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So I'm cleaning my glasses in a hotel room in Iowa and they
break on me. I'm getting ready for that night's show and, just
like that-- no sound, no snap, crackle or pop-- they
snap in two. Right at the bridge, the one that crosses
the nose. I had another pair, so it wasn't a big crisis.
I immediately flashed back to when I purchased them, about
five or six years ago. I hadn't had to pick out a pair of
eyeglasses in quite a while. So, I hopped on over to
the mall and strolled up to the nearest vendor of "fashion
eyewear." (That's a curiously tortured way of saying
"glasses." You see,
men don't make passes at girls who wear glasses, but
girls who wear fashion eyewear? They're a lot like
that poor cat in all those Peppy LePew cartoons.)
that I had to replace my old fashion eyewear (purchased
five years before that) because gradually,
over a period of years, they had evolved into "out-of-fashion
eyewear." So, I edged up to
the counter and tried not to attract the attention of
what is often incongruously referred to as "the
There are four words that I have learned to despise
when I am in a retail situation: "May I help you?" When I hear
this, I suppress my first impulse-- That is,
to simply say, "No." That would be rude...
or so I've been told. So I say, "No, thanks.
I'm just looking." Why the
prickliness? I'll tell you why. More often than not,
when the retailer asks me, "May I help you?"
She/He has little intention of helping at all. Especially in
the context of a fashion eyewear store. These people are
special and rare.
I went into a Lens Crafters once (or was it a Pearl?),
when yet another old pair of glasses busted somehow (I
forget how, but it's not important). (If you're following
along at home, this is a flashback within a flashback.)
Thus, my education began (see above). I strode purposefully
up to the counter, my injured specs in hand.
"May I help you?" asked the lady (with absolutely
no intention of helping me).
"Yes," I began, "I was
wondering if you could fix my glasses."
(Here comes the good part!)
She examined the glasses for a nanosecond,
turned to me with a look of annoyance and pity and said,
"Hmmm...that would be just fixing them until they
It was a turning point in my life.
In an instant, I turned the sentence over and over in my
mind--That would be just fixing them until they broke
again! Wow! The internal logic! The almost truth
of it! The stealthy way in which she had simultaneously
rejected my plea for assistance and enabled
me to see the ridiculous and wholly untenable nature of
my request! Why, of course! That would be just fixing
them until they broke again! How moronic of me
to think otherwise!
I should have known she would respond this way. She was,
after all, in the business of selling new glasses.
And I shouldn't have been surprised by her attitude. (I
noticed, far too late however, that her landing gear was
deployed--she was prepared to condescend! She had been
treating other customers in an equally insulting manner.)
I said nothing. I was rendered speechless by this nifty
bit of retail stonewalling. I have noticed since then that the
folks who deal in the vending of fashion eyewear are masters
at subtly bullying customers. But I have also taken a certain
delight in standing my ground and actually trying to get
what I want when I'm confronted with such obstinacy.
So, when my current prescription windows on the world snapped
into two equal parts, I was reminded of how I got them in the
first place. (Now we return back to the initial flashback.)
"May I help you?"
"Those glasses? You don't want those glasses."
(I swear to you, that's what she said.)
I repeated that I wanted those glasses and I
achieved just enough of a menacing tone to get what I wanted,
but not enough that it would maker her call 9-1-1. She complied.
I ordered a pair in black and I ordered a pair in a sort of
amber and black tortoise shell color. The style had a name
(all the styles have names!) and this one was called "Harry."
This, too, delighted me to no end. I
returned in a few days and picked them up. I ventured out
into the world with Harry on my face.
It took only 15 minutes for the first wisecrack. On the way home
from the mall, I stopped into a
seafood takeout joint to order some flounder. I walked in
and the man behind the counter, whom I had never met before
in my life, said "What are you? One of the Hansen
brothers?" (No "Hi, how are you?" No "May
I help you?" Just "What are you? One of the
I gotta give the guy credit for at least being
original. His reference to the belligerent, hockey-playing
threesome from the 1977 classic Slap Shot is an
artfully obscure one. Since then I have heard the following
"What are you?"'s (in descending order):
(Two minor points: One, Holly's frames were much thicker
than mine and a bit top-heavy--a different style altogether--
the same goes for Proops' frames. And, two, Kenney doesn't
even wear glasses anymore. So there!)
Finally, on the day before the glasses broke, as I
was checking into a hotel, the lady behind the counter said
(and I am not making this up), "You know who you look
like? Billy Holiday!" Yeah. That's right. I look
like a black, female, heroin-addicted blues singer. I
think she meant Buddy Holly, but I can't be 100 per cent
sure. Maybe she needs glasses.
I hear the comments when I'm onstage, too. "Hey!
It's Buddy Holly!" someone will yell. It's a momentary
distraction. Sometimes I deal with it, most times I let it
And for some odd reason, these frames have reinforced this
notion that I'm some sort of an intellectual comic. I've never
really refuted this notion. In fact, in my press kit, I include
a quote from Alan King in which he calls me
"an egghead comic." But the stark reality is that,
aside from using a couple of twelve-dollar words and phrases here
and there ("digress," "euphemistically" and
"atomic number" to cite a few), the act is
built on a sturdy frame of dick jokes and scatology! The
egghead thing is largely illusion! And, as for the glasses
somehow "making" me intelligent, well, I gotta
tell you, they didn't force me to take an IQ test when I bought
them! Any lunkhead with $49 and an astigmatism can own a pair of
So did I ditch the glasses? Certainly not! I took my
sorry specs around to three or four different establishments
seeking an identical replacement. No dice. "We don't
carry those," they all said. "However, all of our
designer frames are on special!" No thanks. I slunk
out of each store, defeated. Once, when I was in a WalMart,
I heard an announcement over the PA about their Vision
Center. I hurried over only to find Our Lady of Medjugorje
signing autographs. I began to despair. Then I got mad!
After a bit of scooting around the WWW, I found a website
and an 800 number for the folks who manufactured Harry and--
joy!-- they still made them! I called and gave them my
zip code and they gave me the name of two opticians
in my area who either carried the frames or could order them!
I hustled on over to one of the opticians, I pawed their
catalog for a minute or two and-- there they were!
As I type this, I am wearing my new Harry frames. All is
20/20 with the world. My most recent dealings with the
optician didn't go smoothly (of course!), but the end
result is that I got exactly what I wanted. And I am
learning to deal with the Buddy Holly references with
grace and composure. ("You know who you look
like?" they ask. "Billy Holiday!" I
reply. It confuses them momentarily and it fills them
with just a tiny bit of doubt. And it gives me just
enough time to scramble away and deal with the next
rude but well-meaning fan.)
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