Friday, July 23, 2010

Oh, say, can you see?

I have been nearsighted (short sighted) for as long as I can clearly recall although, due to neglect and parsimony on the part of my mother, I did not get my first pair of glasses until I was 13.

By that time I was so used to seeing the world in a rather soft, foggy, Impressionist manner that it felt normal, making the sharp focus of the lenses a bit jarring. Add that I was just beginning to discover boys and the phrase “men never make passes at girls who wear glasses” was taken as gospel, and I pretty much kept my glasses in my handbag except when I needed them to see the blackboard or TV. And, of course, in front of my mother who admonished “I paid for the damned things, now you better wear them if you know what’s good for you!” But out from under her hawk-like gaze I continued to walk around in a soft-edged, slightly fuzzy, gently familiar world.

I have now had glasses for 50 years, and I still like my world foggy, soft-edged. Oh, I put on glasses when I need them…for driving, for TV, for reading signs and such, but for the most part I am content to go without them. In fact, most of the time you will find them conveniently parked on top of my head like an Alice band, ready to whip down when needed, but safely out of the way when not.

So, a couple of weeks ago it was time for new glasses. I have finally found a 1-hour shop that makes the glasses on the premises (a rare service here! LensCrafters, are you listening??), and so I popped in one morning to get fitted for new specs. Fifteen or so years ago a Kaiser* ophthalmologist found “vacuoles” in my eyes which he said were precursors to cataracts, but that I should not worry about it because it would take years for them to develop. Well…it’s been years…and they’ve developed. And the local doc told me it was time to see an eye surgeon and schedule the surgery to have them removed.

My late husband had the surgery, so I pretty much know what to expect medically. It’s a pretty routine out-patient procedure with a low rate of complication. I have just two apprehensions about the procedure: 1) they want me to be awake and conscious while they cut into my eyeball…I do not think so!! And 2) there are now multi-focal lenses to implant in the eye that allow the eye to function more normally, allowing a shift in vision distances without glasses.

Ok, that last seems like a good thing. When Chuck had his surgery, they implanted little plastic lenses with “mid range” distance: he could watch TV without them and use the computer, but for driving and for reading, he needed bifocals. I’ve been wearing a blended bifocal for more than 20 years and the “near vision” part of them just doesn’t seem to work well for me…even my newest ones, which are supposed to be at the apex of their technology. Today, apparently, you can get a miniaturized version of these multi-focal lenses actually implanted in the eye during cataract surgery. Sounds great…but what if they don’t work so well when I want to read fine print or do hand sewing? Will I need to get magnifying glasses to put on top of my implanted lenses? Does that even make sense?

I do have the option of single focal lenses for the implants, like for distance or close up, and to have glasses for the rest. Somehow this appeals to be better…I have worn glasses the vast majority of my life and my face looks funny to me without them. But perhaps most importantly, I’m not exactly keen to give up my soft-edged Impressionist world. I kinda like the blobs of colour that refine themselves into identifiable objects as I approach, eventually coalescing into recognizable objects, people, animals...things. Most of my life I wore glasses for distance only, having sufficient acuity to read, sew, draw, write with my glasses off. Drawing closer or putting on my glasses brought items more than an arm’s length away into clear, sharp focus; stepping back or removing my glasses returned my gentle, Impressionistic view of the world. I’m finding myself reluctant to give that up, to forever take away my ability to retreat into the dreamy, indistinct haziness that has been my life’s vision for all my days.

Maybe the fact that my vision can be fully corrected does not necessarily mean that it should.

*an American health maintenance organization (HMO) to which I belonged

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

The fun never stops...

Went to get new glasses yesterday.

Doc says I have cataracts. They need to be removed.

Oh joy...eye surgery.

I just can't wait to see what is coming next...

Monday, July 05, 2010

You CANNOT rely on Defy

Defy is a major local appliance brand and their catchphrase is "You can rely on Defy!"

