insoy-glassesYOU know the moment has arrived when you look at your food and you think you’re having balbacua when you’re being served caldereta.

Me: Wow, balbacua! My favorite!/ Host: Ahm, sir, it’s caldereta. / Me: Really. Oh, I love caldereta too.

This bothered me because only a few years ago I could tell if it’s ants on my adobo or black pepper. Now, I have to use my sense of smell to make sure it’s pan de sal I’m dipping in my coffee instead of some round and brown tropical fruit like chico zapote.

So I did what any normal guy scared of the prospects of poking his nose into the world and living the rest of his life like that would do: I went to have my eyes checked by an eye specialist.

If you haven’t met one yet, an eye specialist is an extremely well-trained medical professional who lives in a mall, preferably in a dark corner of an optical shop, who thinks she’s a dentist in that she has this huge, scary-looking chair and all those scary looking equipment on standby in case she needs to gouge your eyes out.

And she looked like she was really going to launch into some eye-gouging activity the way she moved those equipment in front of my face. One particular eye-testing machine looked like the kind used by CSI investigators (Miami, New York, Hawaii, Danao City, whichever franchise) to determine which bullet hit what part of the victim’s body, only a hundred times the number of lenses.

And when you start to feel like you’re trapped in a dental chair surrounded by crime laboratory equipment and you see images of Kratos gouging out the eyes of the sea god Poseidon, it’s not a good sign. You start to wish you followed your mother’s advice and ate plenty of squash when you were a kid.

Those hundreds of lenses helped the eye specialist determine what’s wrong with my eyes in a test called refraction. Refraction is also a test that helps the eye specialist, in collaboration with another

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eye specialist stationed at the adjacent optical shop, decide if you need a P10,000 Calvin Klein glass frame or a P300 China-made Retro Cateyes eyeglasses, the one Jessica Zafra wears to look mean, sold along Magallanes St.

The test also involved a lot of letters in a sub-test called “Read, you idiot!” The eye specialist ordered me to peek through each one those lenses I told you about. I saw one really big “E.” So I read aloud, “E,” feeling proud of my accomplishment. Then there was a not-so-big “F” alongside a similarly sized “P.” So far so good, I said. I won’t be wearing any eyeglasses after all.

Then with some effort now I read a “T,” an “O,” and… wait… is that a “Z” a “$!*-,” a “@!*^+” and a “_*$#*”? Hey what’s happening? I turned to the eye specialist for an explanation. She was suppressing a laugh. I panicked. What the…. I’ve been reading komiks, novels, magazines, the Gideon Bible, Playboy All-American Hotties and jai-alai tip sheets since I was a kid, and I’d never met an alphabetical situation like this.

Let me retake the test! Look, see? I can read: “$!*-,” a “@!*^+” and a “_*$#*”.

Then the eye specialist, still in collaboration with the other eye specialist at the optical shop, calmed me down, in the way medical practitioners do after telling a patient he has cancer, ushered me out into the display room and said: “Sir, our Calvin Klein here costs P10,000. But since we’re on sale, we can give it to you at P8,000.”

Stop! I told them. You know Jessica Zafra? No, Sir. Loser!

(SUN.STAR CEBU, NOV. 30, 2010)