When I was a wee young thing, half a grasshopper high, my eyes didn’t work quite the way they should have. One eye looked that way, the other this way, and whatever I perceived, it wasn’t the “norm.” I needed to get it fixed.
And so, every few weeks, I would sit in an examination room with my father and Dr. Friendly, looking at charts and graphs and figures while everyone else figured out what exactly was wrong and how it could be fixed. One day, Dr. Friendly conjured the simplest ophthalmological exam the world has ever known—the letter chart.
For me, however, it wasn’t an illuminated mish-mash of capitals shrinking in size on a distant wall. It was a single black letter on a piece of white plastic, placed right in front of my face.
“Ok, Jeffy,” Dr. Friendly intoned with a Santa Claus jollity, “tell me which way the fingers on the E are pointing.”
I looked at the letter, then up at Dr. Friendly. I looked behind me at my dad, in whose lap I was comfortably sitting. “Go ahead, Jeffer,” Dad prodded me. “Where are they pointing?”
I looked at the letter again and wrinkled my four-year-old brow. My rosy-red cheeks flushed with a brighter hue—almost orange—as I reached up to fudge with my oversized blond curls.
Dad and Dr. Friendly were getting impatient. “Come on!” they both pushed me, “where are the fingers pointing?” They knew I could see well enough to recognize that there was a letter, and both knew I was old enough to know what the letter was. Why wouldn’t I just say the fingers on the E were pointing to the right?
After another few minutes of more impatient pushing and prodding, I looked at them both, exasperated. My hands were in my hair and my face contorted with such anxiety—more than a little four-year-old was used to feeling.
“Which one?!?” I blurted out, almost at the point of tears. They both stopped, looked at me stupefied, then looked back at the plastic card.
It hadn’t occurred to them that there were two Es Dr. Friendly had shown me—a white one and a black one. How could I possibly have known which E they were talking about?