In 1999 I was living in Portland, Oregon, and JB was living a couple hours south in Corvallis. We were driving up and down I-5 on a regular basis to spend time together; I got my first speeding ticket barreling past Salem in a fever of anticipation.

JB’s workplace had an office in Corvallis and one in Las Vegas (they designed slot machine bonusing systems), and when the company decided to consolidate operations to Vegas they offered JB a job, all relocation expenses paid for the both of us. Graebel Moving came to my little city apartment and packed up all my shit in one dizzying afternoon, and then JB and I drove our cars to Nevada, chatting on walkie-talkies purchased for the trip.

We lived in a rental house in the suburbs, where we planted a lemon tree and installed a kiddie pool to make the 100+ degree afternoons more bearable. Cat prowled the yard and occasionally attacked the big dopey pigeons that perched on the fence. JB got a promotion and I found a marketing job at a crazy, dysfunctional dotcom. We lurked on the Strip on the weekends, hiked in the desert, visited the Grand Canyon, and drank like fish.

About halfway through our stay — we left for Seattle a year after we arrived, after I lost my stupid dotcom job and we realized how much we missed the color green —JB saw an ad for a local LASIK center offering a 50% savings on the procedure. Both of us were spectacularly myopic, we both wore contacts that dried to a husk in the windy, arid Vegas weather. We had a little money to spend at the time. So we booked back-to-back LASIK appointments.

I remember we sat for quite a while in a waiting room that broadcast video of the preceding patients’ surgeries on a TV, which was initially horrifying but after you saw three or four in a row the effect slowly wore off. They gave everyone a Valium, which lent for a slightly boozy atmosphere in the room, we started cheering when someone we’d been sitting with came back from their procedure giving the thumbs up.

The procedure itself doesn’t hurt, although it’s not exactly pleasant. I remember sitting in something like a dentist chair, my eyelids held open with surgical tape. The suction ring on my eyeball, most uncomfortable of all. The clatter of the laser, and the tiny twist of smoke coming up from my cornea and the smell — something like burnt hair.

We took a taxi home and sat around our house wearing big goofy goggles, and I remember the moment when I glanced through blurry halo’d vision to the VCR and realized I could actually read the digital clock display. From a distance where normally without glasses or contacts I’d see nothing but smears of color. Amazing.

I can’t recall how long it took to completely recover, I know we both had troubles with night vision for a while—but not much worse than what I already experienced with contacts. For months I found myself reaching up to push back the glasses that were no longer on my face, a ghost reaction whenever I got out of the shower.

Today I have something like perfect vision, or if not perfect, then close enough. I don’t get dry, itchy eyes from contact lenses, I don’t get headaches and a sweaty nose from wearing heavy-lens’d glasses. I can just see, as though I had good vision all my life.

In terms of sheer everyday use and appreciation, I’m pretty sure LASIK has been the best thing I’ve ever purchased. It is, as my mother (a LASIK fan) once said, damn near the only miracle you can buy.

Tell me your story: what is the best thing you ever bought?


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9 years ago

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