Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Life Through a Lens

It is time to say goodbye to an old friend that I have known for four years. It is the Post-it note that is stuck inside the bathroom cabinet where I make a note of whether I have replaced my contact lenses each month. I should only wear each pair for a month, so it is important not to forget to change them, but it is also important not to forget that I have already changed them and waste a pair. Life can be tricky without a system such as this to keep it in check.

Looking back, I have often wished that I had kept a diary, but apart from a few brief, horribly introspective months in 1988 I never have. I therefore have to rely on my memories of certain events, such as the time I walked to the north pole, or the time I went out with Cindy Crawford. But this is a kind of diary if you just look hard enough.

Look back at my innocent handwriting in July 2004. How could I have known what the world would be like four years later? My girlfriend hadn’t moved in with me, babies were just an abstract thought and ... I am much happier now. Much happier. Much happier. Much happier.

Is it even possible to gain an insight into my state of mind? Look at my handwriting in December '04 and early '05 – what kind of crazy drugs was I on then? I was out of my head! Though obviously not so out of my head that I was neglecting my ocular hygiene and forgetting to change my contact lenses on a regular basis.

One of the reasons that the Hitler diaries were exposed as fakes was that Hitler’s handwriting showed no change when his arm was injured in an assassination attempt. I suffered no such injury in the last 48 months (unless I was so out of my head from Dec '05 to Jun '05 that I have forgotten about it), so unfortunately it is not possible to validate this Post-it note in that way. You will just have to take my word for it that this is an accurate record of when I changed my contact lenses.

I remember making a decision in July 2005 that I was going to get four years out of this Post-it note and deliberately narrowed my writing. I could have easily just gone for three columns, but it is this kind of forward planning that will save me a whole Post-it note every 12 years. Yes, I have done the maths. It is the kind of thing that I like to do as I am rubbing my contact lenses clean each night. (Don’t bother telling me to switch to daily disposables, these are special extended wear ones that you can wear for longer hours.)

I am also pleased to report that this Post-it note has still got its stick. Perhaps 3M (the manufacturers of Post-it notes) will send me some free Post-it notes for this ringing endorsement. Though at an average usage rate of less than three per decade I don't really need any more, so they probably shouldn't bother.

What can we say about the ratio of pen to pencil usage? Well, pencil is clearly more popular (I am writing on a vertical surface, and sometimes pens don't work well like this), but in 2007 pens had their most popular year with five months out of 12. Still not a majority, but perhaps I had a pen last year that was quite good at writing on vertical surfaces. I can't recall. I should also mention that my handwriting isn't usually quite this bad - please remember that I am writing on a vertical surface. And of course my vision is still a bit blurry each time as I've only just put my contact lenses in.

I had thought about folding the Post-it note over and continuing on the back, but then it wouldn't be as high as it would be folded over, and I wouldn't get the neatness of having one year per column. Aha, but then I realised that this Post-it note is square (please note that 3M do make them in other shapes and sizes - perhaps I'd like some free samples after all), so I could rotate it by 90 degrees and still get three columns out of it, even with part of it folded back on itself. But when I tried this, it flapped around a bit in an unsatisfactory manner, even when I ran my thumbnail along the crease. So it is definitely time for a new Post-it note.

For the next Post-it note I have designed a better version that does away with the redundancy of repeatedly writing the month and year every time. I am going to have a grid with the months down the left-hand side, and the years across the top, and I will just enter a tick in the relevant box each month. I reckon I could make this new Post-it note last eight years. Maybe even 10. Who knows? Though of course the first half of the first column will go unused as we are already six months into 2008, which is a bit of a waste. But maybe no system is perfect, and this is certainly an advance on the previous method. And I am sure that by the time I need bifocals I will have cracked it!

Expect an update on this story in June 2018. Who knows what will have happened in the world by then? Expect to see my tick style change as I get excited by the Olympics getting ever closer, the purchase of my first jet-pack, or getting out of my head on even harder drugs that still let me remember when to change my contact lenses etc.

Watch this space.