An occasionally dusted-off blog by M. Scott Smith

From the Less Mature Files: Reflections on Contact Lenses 🔗

As an undergraduate at Drexel University in the mid-90's, I served as a columnist, contributing weekly bits of satire in an effort to amuse others or at least myself. I'm dusting off some of those columns and reprinting them here, in raw, unedited form.

In this entry, I cast a critical eye towards contact lenses. I published this in 1995 and it eventually made its way onto the Web. Before long, I received an e-mail from an engineer in the contact lens department of Johnson and Johnson. He had read the column, and wanted to clarify some key points. For example, he noted that when used properly, Acuvue lenses will not dissolve its wearer's eyes. However, conspiracy theorists take note: he made no mention about my claim that Daily Acuvue lenses are made from material found in a crashed spaceship.

The engineer wanted to stress the importance Johnson and Johnson places in safety, and detailed to me the ways J&J tests its products.

I sent a nice reply, noting that the column was satire. He sent a nice reply back, indicating that he was fairly certain it was, and admitting that the article had been printed out and was causing much laughter among his department.

To find out the truth (*) about contact lenses, click the "Continue Reading" link below.

(*): Because this is satire, substitute "fiction" for "truth."

I'm a contact lens wearer. This means that each morning, I attempt to place pieces of plastic in my eyes with varying degrees of success, with the blind faith that the practice won't make me go blind.

Most sane people would argue that sticking pieces of plastic in ones' eyes is as stupid as picking up a hot coal and swallowing it, but optomologists everywhere assert that it's perfectly safe, as long as you chew before swallowing. They also claim that wearing contacts is safe.

Even so, every optometrist I know wears glasses, and changes the subject when I ask them why they don't wear contacts. This is sort of like asking Drexel food service employees why they don't eat Drexel food.

I recently switched to the new Johnson and Johnson "Daily Acuvue" contact lenses. Johnson and Johnson came up with the remarkable idea of producing contacts that could be thrown out each day - no need to clean them and reuse them.

To do this, they took their regular Acuvue lenses (which last several weeks), renamed them "Daily Acuvue," and now charge people the same price, except that people pay for a new pair each day, which is to say that these new lenses cost more than running for President.

The Daily Acuvue lenses are actually thinner than regular soft lenses, so that if you attempt to wear them more than one day, the lens undergoes a chemical decomposition and dissolves your eyes in the process. Johnson and Johnson explains that this is normal and in no way should invoke concern.

To prevent this from happening, you must pay $600 per year so you can wear a new lens each day.

But I think this is a real bargain, because at the end of the day, I simply toss my lenses. No need to go through elaborate cleaning processes which used to add at least two minutes to my day.

There are different kinds of contact lenses. There are hard lenses, which are made out of glass and break if you blink too hard, causing fragments of glass to cut your eye and blind you.

Then there are soft lenses. These are made out of water and a remarkable plastic such as Etafilcon, which in laymen's terms roughly translates into "some mysterious plastic Johnson and Johnson found in a crashed alien spaceship."

Etafilcon is soft and pliable when wet, but becomes brittle when dry, breaking into thousands of tiny fragments which cut your eye and blind you.

To keep this from happening, you must use eye drops, which consist of salt dissolved in water. A gallon of saline solution costs approximately $1, while a tiny eye dropper of saline solution costs $10.

In addition to making an excellent eye lubricant, saline solution serves several useful purposes around the house. For example, if you have your wisdom teeth removed, you can gargle with saline solution to help prevent infection. You can also stave off marauding armies of slugs.

There are advantages to wearing contact lenses. You are entitled to whine all day, complaining that your "eyes are dry," your "eyes itch," or your "contacts just broke into thousands of tiny fragments and blinded [you]."

You can also joke around with your friends who don't wear contact lenses, saying that you accidentally put your contacts in upside down. Little do they know that's not technically possible! Ha!

At least, I don't think that's possible.

Also, you have a chance of beating Bob Dole in the annual blinking contest.

Just make sure you don't read that page with the microscopic print that comes with Daily Acuvue describing the unfortunate side effects Etafilcon had on 0.02% of test monkeys.

My eyes are starting to dry out, so time to find those eye drops.

M. Scott Smith is a senior majoring in math and computer science. He never confuses his right from left lens because both his eyes are -1.25 diopters.

- By M. Scott Smith, October 9, 1995. All rights reserved.

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