I guess I have to face it. The time has come when it’s getting more and more difficult to bullshit people into believing I’m still only 29. It’s probably those white hairs that insist on making such an unwelcome appearance when I’m viewed in profile mode; and claim as I might that in fact I only painted them in to make myself look more distinguished, I’m finding that there are actually one or two people who tell me the equivalent of ‘pull the other one’.
Perhaps another dead give away is the fact that my eyesight isn’t what it used to be. And though my vari-focal glasses allow me to see all distances in focus by the simple expedient of raising or lowering my head, my reading glasses are something else.
I used to use them for working on the computer but lately they really haven’t helped at all – either that or the computer monitor deliberately detects when the reading glasses come out and then acts all funny so I can’t read the words dancing in front of me.
I have always got my glasses in the past from a highly respected chain or two in the UK. You have to make an appointment two weeks in advance to see the ophthalmologist; you turn up at your appointed time and normally only have to wait for a maximum of 20 minutes. But the glasses take up to 10 days to arrive and this causes a problem if I am only back in blighty for just over a week.
So today I decided it was high time I got an eye check up. I jumped into the car and pottered off to the Mall of the Emirates and found loads of opticians. After inspecting some of them and crossing them off my mental list (I can’t stand shop staff standing at the entrance with arms folded, waiting for some hapless individual to dare cross their threshold) I plumped for one called Pearl Opticians, right next to Carrefour, and loped inside.
There I am met by a smiling young Filipina.
How much is it to have one's eyes tested, I ask.
It's free sir.
Oh, well can I make an appointment for an eye test please?
Yes sir. Just one minute....
Filipina backs off to the rear of the shop keeping her eyes fixed on two Arab guys who are trying on kool shades from a rack at the front of the store. It is clear she is not going to remove her eyes from them for one second. She calls over her shoulder to another Filipina to take over on ‘Arab watch duty’ and then goes into the back to ask a third Filipina to come out.
Yes sir. Please fill in your personal details on this form, she says, circling name, Date of Birth and phone number. Do I detect a slight tweak of that smile when I decide to play honest and give my real DoB?
The rest doesn’t need filling in, she tells me
I give back the form, asking when I might be able to get an appointment for my eye test.
Oh sir. So sorry to keep you waiting. Please come now to the eye test room!
I am ushered to a high chair and sit through the various tests: which has darker black circles? - red or green?
Which leg of the criss-cross pattern is stronger?
Can you read the bottom line (errr… actually I can’t read the top line!)
Eventually the tests are all over and I am escorted outside once again. I am told about the different lens options, but they being reading glasses only I go for the cheapest.
How long will it take to make up the order, I ask handing over my old frames.
I'm sorry sir. Because of Ramadhan we cannot be as quick as we would normally like.
Sure, I understand, I answer. So they will be ready...??
Around 2.30 sir (it is now 12.20).
You mean 2.30 today?
Yes sir. Sorry sir. We cannot do any faster!
Then that will be fine, I say magnanimously, wondering what a normal turn around time would be.
So I have two hours to kill. Well, I need some new trousers so let’s take a look in some of the clothing stores. But it being Ramadhan, all the good stuff has already been snapped up. Never mind; let’s go see what is on offer at the Outlet Mall – an out-of-town shopping centre which sells itself on having the biggest discounts in Dubai.
I drive the half hour to the Mall, and wander inside. OK. It is certainly stuffed full of fashion shops, and every single sign on every single window shouts at you what a bargain you are going to find inside (50%? 60%? 75%? even 90% off!) but the place is virtually deserted.
I find a couple of shops that I have just inspected in the Mall of the Emirates. The same trousers on sale, but both cost 20 dirhams more than I saw at MoE. And a much smaller choice as well. No wonder the place is deserted.
I head back into town and get to the MoE at 2.30. I go to Pearl Optics, but no Filipinas are in sight. There has been a shift change and I am greeted by an Arab lady – she looks Jordanian.
Errr, I was here two hours ago, I begin waving my till receipt.
Oh yes, she cuts in, lifting the receipt out of my hot and stickies, and goes over to a shelf on the wall. Here you are Mr Brian. Please try them on. They are good? Yes?
They are good, yes, I assure her, thanking her very much as she stamps my receipt, and I back out of the shop.
I am impressed.
Excellent service; excellent price; excellent job done. What a lovely change!
Could the opticians in the UK learn a thing or two from these guys!
I pass by a full length mirror.
I like what I see.
All I need do now is to top up on the hair maintenance; and perhaps for the time being at least, I’ll try passing myself off for 35.
Who was it who said that old age is not for wimps?