Monday, 20 February 2017

Smiler and the Very Specific Spectacles {part 2}

Smiler needed new glasses, but there's this.  Technically he needed new glasses five months ago, after an eye test showed his vision had changed a bit, but ... well, just but.  Or maybe because.

Partly because there's been a lot going on, but mainly because it's always such an ordeal for Smiler, being fiddled with and people having their hands around his head (which he hates with a passion) and puts him in a horrible mood for the rest of the day.  We are reminded all over again how difficult his are, how non-standard, how awkward it is to get frames which work for him.  And I'm in a horrible mood for the rest of the day too, because it's hard work maneuvering his wheelchair around an added-on bit of supermarket, and he's stressed and therefore distressed, and I feel massively guilty because I haven't challenged every assumption that was made about his understanding and his needs.

Complete aside to getting glasses:
You have to pick your battles when you're parenting a young person like Smiler, and you have to accept that you can't make everyone see the incredible smile and the great sense of humour and the twinkle of mostly harmless mischief in those eyes - some people will only ever notice the wheelchair and the jerky movements and the noises.  But every time someone looks at him with pity, it hurts.  Swift and silent and sharp, like a dagger through the ribs, it hurts as I see him dismissed and overlooked, but so often there's nothing I can do.  I can't make people see what I see.  But even recognising that hurts too - a duller pain, a tired ache that clouds my joy in him.  An endless source of parental guilt, feeling I should do more, why didn't I say this or that, why didn't I grab them and force them to acknowledge all the good stuff - all the marvelous jokes he's made, the hugs he's given, the awfulness he's had to deal with and has overcome, and with such grace...but they don't see that - they can't.  And I can't make them.

Back to the glasses. 
So we - I - had put it off.  But when his glasses were sat on (actually properly sat on.  By Smiler.  Don't ask me how - I have no clue) we had no choice.  It was time - it couldn't be put off any longer.  But really, how bad could it possibly be?

We visited Turners Opticians in Fishponds, and it turned out not to be bad at all - not at all!  A lovely lady directed us to her more experienced colleague, but sorted out some admin for us and chatted while we waited for a couple of minutes.  Lovely gentleman listened to the things we needed him to know about this, showed us a couple of pairs that might work -ish, then found some that ticked all the boxes - This has never happened I wanted to shout at him, but I thought that might make me look a bit peculiar.  We've never found a pair that weren't some sort of compromise before, in over ten years of glasses wearing.  He casually chatted to Smiler as he took the measurements he needed (involving nifty little rulers and things), and commented that he would switch out the stiff plastic nose pad bits with softer squishier plastic nose pad bits (there's a chance that might not be the technical term) so they would be more comfortable for Smiler to wear for long periods.  I should point out that by this time I was a tiny bit in love with the man,  A moment later I was certain I'd misheard when he said they should be ready to collect on Tuesday - we're used to that car mechanic type slow inhale and exhale followed by "well, it'll be three weeks I expect, since they're bifocals" - three days (two if you don't count Sunday) seemed ludicrous.  Lovely Man offered Smiler a high five, and we were done.

I did think afterwards that it all seemed a bit too good to be true - maybe my love had deafened me instead of blinding me, and he had meant three Tuesdays time?  Or that they would cost a mere one hundred of your finest English pounds?  Or that they would for Smiler perfectly if only he had that teeny bit of plastic surgery and moved his face two inches further around on his head?

Still there we were, collecting Smiler from school on Tuesday when we got a call saying they had arrived.  And Turners is on the way home from school, so what choice did we have?  They were equally lovely when we popped in, and recognised Smiler immediately which shows that there is consistency of staffing - another of those elements which make such a difference in helping Smiler feel secure and therefore cooperative.

So, to all the staff at Turners, whether I'm in love with you or not*, I wanted to say thank you.

We say these words so often that they're pretty much meaningless now, and instead of letting you know how grateful I am for what you did, it sounds trite, and empty.  So I'll be clearer.

Thank you to the lady on the phone, when I rang on Friday night to ask how busy your opticians is on a Saturday, and didn't even pause when I asked about access before explaining that you have a ramp and that it's usually pretty quiet first thing.

