My family has been in the optical business for as long as I can remember. My late grandfather, Martin, was an optometrist. My father, Shelly, is an optician. My sister Elyse is also an optometrist. I was in the business for a while, mostly on the sales end. That's no big surprise.
Martin died in 1963, when I was 5 years old. I really don't have many memories of him. One thing that I do remember is he bought me my first Lionel Train set. I wish I still had it.
Years later, I met someone that worked with my grandfather. Tony Sena was also an optician. He got his first job with Martin when he got out of school. Tony had hands that could adjust or repair any pair of glasses. Believe me, this is an inborn skill; you have it or you don't. I don't believe you can learn it. I tried and failed.
What started this line of thought was my yearly visit to our family optometrist, Dr. Neil Rubin. When I mentioned, in conversation, that I wrote this column, he asked if he was going to be my next subject. I laughed. I said I could make something of this visit. Here's your moment of on line fame, Neil.
When Marcy and I needed to find a new eye doctor, I asked my sister, Elyse, who lives in Illinois for some help. She recommended Neil, who was one of her classmates. Best part is that his office is only five minutes from our house.
I've been seeing Neil for about eleven years now. Not only is he a nice man, but a good optometrist. He does the most thorough eye exam I've ever had. My pupils, dilated from the exam, are itchy, too: thanks Neil. You said it would only last two hours. It's been four hours.
I thought I might need a new prescription, as I've just started using the large print section at the local library. Even when wearing glasses, I sometimes have a hard time reading really small print. It's another sign of aging and certainly not one of my favourites. Neil told me my right eye has improved, while the left has stayed the same. I did not need a new prescription.
When I was a kid, I had w a "lazy" left eye. The only good thing about this was I had to wear some cool patches on the right side of my glasses. My favorite was the pirate one.
Marcy, Elyse and I wear glasses. Elyse has worn them since she was a toddler. I've worn glasses since first grade. Marcy got them in grammar school.
Elyse's two children wear glasses. My kids don't need them and probably won't for many years. They both have 20/20 vision.
How did that happen? There are bad eyes on both sides of the family. Michelle and Melissa are both very lucky that somehow the bad-eye gene skipped them.
I started my sales career working for an optical retailer, where my father also worked. Mine was supposed to be a summer job, but it stretched into five years. I tried to learn about working in the lab. I just didn't have the skills. I admire a man, such as Tony Sena, for having great hands.
I moved out of the lab, and into the sales end. I was very good at that, along with merchandising and product knowledge. One day my father called me and asked if I would consider moving into the main office, working with the stores in the order department. It would entail taking all their lens and frame orders, and processing them with the appropriate vendors.
I ended up working with a specific group of stores, and I was the "go to guy," which store managers call when they needed information about new products, where they could get it, and how fast they could get it. I also ended up doing cost comparisons between all the optical labs that we used, and presented that to the owners. That study ended up saving them a lot of money. Cha-ching, I thought, a bonus would be coming my way for finding all those savings.
Was I wrong. Not only did I not get a bonus, or even a raise, but it ended up creating more work for me. Now I had to figure out what order went to what lab depending on cost, how fast we needed it, and the exact product needed. Depending on the prescription, it could go to one of several labs and I had to determine the most cost effective way to do it. It proves once again that no good deed goes unpunished.
I also ended up working in those optical stores part time and enjoyed the sales end. I enjoyed it so much I ended up redoing the commission structure for a group of stores; afterwards, the sales associates made more money. On most days, I'd make much more in commission that I would in hourly wage.
Sometime during my time at this company, my father left. What was I to do? I was the son of the boss, with a certain amount of job protection.
Once the boss was gone, I was on my own. That's not to say I did a bad job. Quite the opposite; I went out of my way to do more than I had to. After Dad was gone, I had to show my worth all over again. I kept my job because I was good at it, not because he was a boss.
I won't get into all the gory details, but my direct supervisor was a jerk. It was only a matter of time before I quit or he fired me. Then another man came in to supervise the department. I thought he was okay. He turned out to be worse than was my first supervisor. I knew that was the end.
Once I left that job, knowledge of that industry soon faded away, and I knew I wouldn't be back. I leave that to my sister. Elyse is a great doctor, and just returned to a job she really loved after being away for five years. She said it was as if she never left, that's good for her.
Remember to get your annual eye exam. Always remember this one thing: your eyes are the door to your soul and heart. Take good care of them. I do.
Matt Seinberg lives on Long Island, a few minutes east of New York City. He looks at everything around him and notices much. Somewhat less cynical than dyed in the wool New Yorkers, Seinberg believes those who don't see what he does like reading about what he sees and what it means to him. Seinberg columns revel in the silly little things of life and laughter as well as much well-directed anger at inept, foolish public officials. Mostly, Seinberg writes for those who laugh easily at their own foibles as well as those of others.
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