The Genuine Optician

by V. Orlikowski

The Genuine Optician

It was during the 1980s, in the southern United States, inside a huge retail store. My job was to sell appliances, which were located in front of the optical shop. A large optical chain owned this store inside a store.

There was something unusual about the man who ran the shop. He greeted everyone with a true smile, sometimes hugged his customers, and some old ladies received a hug and a kiss on their hand. Men thought he was a flirting man.

He was irritating because he was different. He was foreign and projected an image of a self-confident, happy man. It seemed nothing could subdue him. For us southerners, this was hard to understand. How could this young man in his thirties, clearly speaking with a foreign accent, be so free of fear?

At times, he violated his company’s policies or the host store’s policies. People wondered what made him not enslaved to the ridiculous and often heartless policies of the top managers somewhere in distant northern cities.

One day, an old black man walked through the entrance of the optical store. The man was clearly poor, with broken black eyeglass frames in his hand. Moving slowly, unsure of himself, he walked into the middle of the shop and stopped a few steps in front of the optical manager’s desk.

The manager was sitting buried in some paperwork.

It was only a moment until he saw his customer. The young man rose immediately and approached the old man. He warmly shook hands with the old man and sat him down. Broken glasses were laid on the table.

Interested in what would happen, I put up a “Be back in 10” sign and walked into the optical shop. Truth be told, the management had told me to spy on the young man, and I did report from time to time on some of his unusual behaviors.

The optician took the broken glasses in his hands and said the glasses could not be repaired. The old man asked how much new glasses like these would cost, and the answer was $89. The face of the old man clouded.

Seeing this, the optician took the glasses, went into the back room, checked the power of the lenses, and came back with a smile. “I have a solution. Go to the local drugstore and buy two exactly like these, one with this power and another with this power, and come back. I will make you two pairs of glasses that will work.”

The old man asked, “How much will this be?”

The optician said “Nothing.”

The fact that the optician did not sell new glasses to this man was a violation of all sales policies with serious consequences. It was never reported.

Ever since, I have been a different man.

Originally published as HeroicStories #788 on Feb 11, 2010

4 thoughts on “The Genuine Optician”

  1. I had heard of this story years ago. I heard the Optometrist was fired for his actions.

    Anyone know for Sure?

  2. This made me smile on several levels: The man was having his needs met in a creative and compassionate manner; the optician was a caring and generous person (apparently to all who entered his store!); the writer was impacted in a positive and lasting way.


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