Sidewalks, Pupils, Lasers, Canadians
Over the weekend I headed to Vermont. I spent the night Sunday with friends J. & Z. The River Doctors and some other friends came up the mountain for dinner; yet another ice storm rolled through, turning the long, steep driveway to icy Teflon. The lowlanders were trapped on the hill late into the night until a heroic sand-truck guy made it up close to midnight. The next day J., Z. and I travelled to Montreal for LASIK (J., who has 20/15 vision, was our "designated driver".) We had a routine worked out for the border crossing. When the Canadian agent asked, "What is the purpose of your visit to Canada?", Z. was to shout "I'm here to get healthcare!"; I was to shout, "I'm here for political asylum!"; and J. was to shout "I'm here for Club Super-Sexe!" But as it happened they didn't really ask, so we didn't tell them. Still, I had hopes of finding someplace to drop off my asylum application during the visit.
As it turned out, I did not have the laser surgery. The docs at Laservue were astounded with my super-human pupil size, which (combined with my significantly poor vision) is a notable risk for having night-vision problems after the surgery. They were sufficiently impressed with my pupil diameter (8.5mm) that they asked if I was a methamphetamine user (uh, no...) They were willing to go ahead with the procedure, but they used words like "50/50 chance of..." and "You are a sitting duck for..." So I decided to do more research and/or wait a while for age-related pupillary constriction to set in. Meanwhile Z., who has little 5.5mm pupils, did have the surgery (which I watched, and found fascinating). She is ecstatic with the results.
The difference between 5.5mm and 8.5mm doesn't sound like much, but I got to thinking about the difference in actual circular surface area. Since area = pi x radius squared, in dark conditions the light-admitting holes in my eyes cover about 57sq.mm, while Z.'s cover only 24sq. mm. In other words my eyes let in over twice as much light as hers. This might explain why she's always complained a bit about her night vision, while I've never wanted a night-light and always have trouble sleeping in rooms that weren't completely dark.
Anyway, back at the hotel in Montreal, we watched the local news. There was a breaking story from the nearby town of Huntingdon which was having a budget problem and, as a cost-cutting measure, had introduced a new "do-it-yourself sidewalk shoveling plan". This was considered a major break from usual procedures. People had written letters of complaint to the major. The mayor responded with a letter labeling the complainers "crybabies" and suggesting they should move to Mexico temporarily, which caused further outrage. The news crew interviewed several furious citizens, filmed impotently hacking at sidewalk ice with various improvised implements. There was a general sense that the new policy was endangering children, the elderly, and was patently un-Canadian. At the conclusion of the story, the news anchor reassured the viewing public that NO such policy was under consideration in the metropolis of Montreal, were the city would continue clearing the sidewalks as usual.
So, yet another thing that seems better north of the border. Though I have to remark, the sidewalks in Montreal were not in such great shape, either.