Article Date: 1/1/2001

Eye of the Beholder
Only Miss Wagner had a worse looking artificial eye.
By Jack Runninger, O.D.

He was standing on his balcony, when he saw an object fall from above. He reached out to catch it and was astounded to see that it was an artificial eye!

Immediately, he went to the apartment above his, and knocked on the door. A beautiful young lady, holding her hand over one eye, greeted him and thanked him profusely for returning her glass eye.

After excusing herself to reinsert it, she returned to entertain her visitor. One thing led to another, and soon they were making mad, passionate love.

"I don't know what's come over me, acting like this," said the young lady. "Usually I don't even pay attention to men, let alone carry on in any way with them. But somehow, you just happened to catch my eye."

A bad experience

Hearing this joke reminded me of my one, and thankfully only, experience fitting a patient with an artificial eye many years ago.

Back in those days, the fitting process consisted of having a few trays of eyes sent to the office, and then inserting each one until you found the one that gave the best fit and best matched the good eye.

Because this patient did his own insertions, there was about as much professional skill involved on my part as there would've been if I'd been helping him select a new tie.

We finally discovered an eye that would fit in the socket without falling out, and that somewhat matched the color of the other eye. It still looked pretty bad, and it seemed to me that this inanimate eye kept staring at me with a baleful, accusing, "How could you do this to me?" gaze, even as the good eye roamed around the room.

Needless to say, this was my first and last time fitting an artificial eye. I hurriedly found a place in Atlanta, where they knew what they were doing, and I referred all future cases there.

Miss Wagner

At least my patient's artificial eye didn't look as bad as the one delightfully described by a Mark Twain character in his short story, Jim Blaine's Story of the Old Ram:

"She was a good soul -- had a glass eye and used to lend it to old Miss Wagner, that hadn't any, to receive company in; it warn't big enough, and when Miss Wagner warn't noticing, it would get twisted around in the socket, and look up, maybe, or out to one side, and every which way, while t'other one was looking as straight ahead as a spy-glass.

"Grown people didn't mind it, but it 'most always made the children cry, it was so sort of scary. She tried packing it in raw cotton, but it wouldn't work, somehow -- the cotton would get loose and stick out and look so kind of awful that the children couldn't stand it no way.

"She was always dropping it out, and turning up her old deadlight on the company empty, and making them oncomfortable, becuz she never could tell when it hopped out, being blind on that side, you see. So somebody would have to hunch her and say, 'Your game eye has fetched loose, Miss Wagner, dear' -- and then all of them would have to sit and wait till she jammed it in again -- wrong side before, as a general thing, and green as a bird's egg, being a bashful cretur and easy sot back before company.

"But being wrong side before warn't much difference, anyway, becuz her own eye was sky blue and the glass one was yaller on the front side, so whichever way she turned it it didn't match nohow.

"Old Miss Wagner was considerable on the borrow, she was. When she had a quilting, or Dorcas S'iety at her house she gen'ally borrowed Miss Higgin's wooden leg to stump around on; it was considerable shorter than her other pin . . . ."

Personal sentiments

In these days of managed care, optometrists keep looking for specialties to practice. This isn't one I'd highly recommend, but being as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, some of you might not mind it so much. 

Jack Runninger, our consulting editor, lives in Rome, Ga. He's a past editor of Optometric Management.

Optometric Management, Issue: January 2001