Wednesday, September 14, 2011

When Things Go Right. And Then Wrong. (or: Buying Eyeglasses in KTM)

By now, for better or for worse, we have come to expect that doing seemingly easy, mundane tasks in Kathmandu can cause confusion, frustration, heartache, and tears. Once we know how to do something or where to buy something, it is usually easy to repeat; the challenges come when we face unchartered territory.

And so you can imagine that I was dreading this chore: buying new eyeglasses to replace my frames that broke. Let's be clear -- Lenscrafters has not yet made it here, and neither have the Yellow Pages, so I knew that I would have to hunt down some independent optician on my own. Where to start? Facebook, of course. Facebook has become our go-to source when we need answers to questions. I received a flurry of helpful responses and settled on one person's suggestion to go to an area near Durbar Marg.

There I found an eyeglasses store with a surprisingly wide selection of frames. The staff at Optic Plaza were incredibly helpful and even found a pair of nearly identical frames that would fit my existing lenses (after really pushing hard some circa 2008 Sarah Palin frames). Ten minutes and $12 later, I happily walked out with my problem solved. I may have even done a little jig. I told Brian, "You know, I have become conditioned to expect that things will go wrong or be really difficult, so when something is shockingly easy and efficient, I feel like celebrating."

But I spoke too soon (to be fair, Brian warned me). Later that night when I put on my glasses, I realized that one lens was very cloudy, and no amount of cleaning solved the problem. I knew my fate: a return trip to the eyeglasses store, negotiations, potentially a whole new pair of eyeglasses.

I steeled myself the next day to return. As I rounded the bend near the store, I found this.

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Store closed (but temple open).

It was 11:30am. Who knew if it would open at all that day? I weighed my options: find somewhere to sit and kill time and check back in an hour or just go home. Having learned this lesson the hard way before, I went home.

It was a busy week, so I returned five days later. Sure enough, my glasses lens had been scratched. The resulting problem? Whom to blame. I was certain that I had not scratched the lens because, well, I had not worn my glasses in the intervening time between bringing them to Optic Plaza and bringing them home. The owner, though, was unconvinced, and he repeated no fewer than 12 times that it was impossible ("Impossible!") for the lens to have been scratched in the process of fitting it into the new frames.

Nepal has made me a more assertive, nay, more indignant negotiator, but I still get squeamish when we are talking about more than just a taxi fare. Thankfully, I could let Brian do my dirty work for me, and he respectfully but forcefully pushed the store owner until he finally offered a small discount on a whole new pair of glasses. It's not the money but the principle. As I have learned from my lawyer husband, a good negotiation outcome is when each party gives something but also gets something -- for us, it was the token discount, and for the storeowner, it was our business (we could have gone elsewhere after the scratch debacle).

Life lessons and eyeglasses. Just another day in Nepal for the 'duo.

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