I finally got myself some new contact lenses—and just in time, too! There's a large eyewear shop called Glass Baba that's barely two hundred yards from where I live. Glass Baba has a nasty habit of aggressive audio advertising: the store blares commercials about itself on loudspeakers that carry the sound over the sidewalk and into the nearby traffic intersection. But maybe that's the power of marketing: despite there being four or five eyewear shops in close proximity to each other in my neighborhood, I chose the most obnoxious one to obtain my new contacts.
I got there around 9:30PM. The cheerful girl who greeted me was cute and walked with a limp. She said she'd seen me often, strolling past her vitrine. I was asked to remove my current lenses and wait five minutes before the eye test. The test itself consisted of only one step: that machine known to all eyeglass and contact wearers—the binocular one that shows an unfocused landscape which gradually becomes more focused as the technology homes in on the strength of your vision. With that reading done, I was led back to the counter and quizzed about what sort of contacts I'd been using, and what sort I wanted. I learned some new vocabulary during this exchange: astigmatism (of which I have a slight case) is nan-shi. Myopia, or nearsightedness, is geun-shi.
So—which contacts did I want? The ones for astigmatism or the ones for nearsightedness? I assumed there must be some overlap between the two types: the lenses that corrected astigmatism would have to correct for nearsightedness as well, no? In the end, I chose the contacts that treated myopia. I then had to choose between some sort of polymer lens versus some other material. One was slightly harder than the other, apparently, and somewhat less permeable. I didn't care; I simply wanted the lenses that cost around W70,000, the traditional price I've paid for contacts in Korea for years.*
I had told the girl that I'd been using bimonthly-wear lenses: use and throw away every two months. To my great delight, she gave me a pair of one-year extended-wear lenses—a single blessed pair, not a goddamn twelve-pack. I haven't worn such lenses in years, and I'm glad to see that they still exist. For a while, in the US, such lenses had fallen out of favor because of issues with gas-permeability: some people would keep the extended-wear lenses on their eyeballs for so long that there would be oxygen deprivation, severe irritation, or, in the more frightening cases, neovascularization, i.e., new blood vessels growing and weaving themselves into the lenses, making them nearly impossible to remove from the eye.** I imagine the tech has greatly improved since the 1990s, making extended-wear lenses much safer these days.
The girl gave me a tiny plastic lens-washer that brought back memories of high school, along with a lens case and cleaning/storage fluid—all for W70,000. I thanked her and the gentleman working with her, then was on my way. I have to say, I love buying contacts in Korea. It's easily one of the smoothest, most painless transactions I've ever engaged in, and the price can't be beaten. So now I'm good for another year. Bye-bye, Cute Girl Who Limps. Thank you.
*I've mentioned it several times before, but it bears repeating: in the US, where Costco is supposedly the "cheap" option when purchasing contacts, the eye exam alone will cost you $90, and a year's supply of lenses will cost you over $150. That's nearly $300 for something that will last only a year. Paying barely $70 in Korea is so, so worth my while.
**This phenomenon was directly related to the aforementioned oxygen deprivation: capillaries would rise to the surface of the eye in search of O2.