Sam Venable 

Department of Irony

Hard to Focus on the SubjectI  don’t look so great right now.

Oops, wait. That’s not exactly what I meant to say.

“Don’t look so great” in this context means I can’t see well at the moment. Sorta like how a friend of mine, born with a defective olfactory system, always describes her condition: “I don’t smell very good.”

The reason for my current condition is because I just got a new set of bifocals. Adjusting to them is about to drive me nuts.

Actually, driving is what forced me into this predicament in the first place.

Not long ago I was in Middle Tennessee to participate in a storytelling festival. As usual, I wore contact lenses. Between the interstate drive, a morning show, an afternoon show, and a face full of springtime pollen, my peepers were quite weary by the end of the day. So just before turning east toward Knoxville, I popped out the contacts and put on my old bifocals.

Whoa! Welcome to Fuzz City!

I could drive safely enough, but everything in the distance was seriously blurred. Thus, I soon was in Doc Cornea’s office for an examination.

“Your contacts are just fine,” Doc said afterward, “but the prescription in those glasses is way out of whack. Everything was blurred because your eyes were having a hard time refocusing.”

I now own spankin’ new bifocals. And I’m learning how to see all over again. Geezers everywhere can relate.

Even with seamless bifocal glasses, there’s a sweet spot between the far-away and close-up region of each lens. Trying to find it gives new meaning to the word “gyration.”

You weave in place, leering like a fool.

You bob your noggin up, down, left, right.

You try to tackle stairs and wind up either high-stepping or tripping.

You reach out to pick up an object and grab air.

Having broken in new bifocals in the past, I realize this is all part of the adjustment phase. Everything will eventually fall into place. Hopefully I will not fall in the process.

Perhaps it would be best to warn others. I got to thinking about that concept the other day when I saw two different vehicles being operated by beginners. One was a sedan, the other an 18-wheeler. In both cases, signs announcing “Student Driver” were plastered fore and aft. I noticed other motorists were giving wide berth.

Maybe something like that should come as standard equipment with new eyeglasses for seniors. After all, they already give us a free carrying case and a cleaning cloth. Why not toss in a warning sign as well?

I’m thinking about one of those sandwich-board signs that drapes across the shoulders. It could proclaim, “Old Goat Wearing New Bifocals—Maintain Safe Distance.”

Probably wouldn’t hurt to have 911 on speed dial, either.

Sam Venable is an author, stand-up comedian, and humor columnist for the Knoxville (TN) News Sentinel.
He may be reached at