On 1 June I found myself with a rapidly dying freezer, half of my side-by-side refrigerator, and I called my local service centre. You can imagine my dismay, while on interminable hold, to hear the phrase "you can rely on Defy" repeated over an over in place of the ordinary annoying music that us supposed to soothe our temperaments as we wait endlessly for the attention of a bored and unhelpful customer service rep. You see, this was the fourth major breakdown of this fridge in the four short years I have owned it...on Defy, I was learning, I could not rely.

It took 24 knuckle-biting hours to get a technician out to fix the fridge. It cost R700...the equivalent of a week's fix the freezer. I managed to save most of the food, but expected that it would be another year before the thing cropped up with a new problem. No such luck.

Barely a month has gone by and Saturday my husband opened the freezer to find the ice cubes had turned to water, the ice cream to cream, the frozen veggies soft enough to chew as they were. I popped a thermometer inside and found the freezer to be warmer than the fridge!

Since it was 4:30 on a Saturday...and Johannesburg retailers roll up their sidewalks and go comatose at 5 on Saturdays we hurried to our nearest discount outlet to buy a freezer. Unbelievably, every one of their stand alone freezers were out of stock!! Hubby managed to talk the floor manager into selling us the display a discount, no less...and to round up some guys to deliver it for us ASAP. By 6:30 I was cooking those thawed veggies and rebagging them for their return to a frozen state. This time we bought Bosch, a premier German brand, makers of my eminently reliable washer and dryer.

So this morning we await the return of the technician. This is the fifth major repair in four years, four of them to the freezer. If this is what Defy defines as reliable, I want absolutely nothing to so with them or their appliances ever again.

Learn from my misfortune: you CANNOT rely on Defy!

** ** **

Below is the "comment" I left on their website. I expect neither a reply nor compensation:

My husband and I bought a 660 litre side-by-side [Defy] refrigerator freezer from Makro approximately four years ago. In the few years we have owned it, the machine has required five major repairs, including replacement of the compressor on the refrigerator side during the first year of ownership.

Today I am awaiting a technician for the second time in less than five weeks for yet another freezer repair. So unreliable is this machine that we went out and bought a separate freezer this weekend when the Defy freezer failed for the third time in less than a year.

It is bad enough that the machine is so unreliable, but to have your service centre act like a freezer with 200+ litres of rapidly thawing food is not an urgent situation is absolutely maddening. Whoever runs your service centre needs to understand that a dead freezer has a much greater urgency than a groaning tumble dryer or a grumpy washing machine. Food is not only expensive, spoiled food can cause major health issues. A pair of jeans that doesn't get dry because the dryer is malfunctioning will not compromise the owner's health and safety...or their budget... the way a freezer full of spoiling meat will.

I have come to the conclusion that not only are your products grossly unreliable, your service department is essentially useless: not only cannot they not appropriately triage the incoming failure reports and dispatch technicians first to the most urgent calls, e.g., dead refrigerators and freezers, there is no service...not even at a premium charge...for appliances that fail after 5 pm on a Friday. I find this absolutely inexcusable.

It may not occur to you that losing a refrigerator and/or freezer full of food is a problem because, perhaps, you can afford to go out and replace the lot without a qualm. I assure you, however, that people whose financial situation does not allow them to purchase top of the line appliances like Bosch are not people who have a stash of cash with which to go out and replace the entire contents of their refrigerator and/or freezer at the failure of a compressor.

I think is it irresponsible of your company to not provide repair service for after-hour emergencies and to fail to appropriately triage repair calls when they come in: waiting 3 days to get my dryer fixed will be annoying; waiting more than a few hours to get my refrigerator fixed is potentially hazardous, definitely costly, and wholly irresponsible on YOUR part for forcing such a situation on me.

As it stands, given that this refrigerator/freezer has been grossly unreliable from the first, I think Defy should replace it free of charge AND refund every rand we have been obliged to spend on this lemon since we brought it home. I know you won't do that, though, and that is why I will never, EVER purchase another Defy product, nor will any of my friends, family members, or anyone else I may have the opportunity to influence.