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The Spinoff Reviews New Zealand #36: Specsavers, Queen Street

We review the entire country and culture of New Zealand, one thing at a time. Today The Spinoff’s general manager Kerryanne Nelson visits Specsavers on Auckland’s main street.

I’d been having headaches on and off for a few months. I just thought it was part of life with a toddler and a job, so I took painkillers and started going to bed at 8pm. Then the headaches got bad. So bad that I decided to cut out all coffee (desperate) and alcohol (even more desperate) and started going to bed at the same time as my 18 month old baby just to avoid the throbbing. One night as my husband and I were trying to remember what episode of The Handmaid’s Tale we were up to I realised I couldn’t read the synopsis on the TV. He could.

The next day I booked into Specsavers for an eye test. I’d literally never entered a glasses store before. I was early. I gave them my name and started looking at the frames while I waited for my appointment. I remember thinking, ‘I won’t actually have to get glasses but I’ll try some on just to see what they look like’. They looked pretty bad. I looked like a person going to a dress up party as a comedy librarian.

Then I got called to do the automatic test. Basically you just look at some lights and flashes and it’s done in about three minutes. I thought it was strange that I didn’t have to answer anything about what I could see or couldn’t see but it was “just taking a scan of your eye”. Fancy!

Next I saw the optometrist. His name was Chris. He had glasses, which was very on brand. He put some kind of binoculars in front of my eyes and made me read out rows of letters. When I could only really read the first row I started getting a bit of a knot in my stomach, but he sounded really chill and I kept telling myself ‘he’s probably just testing me on the really hard ones’.

After the test he put the binoculars away and told me I needed glasses. My heart sped up. ‘Do you mean for reading and driving?’ I asked him. ‘No, for everything’. I immediately burst into tears and started low-key hyperventilating.

I know 100% well that needing glasses is actually NOT A BIG DEAL but at that moment it felt like the worst thing in the world and I couldn’t believe it. I’d always had good eyes. I used to have vision-offs with my friend and sometimes even win! Was my daughter going to hate them and not recognise me? Was my husband going to be all like ‘hmmmm, you look weird?’ I started to feel faint and the optometrist told me I could lie on the floor.

He was so kind. He told me that his eyes also have the same kind of astigmatism (rugby ball shaped, not round – a cool Kiwi analogy) and that he’d had to wear glasses for years. He told me that it was pretty common and not a big deal and to just breathe and take as much time as I needed. He talked to me for ages as I gradually felt calm enough to stand up again. He mocked up what the glasses would be like to see through and as soon as I put them on everything was vivid and not blurry anymore. He told me that my headaches should go away within a few days of wearing them, which made me cry again. I could go back drinking coffee and wine. Praise be.

Then, after that round of crying he took me out to the lady who showed me the frames. You can get two pairs for the price of one! (deal!) so I chose two sets way too quickly and paid and started walking to the office.

– Kerryanne Nelson

Verdict: Specsavers were very kind and lovely and non-judgemental to the crying lady. If you’re having weird headaches or squinting heaps, go and get your eyes checked.

Good or bad: As good as it could have been, given the circumstances.


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