Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Visit to the Glasses Market

I've always needed glasses for reading. Scratch that...I've always liked glasses for reading. I have a teensy astigmatism and it will randomly cause headaches if I read without glasses, but only sometimes. Many times I can go without, but I've found that over the last 6 months or so, I always need my glasses to read.

Another mildly associated but uninteresting story: I bite my nails, or rather, I bit my nails before coming to Shanghai and realizing that there very feasibly could be particles of human feces and loogies and snot rockets all over my hands at any given moment. So I used to do my own acrylic French manicures back in the States. I was good at it, but it required the use of nail glue, which is essentially superglue.

So one day I found that my glasses and my nail glue in my purse had found each other and made out, and that there was a thin film of scratched and immovable dried glue over the left lens. Being poor and being in the US where prescription specs cost a good hundred bucks or more, I dealt with it. For two years or so I read with my one and only pair of horribly scratched, dreadfully cloudy glasses.

Fast forward to this weekend--Shanghai is known for its vast shopping opportunities, and there is a specific market for nearly everything if you look hard enough. If you need clothes, head to the fabric market for custom-made tailored items. If you'd like some fake Chanel bags (but made with real leather), they're a subway stop away at the fake market. If you find yourself in need of your own personal copy of the Mona Lisa, go to the art market. Beautiful pearls for a fraction of the cost of the same items in the West can be found at the pearl market. And crickets...well, you get the idea.

Now I always knew there was a glasses market, but as I'm not the adventurous sort I never made the time to bop over there. That changed this weekend. During a day of shopping my depression away with Chelsea, I figured I needed to end the torture of reading with stupid, broken lenses once and for all.

Off of Shanghai Railway Station stop at the cross of lines 3 and 4 is a little alley, and underneath this alley is an enormous eyeglass supermall filled to the brim with eyeglass frames and custom lenses, all available at personally-bargained prices.

Crowded on Saturday.

The wares.

I settled on a pair of black and a pair of rosey mauve frames, and gave the kind fellow working the booth my old pair of glasses. He then put them into a machine that, while in concept seems like it would be from the future, looks like it was made in about 1985:

Ghetto, yet accurate, prescription reader.

Within a minute, the man handed me back my old glasses and a small slip of paper with my exact prescription written on it. He took Chelsea's stuff and did the same. Then off the man went to work:

Now, to backtrack, we had been told by our friend Dennis who had gone the previous week that the whole glasses-making process took about 20 minutes for him. Not so for us. We spent a good deal of time wandering around, checking out other merchandise, and randomly finding other things to take pictures of, like this:

These glasses bend over.

The red ones I really thought were cool AFTER I had bought my other two pairs.

I fell in love with these things. Chelsea, not so much:

Anyway, two hours and 250 kuai (around 40USD) later, I had two brand-new prescription pairs of beautiful glasses (no pictures--don't have any--sorry) and a nagging feeling that I kind of wish my eyesight was worse so I could go back and get more. Sometimes it REALLY pays to live in Shanghai.

1 comment:

Shady Grove Eye Vision Care said...

Contact lenses are available for people with astigmatism. There is considerable time and skill involved in fitting patients with these lenses but it can be done for all astigmatisms if the patient is highly motivated to try.