So, the country is slowly but surely evolving from the hide-in-your-attic, the-sky-is-falling, why-should-I-pay-for-a-year’s-supply-of-contact-lenses-when-we-are-all-going-to-die mentality.

Have you had your vaccine? I have. Has this changed my day-to-day existence? Yes; I no longer have an excuse not to dog- and babysit every weekend. (Hey, prior to the vaccine, I sat around doing nothing out of love for my family. I am just naturally a giving person.)

In the office, we still wear masks. Our patients still wear masks. Guess we’ll have to start brushing our teeth again soon, but that can wait a little longer.

My wife and I have gained the courage to get back to the gym. I for one was surprised that I had not declined in my ability to bench press 12 pounds and then spend the next hour shooting the breeze with the lifeguards while my wife actually exercised.

One thing that didn’t change was eating out. I did get more particular about ordering foods I can detect sneeze remnants on, though. Also, before COVID, I would eat anything. Now, I eat everything but sea urchin. Getting picky.

In large part, optometry was not permanently destroyed—just a little bruised. We’re recovering and now able to ponder the many things that can help us in the next pandemic, which will probably come out of Congress from what I can tell.

First, the fallout from COVID did not improve anyone’s eyesight. Years ago, in a smoky room in Philadelphia, a few of us barely-passing optometry students came up with something people would have to use every day that would screw up their eyes. This is how the idea of the sandpaper contact lens came to be. Since we were only dreaming, someone suggested we call a college dropout and get him to use all his newly-acquired free time to create this monster. To protect the innocent, I’ll just call him “Gill Bates.” Unfortunately, Gill moved on to his other project, which eventually still screwed up everyone’s eyes, before this one could take off. All’s well that ends well, I guess.

I also recall when pharmaceutical companies made the important decision to quit trying to cure heart disease to make room for the more important research on eye drops to treat itchy eyes. Big feather in their caps. Now their sights are set on eliminating presbyopia. Cancer can wait. Priorities.

I knew there was some correlation between stress and various ocular conditions, but I am truly shocked at the increased numbers of posterior vitreous detachments, retinal detachments, chalazia and formerly very happy glasses wearers who are now so sick of mask-induced foggy glasses that they want contact lenses for the first time. Too bad they are all 53 years old, their prescription is plano -3.25x137 with a +2.50 add and they just took a new job working on computers all day. Darn that Gill Bates! It would be much easier if they all just stuck with the retinal detachments.

And my staffers? God bless ’em. They are all pregnant. Well, not Bill. Not yet.

Now that I am vaccinated, I do sense that my patients, overall, are less scared to come in and are quicker to pull their masks off their noses when the phoropter fogs up. I guess they think that my vaccination protects them. I’m sorry, did I miss something?

On my end, I decided, now that the pandemic has been going on for more than a year, maybe, as a first-line healthcare provider, I should learn what the symptoms of COVID-19 are. Here’s what I found: headaches, body aches…uh, check! Did I lose my sense of smell? Well, it was certainly damaged during my all-male college experience (self defense). And my sense of taste? Have you seen how I dress? Case closed. It turns out I have had COVID since 1992.

You cannot defeat an optometrist on a mission. Even a worldwide pandemic cannot keep us down for very long. Get vaccinated. Unmask. See you at the disco.

Dr. Vickers received his optometry degree from the Pennsylvania College of Optometry in 1979 and was clinical director at Vision Associates in St. Albans, WV, for 36 years. He is now in private practice in Dallas, where he continues to practice full-scope optometry. He has no financial interests to disclose.