glasses. Very blind. My wife has had to come home on occasion to see me crawling around my own house trying to find my glasses because I misplaced them. My eyes are something around 20/5000 without my glasses. I am able to see blobs of color, and I cannot read a damn thing. I don't care how close it is to my face. I'm not sure of the validity of this statement, but I have been told that I can file for disability because of this.

I could have a cool parking spot! Instead, I'm in a foreign country in a panic because I cannot see anything, and I'm not sure what to do next.

Quick assessment - what are my options? Attempt to repair the glasses? Buy new ones? Does a 1 hour shop exist in Manila, and if so, how close am I? How do I attack this? Not a good idea to call some of my co-workers - they are probably more than tired of chauffeuring me around town.

My plan begins with heading to the nearest Ace Hardware to grab some epoxy of some sort. I can then temporarily piece together my glasses long enough to get a replacement. Maybe I can hold up one of the lenses to my eye... nope, for some reason that makes me dizzy. I have to go blind. OKAY! I can do this.

Deep breath.

Walk outside, stumble to the elevator, mash some buttons and end up hitting a few floors that were not where I wanted to be. Head outside, and immediately start having a panic attack.

I'm typically a pretty paranoid guy, and I have this innate desire to be intimately aware of my surroundings. Look at a scene, size it up, know if there are any threats, any people that look like they're not pleased to see me, know who is in front of me/behind me/etc. I'm not sure where this comes from, and most of the time there is no threat - but that doesn't stop me from assessing the situation. Not possible today. I can't see people's faces; I can barely make out blobs of people that are any further away than about 10 feet. I might as well have walked out with my eyes closed, because I'm effectively reduced to that.

Stumble into the mall, and start attempting to reconstruct steps that I take to get to a place. I must have gotten to the escalator, and the panic attack escalates. Now, I'm having a hard time breathing.

Stop. Breath. Deep.

Okay, reevaluate plan. Look on iPhone to see if there is any eyeglass places in this mall. People are running into me because I just stopped mid-stream in a mall full of people. It is Saturday, after all. Rush to the wall... start looking online for stores. Blast! Phone doesn't work. Roaming has sucked the whole time I've been here, and of course that isn't going to change in a time of need.

Breath. Mind racing. What am I going to do?!?!

Left turn.

Turns out, I stopped right in front of a store that sells glasses. That store had a big sign that says When is the last time you had your eyes checked. Now, I'm hopeful. Walk into the store full of glass, run into a glass display that I cannot see, and brush it off. Now, I stand stupidly in the middle of the store waiting for someone to come up to me. Eventually, one of the girls comes up to me and asks me how my day is going. I just took the glasses out of my pocket and handed them to her, saying I'm not doing so well, and asking for help.

She tells me to wait a moment, and runs in the back. Now at this point, I've effectively given what is my only ability to even try to see to this woman. I have no other plan now.

She comes back and tells me that the doctor will check my eyes, takes me into the back, and seats me into a chair. A doctor comes in about 10 minutes later, asks me some questions, and then throws up the big eye goggle thing. I'm immediately calmed when for a brief moment I can see through the testing machine to validate that the prescription is valid.

Okay, good news! They have stock! They can make my glasses in an hour and a half! All I have to do now is pick out a pair of glasses. This proposal makes me chuckle a bit, given that I can't see 2 feet in front of my face, let alone pick out a pair of glasses that I will wear for the next year at least.

The initial helper takes me outside and asks me what I want to look at. I sympathetically explain that I'm pretty blind, and that I'll need some guidance here. Whether she takes advantage of me and up-sells me is irrelevant - I just need some frames. Of course, we head to the main display, and she starts pulling out several pairs of frames. She sticks a pair on my face and asks me if I like them. Again, smiling, I kinda hobble over to what looks like a mirror, again running into a glass display (mental note: memorize location of glass display), and looking at the glasses. Too big. So I ask if she can find a pair that looks almost like my old pair. OK!

About 10 minutes later, the assistant comes out with about 4 pairs - throws each of them on my face, tells me three of them look like crap on me (doesn't fit my face, too big, whatever), and then tells me this pair that she got looks good! Same size, slightly different color (silver vs. black), and then tells me that I should get these.

Who am I to argue. I can't see a damn thing.

In all, I paid about $260 for a pair of new frames and lenses. About half of what I would have paid for an appointment as well as a new pair of lenses (not even frames). Not bad! I would have paid $1k, but she didn't know that. But the glasses wouldn't be done for an hour. Okay. On my way out, the original woman hands me my broken glasses and advises me that I should keep them as a souviner. So, I did.

I hadn't eaten up at this point, and it's 11:30. I suddenly find myself super hungry. I'll just backtrack, count my steps, and memorize where I am and go find some food. I ultimately end up at TGI Friday's where I order two large Long Island Iced Teas (my nerves are fried at this point - I needed something to cut the edge), and a steak. Eat my food, and then head back to the store.

Of course I got lost. Took a bit, but I got back there. New glasses on my face, I felt a relief that I have rarely felt. Maybe this day won't be so bad after all.

Next step, salvage the day by going by the original plan. Head to Green Hills to buy an XBox. Now, Green Hills is the ultimate shoppers paradise. You can get anything at Green Hillls. Knock off watches/purses/clothes/whatever. You can also get Modded Xbox 360's, which is where I'm heading.

Grab a cab, and the cab driver immediately tells me that the traffic is bad, and that I should agree on a set price before we get going. (PHP100) I've learned my lesson, and told the drive that I'm happy to find another cab if he doesn't want to run the meter. At best, the taxi ride would be PHP50. He didn't like this, but didn't want to lose the fair. Grumpily threw up the fare meter, and off we went. Once we got there, sure enough - PHP55.

But I only had PHP100. Curses. He got his money, because he didn't have change. How convenient. At least he'll be taxed.

The next hour was spent haggling. This is a lost art in the US. We walk into a store, see a price tag, and then buy it if we want it or not. No haggling - use the sticker. However, at Green Hills - everything is negotiable. I cannot express how much I enjoy haggling. Every time I walk up to a place and see something interesting, I am given a price, and I immediately say mahal - expensive. We get to haggle, and at some point we all walk away happy.

Got my XBox and then decided that I need to pick up a local phone since my roaming phone isn't working for crap. I then spend the next 4 hours at the local store (Globe) in order to pick up a new phone. Not much to say there other than the efficiency of this store astounded me. It's not a pleasant experience.

Wasn't able to bowl - too much time with glasses and cell-phones.

I hope tomorrow goes a little better.