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The In and the Out

The In and the Out

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Published by Charles Dowdy
Selling cut rate contact lenses in the UK, even though I don't wear them.
Selling cut rate contact lenses in the UK, even though I don't wear them.

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Published by: Charles Dowdy on Feb 17, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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03/09/2010

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The In and the Out
After dropping out of law school, I went to London and got a job selling contact lenses oncommission in the Financial District. The guy who ran the place had crooked teeth and woreloud, plaid jackets. Not that anyone saw him. He sat upstairs and watched the store on closedcircuit TV. I talked to him twice: the day he hired me, then two weeks later, on the day he firedme.I lied to get the job and its signing bonus, which amounted to a couple hundred dollars. Iknew nothing about contact lenses. The other salespeople were always messing with their contactlenses. Looking in a mirror while they picked at their eyes, or taking the lenses out, and stickingthem in that solution stuff. I did not wear contacts, and perhaps I wasn’t totally honest about thatin my job interview. So I would sit near one of the little mirrors and mess with my eyes as if Idid, just to fit in.The girl who trained me was Vietnamese. She had her hair pulled back and huge, contact perfect, dark eyes. She was pretty, and she did not laugh at one joke I told her. In fact, everyoneelse who worked there was Vietnamese and they were very serious about the cut rate eye
 
 business. My training for the job was less than extensive. The girl quickly explained how it wasdone in about 90 seconds. She was watching the front door while I tried to ask a few questions.She cut me off.“You wear da contact lenses?”“Of course,” I said.“You can put da contact lenses in da eyes?” She was pointing at my eyes.“Yes,” I said.“Then you show customer how it is done with you contacts in you eyes one time. Onetime only. Then you make dem put contacts in dey eyes. One time only. You slow at the trainingstation, we wait while you be slow. With contacts, it is in and out, in and out, next customer, yousee?”She had already moved on. The five girls on the sales staff took turns when clients camein the store. She was not going to miss her turn because of me.As I watched the other sales people interact with the customers I was impressed withauthority with which they moved them through the store. After all, these people were coming in because they had less than perfect vision. Add to it the obvious language barrier betweencustomers using a very proper His Majesty’s English, and a group of people who sounded likethey learned how to converse in a McDonald’s drive through, and you had to wonder if either side really understood the other.When my turn came, I led an older woman to the optometrist. In fifteen seconds, hedetermined that she had bad vision. Then I took her to stand before the wall of boxes. This was
 
kind of strange, like an inserted step in the process to make sure the client felt like they weregetting some bang for their buck. First, the customer could not see. Second, she confronted awall of small, identical boxes containing various strength contact lenses. I looked at the slip of  paper I’d gotten from the optometrist. There was a place on the wall that fit her needs. I wasn’tsure if we were in the right place.I took a box off the wall, compared the numbers printed on the box with the slip in myhand, nodded at her confidently, then led her to the training station.I had already decided there was no way in hell I could get a contact in my own eye, so thein and out was going to have to be in the woman’s eyes. I perched that little contact on myfinger, moved it toward her eye, and dropped it on the floor.I never stopped moving. Instead of acknowledging my mistake or trying to find the tinylens, I went through the motions of putting something in her eye. She blinked a few times.“That feels spot on,” she said. “I’d have thought where would be more discomfort.”I smiled, the professional at work.I was more careful with that second little bastard. I dug it out of the container, held itupright, pried her eye open, then jammed the contact in there before it could slide off my finger.There was a quick struggle, a cry of pain, then lots and lots of blinking.With my first customer, I had her do the second in and out with that one eye only, sincethe other contact was on the floor. She did a much better job than I did, and before I knew it, shewas out the door.My first contact lens sale.

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