I can't go to Lenscrafters, you see, because I have been seeing the same glasses guy since I was a teenager. He's a nice guy, and he has a private shop in my home town. Not a chain store or a franchise. Just his own business, making glasses and selling them to loyal customers like me. It wouldn't be right to go somewhere else.
I am still ashamed about last summer when I cheated on my glasses guy. I was walking through the mall when I saw the giant sign in the window of Lenscrafters. "Buy any regular glasses and get a pair of prescription sunglasses for free." What? Free sunglasses? I imagined myself reading crystal clear words off a page in the bright sunlight, reading sharp clear street signs as I drove down the highway, seeing and not squinting at the same time. It was too much to resist. I went into Lenscrafters and got the glasses.
A few weeks later, I needed them adjusted. They kept sliding down my nose. The Lenscrafters guy had tried to make them fit me right, but he didn't know my ears and my nose like my own glasses guy does. So, I brought my sunglasses into my guy's shop. I hung my head and handed them over.
"Can you adjust these for me?" I mumbled.
His eyes widened and then turned misty as he slowly reached out and took the glasses from my hand. "You didn't buy these here," he said.
"I know," I whispered. "There was a sale and..."
"How much did you pay for these?" he asked, his voice just a little accusatory.
"Nothing," I said. "They were free with the other pair I bought."
"The OTHER pair?"
He looked at me then looked away.
"I'm sorry," I said.
He busied himself with heating the frames and bending them to fit my ears and my tiny bridgeless nose. When he placed them on my face, they were perfect.
"I won't go back there," I said. "Not ever."
The glasses guy isn't the only one who has me in his pocket. I am also a helpless captive of my dentist.
I went to the same dentist all of my life. Year after year he would rave about my perfect teeth. No braces needed. Never a cavity. Straight, healthy and strong. I liked my dentist, but the pressure to be perfect placed a terrific strain on me. If I ever did get a cavity, I would be overcome with shame. Plus, as I grew from child to adult, I started to dislike the perky little office and its too-cute decorations. I didn't want to look at rows of ceramic frogs or stuffed animals. I wanted to go to a grown up dentist office -- perhaps one closer to my home.
One day, I got a letter in the mail. My dentist was retiring. Here was my chance, I thought. I'll keep my final appointment because it's already scheduled. Then, afterwards, I'll bolt. I'll choose my own dentist for the first time in my life.
I was lying flat on my back in the vinyl chair, scanning the room, saying a mental "goodbye forever" to the bullfrogs in bonnets that lined the shelves of the office, when I heard my dentist's voice in the hall. A wave of nostalgia rushed over me, but I thought, "No, it's been a good run; but it's time to move on."
Suddenly I looked up and saw a very young face bending over me. He couldn't have been much more than twenty. And my dentist's voice was saying to me, "Krista, this is Dr. Lindquist. He's taking over all my patients. He'll be your dentist now." Then he added to his colleague, "You won't have any trouble with Krista. Her teeth are always perfect!"
"Wonderful," I said to the smiling boy hovering above me.
By the time he retires, I thought to myself, I'll be beyond the need for dentists.
I settled in for my cleaning and tried to avoid looking at the mob of grinning, gloating frogs.
Loyalty, I have decided, is a kind of slavery for people who are just a little bit neurotic -- like me.