How to ask a question: The optician edition


I’ve just returned from a rather awkward and unpleasant visit to the optician…

Let me start by saying this is the same optician I’ve used for the last four years. I don’t think we would ever be capable of being friends, but I don’t have to like someone to “work with them”. That’s what being professional is all about. It’s only once a year, so before now I’ve never felt the need to go elsewhere. That has probably changed now.

Issue 1:

  • Optician: Look at the black spots. Do they look blacker with or without the lens?
  • Me: Neither. They look the same.
  • Optician: That is impossible.
  • Me: With the lens the spots look bigger and more defined, but the “intensity of the blackness” is the same. Do you mean which look clearer, or do you mean the which actually look “more black”?
  • Optician: Stop overcomplicating it. Do they look more black with or without the lens?
  • Me: Neither. Like I said, the “level of blackness” is the same, but the clarity is different. What are you asking for, the “blackness” or the clarity.
  • Optician: Can you just answer my question?
  • Me: I can’t answer the question unless I understand the question.

Issue 2:

  • Optician: Look at the two sets of stripes. Which look clearer?
  • Me: Where should I be looking? If I look at the vertical stripes they look very clear and the horizontal stripes look burred. If I look at the horizontal stripes, they look clear and the vertical stripes look blurred. If I try to look between the two they look equally clear/blurred. What do you want me to do?
  • Optician: Please just answer my question.

Issue 3:

  • Optician: Look at the “+” symbol. Do the lines above and below line up in the centre of the “+”.
  • Me: The top one does, but the bottom one is kind-of jumping between being in line and being slightly out of line. Also, the bottom one sometimes goes very pale.
  • Optician: Please don’t give extra information. Just answer my question. Do they line up.
  • Me: If the bottom line is moving between sometimes lining up and sometimes not, what answer should I give?
  • Optician: Do they line up or don’t they?
  • Me: Sometimes.

Issue 4:

  • Optician: Can you see the improvement by using this lens when reading 5pt font at this distance.
  • Me: Yes.
  • Optician: That means you should probably consider having your glasses adjusted to allow for that.
  • Me: OK, but I never read something that small at that distance, so does it really matter?
  • Optician: Well, I’m not able to test you for 10 hours straight at your normal resolution to see if it is giving you eye strain.
  • Me: I’m looking at a monitor pretty much from the time I wake up to the time I go to bed. If this were an issue, would I feel like I had eye strain?
  • Optician: I’m telling you it’s a issue.
  • Me: I understand that. I’m just trying to get an handle on if my current reading habits are affected by this, or is it only an issue if I want to do something I never do?
  • Optician: Well, you will probably just change the resolution of your screen to counter it.
  • Me: Well, I’ve not changed the resolution of my screen and I am not feeling any noticeable eye strain, so do you think it’s actually an issue?
  • Optician: I’ve just shown you it is an issue. You said the print looked clearer.
  • Me: Yes, but only when I do something I never do. My point is, is this affecting my “normal” life or are we trying to fix a problem that has never and probably never will manifest itself?

Maybe someone will read this and think I was being a complete jerk, but I was genuinely unable to understand some of the things I was asked to do. What’s more, when I asked for clarification it was not forthcoming.

On my way home I was thinking how similar this situation was to things that happen in the IT world. People are generally really bad at asking questions (see here) and very quick to complain when they don’t get the answer to the question they think they have asked…



PS. On a brighter note, swimming went well this morning. I’ve started to incorporate sprints into my sessions.

Author: Tim...

DBA, Developer, Author, Trainer.

4 thoughts on “How to ask a question: The optician edition”

  1. OMG, Tim… Your questions are profound, I gotta say. But the jerk in this case was the optician who clearly had little idea of what he was doing or asking!
    And the analogy is very true…

  2. The optician was just being a complete idiot! Like they say, never argue with an idiot as they would eventually drag you to their level and then beat you with experience!


  3. Jan: I believe she has been doing this for 30+ years. I’m not sure she has continued to improve over that time. 🙂

    Aman: “beat you with experience” – Definitely. 🙂



  4. Ugh, change your optician! I’ve had several over the years, and have never encountered the issues you have in your one session! (Although I do regret letting them starting with my bad eye, the first time I ever had a peripheral vision test; not only could I not see the central red dot until they made it absolutely massive, I hadn’t a clue what was going on until we did the other eye! D’oh!)

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