Thank you for taking wheelchairs (and pushchairs and walking frames) into account when you decided where to put chairs and displays and mirrors and desks in your store.

Thank you for approaching us when we bundled in from the cold that Saturday, the five of us, complete with wheelchair and ever-so-slightly terrified expressions about how this was going to go.

Thank you for recognising that this wasn't going to be straightforward and seeking assistance from another, instead of smiling a fixed smile with your eyes a little wide and hoping for the best.

Thank you for smiling and making eye contact with Smiler, greeting him and making him feel welcome.

Thank you for listening as I listed the details which needed to be taken into account, instead of immediately assuming you knew what would be best.

Thank you for not making me feel I was being judged as I explained we don't want to top up the value of the NHS prescription voucher.

Thank you for taking the time to explain why you recommended what you did, instead of thinking I wouldn't be interested or didn't want or need to know.

Thank you for working with my son, as you took the measurements you needed, for disguising any impatience with chat and encouragement.

Thank you for listening as he spoke, for reading in between the lines and responding to him.

Thank you, for treating him with kindness and respect.  For treating all of us with kindness and respect.

Thank you for that high five you offered him as we finished - he was delighted, and you can't know what it means to us to see him invited to join in with ordinary things like this.

Thank you.

For the record, this is what you get when you ask Smiler to smile.

*I'm joking, I'm not really in love with you**.


○ ○ ○


  1. Thank you so much for your kind words, it was our pleasure looking after you all. This is the nicest blog I have ever read, the fact that it is about the care a patient received from my team makes me immensely proud of them. Peter Turner.

    1. As well you should be, Peter - proud of all your team that is. They were all wonderful, and the relaxed atmosphere meant Smiler didn't get stressed and was able to concentrate. Thank you for leading your team the way you do - it's great to find somewhere that clearly places such high regard on customer satisfaction, and that attitude shines through at every step.

  2. Hello

    I am Andy, the guy who had the pleasure of looking after you all the other day.
    It has taken a couple of days for my ego to shrink down sufficiently so I could reach my keyboard to thank you for your very kind words.

    Mr Turner has already thanked you above officially, but such kind words needed a personal touch too. At Turners we all believe in taking care of all our kids. We do get that nobody enjoys having to wear specs so whatever we can do to ease the stress is the least we can do.

    Mr Turner is too modest to mention that he took ages in planning the displays and layouts, but the results are pretty neat. Accessibility is a huge part of this process.

    In some ways I get the best bit of the job because I can go out and have a bit of a laugh and a giggle with everyone, but the most important part of the job is to get the specs sorted quickly and correctly. Everyone plays a huge part of this from finding the best value frames so we can do specs on the NHS voucher, and finding lens companies who can turn excellent lenses around quickly as possible.

    We are lucky to have the best suppliers around.

    Having said all of that without customers coming in we would just be stood around in a big shiny room. So in all honesty the thanks should go to you too.

    As with all our kids remember if (When :)) the glasses get knocked or bumped just call in for a tweak. We do get to know some of our youngsters very well over the years.

    once again thanks a million for all the kind words.


    1. Thank you, Lovely Man Andy! I find that people can be very quick to complain and grumble when things don't quite go perfectly, so I like to balance the scales a little by making my feelings known when we experience service that is above and beyond the ordinary. I think it's really important that individuals like yourselves know that those extra few minutes that you take, that extra grin (or high five!) is recognised and truly appreciated by the people you come into contact with.

      I hope that Peter knows the decisions regarding displays and layout have absolutely paid off - it meant that we could simply get around without having to think about it, which is something of a novelty when you're used to pushing a wheelchair around!

      Thanks again - you made what is usually a difficult and stressful experience into something that couldn't be more different. I'm positive that we'll see you soon as both Smiler and his brother wear glasses, but now we won't feel the need to put it off as we know we'll get an excellent service, with a smile.


If reading this has made you smile, or left you feeling sad; if you're fuming in anger, or shaking your head in disgust; if you'd like to share something, or just want to say hi, please do so here. Thank you.