Super glue for life’s problems
I’ve had the same pair of glasses for about five years, and when I was on vacation in Colorado they broke.
I didn’t step on them or throw them off the hotel balcony or drop a pile of bricks on them.
I simply tugged on them while taking off my hat, something I’ve done a million times before. And they snapped, the piece of the frame that extends over my ears suddenly detaching from the lenses.
“My glasses broke,” I announced, since I was far from home and this seemed like a problem my friends would have to help me solve.
Just a few days earlier I’d been wondering whether my glasses would last forever. I hate to buy things and glasses are a total rip-off — they really shouldn’t cost as much as they do. The Internet tells me that glasses are sometimes made of titanium and steel alloy, but mine are made of cheap plastic, and although they were the least expensive glasses in the shop, they still cost $250.
I examined my broken glasses and discovered that I could snap them back together, which proved to be a good temporary solution, despite the fact that sometimes they came unsnapped and fell off my head, causing my friends to laugh at me. In an effort to put an end to the mockery, I went out and bought some super glue and this seemed to do the trick. It was so effective that I tricked myself into thinking I didn’t need a new pair of glasses at all. Until last week, when they fell apart again.
By then I was back in Albany, so I could tap into my vast store of disposable contact lenses. A quick glance inside the box revealed that I had at least 60 pairs of contacts left and that if I didn’t want to replace my glasses before the end of the year, I really didn’t have to. And hadn’t the super glue worked pretty well? I could repair my glasses and use them sparingly, perhaps on the mornings when I swim at the Y, and wear contacts the rest of the time. I swung by the CVS and picked up another tube of super glue.
But this was a different type of super glue, and I was completely unprepared for it.
The super glue I had used in Denver had emerged from the tube in a thick, toothpaste-like blob. But this super glue poured out of the tube in a messy stream, coating my fingers and hands and running all over my lenses. “Oh no!” I cried as I rushed to clean super glue off my hands and glasses. My effort wasn’t entirely in vain: I did manage to prevent my fingers from fusing permanently together, though prying them apart was a little painful. But the lenses appeared to be a lost cause.
I’d like to report that the super glue disaster forced me to take the drastic step of buying a new pair of glasses. But it didn’t. It’s the sort of minor irritation that I just don’t take very seriously and I’ve been very slow in addressing it. I’ve grown accustomed to wearing the contact lenses and as long as I can see, my broken-glasses problem doesn’t seem very pressing.
I wasn’t always this calm.
As a child, I stressed out over everything.
I didn’t acquire glasses until I was an adult, but I wore orthodontic headgear for years, and I still remember the terror I felt when I broke this bizarre apparatus, known as a chin cup, while I was sleeping. Designed to fix a severe underbite, the chin cup was held together by rubber bands and little pieces of metal, and looked like the sort of thing children might create if they were dressing as an alien for Halloween. But I understood that the chin cup was expensive, and that an unexpected trip to the orthodontist wouldn’t make anybody very happy.
I also stressed out over school and sports. I found it difficult to eat before games, my grades were a constant worry and I lived in dread of the SATs. Now that I’m an adult, I know that most of this stuff doesn’t matter very much, in the scheme of things, but at the time it seemed incredibly important and I felt as though a single misstep would spell doom. The exact nature of this doom was unclear, but I wanted to avoid it at all costs.
I’m not sure what changed, but I now consider 95 percent of all problems minor, and not worth stressing over.
Most problems, I now understand, can be solved, even though solving them might require a greater investment of time, effort and money than you would like. And I have a better sense, through personal experience, of the types of problems that are difficult, sometimes even impossible, to fix. That there are things that, unlike a pair of glasses, cannot be replaced or put back together again.
One of my favorite New Yorker articles ever focused on the problem of suicidal people jumping off the Golden Gate bridge. Most of these people die, but a few survive, and the reporter, Tad Friend, tracked down some of the survivors. One of them told Friend he realized he had made a mistake as soon as he was in the air. “I instantly realized that everything in my life that I’d thought was unfixable was totally fixable — except for having just jumped,” he said.
I told my parents about the super glue mishap, and they did their best to make me worry.
“Those contacts lenses will be gone before you know it,” my mother said.
“I’ve got, like, 60 pairs,” I said.
“They won’t last forever,” my mom warned.
Then my dad got on the phone. He found my super glue story quite humorous, but then his various fears and worries began to bubble to the surface. “You’d better be careful with that super glue,” he said. “You don’t want to get super glue in your eyes. And you don’t want it on your skin, either. In fact, I’m not sure someone like you should even be using super glue.”
Normally I would take offense at such comments, but on this particular occasion I found that I agreed with my father.
Because if I’ve learned one thing from this little episode, it’s to stay away from super glue. There might be bigger problems in the world, but the searing pain I experienced when I pried my fingers apart is something I don’t care to repeat.
Foss Forward makes a weekly appearance in print, in The Gazette’s Saturday Lifestyles section. You can email Sara at firstname.lastname@example.org.