Once upon a time, in a university far far away, the sensory perception experts in the psychology department clambered for me to come and help them with their visual stimulation experiments. I sat with my face pressed against big eyepieces and watched images on little screens deep inside a big box. How could I, a lowly first year student, be so in demand? Because, unlike many of my fellow students, I not only had 20/20 vision but I did not have a dominant eye – my left was as good as my right. They could show mirror image checkerboard separately to each eye and I would not be able to tell them the colour of any square – they rapidly flickered black to white. They also paid me twenty dollars for 3 hours which was not too shabby for the mid seventies.
Then, a few years later, at a not so distant uni, they also found I had no optic cups. Now, this was a bit frightening at first until they actually explained what an optic cup was. At the back of your eye, when looking through your pupil, there is a lovely network of blood vessels on your retina and a small patch where the optic nerve reaches the surface. In most human eyes, there is a small depression here. In my eyes there is no depression, the surface where the optical nerve appears is completely flat. If the depression or cup is large, your ophthalmologist (eye doctor) will be concerned and do some more tests to check you don’t have glaucoma. This is a fairly serious eye disease (you can go blind) that can go undetected if you don’t have regular eye tests at least every two years. There are more facts about it at glaucoma.org.
But I digress. I did not need reading glasses. I could read street signs from hundreds of metres away. I would have made an excellent navigator if I only I’d known my left from right (Which I don’t. Still. Like 40% of the world’s population. Stop judging me. That shall be another post.)
Then I found my arms were becoming too short. No longer could I hold a book at arm’s length and have the print in focus. If I could read the laptop screen, I couldn’t reach the keyboard. I sat in the next room at the dining room table to watch TV. On the plus side, I could easily read the paper of the guy two seats in front on the train and had to hold back from shouting out the answers to the crossword clues across the crowded carriage. I could now read street signs from kilometres away, including who manufactured the sign. Maybe, it wasn’t short arms but perhaps my eyes were not so perfect anymore.
I am now longsighted. I wear multifocals, ranging from book reading at the bottom of the lens, through mid distance focus for computer screenage to peering over the top in a grandmotherly fashion for driving. I can live with this, seeing as I am a grandmother. I still have no optic cups but now my right eye is a bit stronger than my left. At least there is a workable solution for this particular variety of visual decrepitude.