Thursday, February 04, 2010

A Moral Dilemma

by Specs4ever

I sat in my office glancing over the paperwork that was piled up on my desk, and I half-heartedly opened another envelope, glanced at the bill inside, and placed it on the to-be-paid pile. I just wasn't with it today. Paperwork had never been my number one priority, and my procrastination about doing it had caused me more than a few problems when it came time to satisfy the government. But, I had no wish to go out into the store either, as I was as deep in the dumps as I could possibly be.

I loved my work. I was totally fascinated by my customers and I had over the past 20 years built up the best, most respected optical shop in the metropolitan area. When I first decided that I wanted to open an optical store, based on my experiences, I discovered that there was a real need for an optical shop that specialized in strong prescriptions, so that is the market niche that I developed. And, for these 20 years, I had maintained all my original customers, as well as drawing many new customers from 2 other nearby cities.

My formula for success was simple. I have no need to explain the consternation that a high myope feels when he or she needs new glasses. They have gone into many optical store, only to be met with "Oh that is such a strong prescription - you must be blind" or "we have never done that strong a prescription before" and my personal favorite "I will have to call the lab to see if they can do a prescription that strong."

So, I was fortunate to find Kelly as my first licensed optician. When I was nearly ready to open, Kelly came in to apply for a position, and I fell in love with her immediately. She wore the most attractive pair of myodisc lenses in a drop temple frame that I had ever seen. We talked for what seemed like hours, and she was so excited about helping other high myopes like ourselves that she offered to work for free for a couple of weeks to let me get used to her. I refused, but I hired her on the spot, as without her, I had no business. Unfortunately, I was not licensed, nor did I have any real knowledge about optics, so I had to have an optician before I could open the store.

While my knowledge was limited, I am smart, so I put my brains to good use. I read everything I could on lenses, and lens grinding, and with the help of a bank loan secured by my house, I had my optical lab, and store ready to go. The first few lenses I ground were a bit expensive, as I think I went through half a dozen blanks for each lens. But, with experience, I became a very proficient lab technician. Today, my lab was state of the art. I would grind lower power lenses for spouses, and children of my customers, but for the most part we did nothing under + or - 10D.

And I had the only lab in 3 cities that had stock of specialty lenses. I could fit a -25D lens with up to + or - 2.50 cylinder in under an hour. My store was where children with severe vision problems were sent by 4 different hospitals. And, most of the other optical stores in the area sent us all their 'problem' customers.

Kelly had had the idea at first, and when she told me about it, I was amazed at the simplicity. I made her 4 new pairs of glasses in her -18 power. We chose frames that looked good on her, but I also used only frames that were the same lens size. When we finished we could switch her lenses between about 2 dozen frames. She left all of these glasses at work, using them as samples for customers to try on. I then did the same thing for my -23.50 glasses using the same size lens blanks.

When we became busy enough to hire another optician we found Lisa, who needed a -14D lens for her four pairs of glasses. Soon we found Brenda, who was a +13D. We could usually find a lens power for any frame, so our customers could see what they looked like through lenses that were close enough to what they were going to get. This way they could make an informed choice based on real lens edge thickness. They could also determine if the specialty lenses were worth the extra price. And, once in a while, a lady would come in with her husband, and leave with 3 or four pairs of glasses - and one pair was always the thickest type of lenses that we could make. I chuckled inside whenever this happened, as I knew by this that the husband had a glasses fetish.

Things had gone well, and I had paid off the bank loan a long time ago. Kelly was still my right hand, and I couldn't imagine going on in business without her. We had never gotten together in a romantic way. She is extremely pretty, has a great figure, fantastic sense of humor, but it just wasn't right for us. I had married one of our early highly myopic customers, and was very happy. Kelly had never married, but had had a number of relationships - always ending with her crying on my shoulder.

I am not positive, but as a non-smoker, I might have been turned off by the fact that Kelly was a chain smoker. But, there wasn't a business decision that I made without her advice. And I wouldn't think of hiring anyone without them passing her inspection. Because of this we had the greatest staff. We now had Nancy with -12 lenses in her glasses. Jennifer was a -15.50, and Fran was a -17. Kelly had gotten up to a -20, and I was now wearing -26D lenses. This covered the high myopes fairly well. We still had Brenda with her +13D's, and Bobbie who wore +16D lenses, to cover the high hyperopes. There wasn't another thing I could ask for.

But all bubbles have to burst one day, and today was the worst case scenario. Kelly had come to me just after we opened the store. She had a sad look on her face, and I knew she had had an appointment with one of the best ophthalmologists in the city yesterday. I really didn't want to hear the bad news, but it had to come out. Kelly had been having vision problems lately, and the doctor, after a thorough examination had told her she had cataracts developing rapidly in both eyes.

Kelly is only in her early forties, but the doctor felt that it was her heavy smoking rather than age that had caused the cataracts. The doctor wanted to remove her cataracts, and replace her lenses with new lenses. She would never have to wear glasses again! And knowing our policy on only hiring opticians that required strong prescriptions, she asked me if she would still have a job if she had the operation, and didn't need glasses anymore. I was so taken by surprise that it was all I could do to murmur an "of course you will." But I didn't really mean it.

So, this is my problem. But, I had a way out. Unfortunately, herein lies the moral dilemma. Should I tell Kelly that for the 20 years we had known each other that I had worn plus contact lenses under my high minus glasses?

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