Forgetting to Remember

It’s seven months since I bought my first pair of glasses and I’m still opening newspapers without remembering to put them on and wondering why I can’t read any of the words.

Perhaps I need a bit more time for mental reorientation. Adjusting to a new reality as radical as not being able to see without special equipment is no different in principle from giving up cigarettes or embarking on a new life in Bulgaria – and it’s well known that you can’t really consider yourself to be a true Bulgarian non-smoker until you start dreaming in the language of one. (For our purposes, we have no imagine there is such a thing as a Bulgarian non-smoker.) But how long, I’d like to know, does it take to be someone who wears glasses, as opposed to someone who merely owns a pair and leaves them upstairs? Is it me, or do all recently visually impaired people keep a toy magnifying glass in the kitchen to see how long it takes to cook a chicken as indicated on the extra-small print on the reverse of the upside-down label, in the absence of conveniently located eyewear? Are people, who have been forced to have all their teeth replaced with ill-fitting dentures, still busy buying toffee apples seven months after the event?

There are worse things in life to get used to. Death, for example. Bereavement counselors say it takes at least a year to get over someone you love dying, during which time it is quite common to carry on getting two sets of knives and forks out of the drawer at mealtimes. Is this how we come to terms with loss? Yes, my wife says. But it doesn’t have to be about loss; it can be about gain. Look at people who come out of prison after a hundred years and don’t know how to open a carton of milk or change the ink cartridge on a printer. Look at people who win the lottery and throw themselves off high building because they can’t handle having more money than everybody else.

Phil Hogan, The Observer, 2002


1. People, who have recently been prescribed glasses
A. make a point of always wearing them.
B. often forget to put them on.
C. tend to encourage Bulgarians to give up smoking.
D. are unable to read small print.

2. Most people get used to wearing glasses or having dentures
A. in an entirely effortless way.
B. only after they’ve made a number of absurd mistakes.
C. only after they’ve been to prison.
D. at least seven months after the event.

3. Most people find it difficult
A. to come to terms with the loss of a loved one.
B. to use two sets of knives and forks at mealtimes.
C. to open a carton of milk.
D. None of the above.

4. Coming to terms with gain
A. usually presents no problems.
B. can sometimes be as difficult as coming to terms with loss.
C. presents more problems than coming to terms with loss.
D. All of the above.

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