Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The Eyes Have It

Well I’m still in the UK for another few days, basking in the balmy force eight gales, floods and shiver inducing weather of a classic English summer before returning to Jakarta’s humid rice belch.

Feeling a bit out of touch with Indonesian events my ears pricked up when I turned on the BBC radio news last Monday. Apparently, The Iraqi soccer squad have, quite astonishingly, won the Asian Cup tournament in Jakarta. The Iraqis beat the Indonesian team’s nemesis, Saudi Arabia, in a tense final. I’m sure that this is a popular victory around the world and let’s hope that the team’s success provides a bit of light relief from the general misery and sectarian turmoil of the post Shock and Awe Iraq.

According to BBC Radio 4, however, there was so much celebratory shooting into the air after the match (in Baghdad, not Jakarta presumably) that a couple of people were actually killed by bullets as they fell back down to Earth. Personally I prefer to spend post footy match celebrations with a bottle of Bintang and ESPN Sports desk, but each to his own I suppose. Still, perhaps in the afterlife, Saddam is looking down on events (or more probably up) and smiling that moustachioed, reptilian rictus that we all miss.

Moving right along, instead of boring you with more pedestrian tales from the UK I thought that this week I’d relate a story from Jakarta that happened to me about a month ago. Over the last few years, various friends of mine have been extolling the benefits of laser eye surgery to me – a relatively new procedure known commonly by the acronym LASIK. I thought that I’d finally put my money where my eyes are and have a go myself.

Basically, four eyed freaks such as yours truly are now able to have laser beams fired across their eyeballs, reshaping the front of their corneas and obviating the need to fiddle about with glasses and/or contact lenses any more. Having worn glasses and lenses since the age of seven, the opportunity to do away with both at a stroke seemed almost miraculous.

On the other hand, the thought of having laser beams fired into your eyes is a disconcerting one and for me, rather conjured up images of Sean Connery as James Bond in that movie where he ends up strapped down to a table as a laser beam gets closer and closer to his…ahem…family jewels shall we say.

LASIK surgery is now on offer and being heavily promoted at a few places around Jakarta. I located a clinic in my local area on Jl. Tendean, that performs the procedure for Rp.15,000,000. This is a fair amount of cash admittedly but perhaps not so much to pay for essentially what amounts to having a new pair of eyes.

I was quite nervous before the operation however. Not only was I going to have laser beams scorching my eyeballs, but there would also be an Indonesian chap on the other end of the machine. Now I’m all for resisting the obvious Indonesian stereotypes that are generally propagated but the very future of my eyes was at stake here. It proved hard to stop my brain from conjuring nightmarish scenarios that would every now and then poke above the meniscus of my unconscious mind.

I imagined the laser machine seizing up halfway through the operation. I then foresaw the optician’s profuse apologies – “Sorry Mr, machine broken, we will send your eyes to our other branch in North Jakarta.” He would then scoop out my eyes with a teaspoon, pack them in ice and send them by motorcycle Ojeg across town to be lasered with myself in absentia.

Three hours later, the trusty Ojeg driver would return only to trip over whilst walking back into the surgery. My eyes would fly across the reception area and fall down a lift shaft where they would be found by the janitor another two hours later, covered in fluff and oil from elevator’s lifting cable. After a brief rinse in the Mandi my vital organs would be returned to my face (in the wrong sockets) and I’d be awarded a 50% discount by the clinic to offset the costs of a white stick and a few Braille lessons.

In the event, though, my worst fears proved unfounded. The whole procedure was performed very professionally using hi-tech, state of the art, computer controlled machines and only took about ten minutes. Most importantly, it didn’t hurt. I was sent home with a huge pair of dark glasses and some special eyedrops and was told not to open my eyes for about six hours.

When I awoke later the results were pretty impressive. I had about 95% perfect vision (the other 5% took another couple of weeks to achieve as my eyes healed from the operation). I now have 20/20 vision and am able to enjoy the stunning vistas and beautiful slagheaps of downtown Jakarta with crystal clarity.

I celebrated my success by enacting a ritual destruction of my now redundant spectacles involving household tools and riding over the poor things with my bicycle. The best money I’ve ever spent I reckon. So it’s clear vision for me from now on; well, at least until my rampant self abuse catches up with me and the lights finally go dark in about 6 months time.