Catherine Ibberson

Catherine Ibberson

I’ve worked for in the optical industry for over 16 years, and I’ve enjoyed every single day.

I’m sure people have the general idea that it’s a rather dull, uneventful occupation, but they couldn’t be further from the truth.

Learning all about different lenses and prescription glasses, might sound a little like watching paint dry, after all they only look like they’re made out of bits of plastic, but it’s fascinating to learn, so it never gets boring. The everyday events with the customers are what make the days seen to fly by.

Often customers will be heard saying “I’d love to do your job, you seem to really enjoy it” and they’re absolutely right, it is a lovely way to spend your days, and to get paid for it as well is an added bonus. There have been so many funny events over the years, it’s hard to remember them all, but I decided to jot a few of them down.


A harassed young mum came into the opticians shop I was working at to collect her prescription glasses, accompanied by her obviously bad tempered little girl, who looked to be about six years old. I later found out the little girls name was Lucy. Trying to cheer Lucy up, I told her how much I liked her pink coat, and that she looked just like Barbie.  Rather than laugh as I expected her to, Lucy just started to cry. I soon found out why when her mum went on to describe that mornings events.

As it was a cold, winter morning, Lucy had felt sorry for David Beckham, her older brother Peter’s pet goldfish, who was happily swimming around in a tank in Peter’s bedroom. Sticking her fingers into the cold water, Lucy thought Beckham, as he was usually called, would be cold. Thinking to warm Beckham up a bit, Lucy took Beckham out of the water, wrapped him up in a tissue, and put him on the radiator to keep warm. Imagine Peter’s horror when two hours later, he returned home to the lovely smell of baked fish, unfortunately it wasn’t coming from the kitchen but his bedroom. After giving Lucy a kick, he then went on to cut the hair off her favourite Barbie bride doll. It had obviously been a trying morning for them all, but I had to chuckle when I related the storey back to my husband later that day.


While examining a lady’s eyes, the optician repeatedly asked the lady to look straight ahead. Every time she asked this, the lady started shaking her head. It was only when this had been going on for quite a while that the optician realised that the lady thought she was saying, “Shake your head”.


When I asked if they had a copy of “Optician magazine” in a large newsagents, the assistant pulled a funny face, and replied “I don’t think so, what’s it about?”


A gentleman came in one day, looking rather sheepish; to ask if there was anything I could do to repair his prescription glasses. When I took a closer look, I could see the lenses were sparkling clean, but the frames appeared to be stripped of paint in places. He went on to explain that he thought he’d give them an extra special clean in a hot wash in the dishwasher.  NOT RECOMMENDED.


When an elderly lady came to collect her glasses with transition lenses, she wasn’t wearing them straight away, so I gave her a couple of simple instructions to follow. I explained that transition lenses need the UV rays from the sun so they will react from light to dark in the sun. As she wasn’t going to wear them for a couple of days, I suggested that she leave them on her windowsill for a few hours, then they’d react quickly whenever she wanted to wear them after that. I had a phone call from her the next day just to let me know she’d left her glasses on the windowsill all night.  In the dark!


When I arrived at work one day, a member of staff phoned in sick, so that only left myself, and a colleague who happened to be six months pregnant at the time. I was busy with a customer, so when a gentleman came in to order some glasses, my pregnant colleague had to serve him. Unfortunately my colleague suddenly started experiencing pains in her stomach, we had to virtually abandon our customers, and ring for an ambulance. My customer was very nice and understanding, trying to be helpful, the gentleman simply got very annoyed, and demanded I leave my colleague until the ambulance came, so that I could continue with his order. I remember hearing him muttering something about women giving birth in fields, and it never did them any harm. The ambulance finally arrived, my colleague was rushed to hospital, where she was eventually told she had indigestion, and I finally managed to order the glasses for the now, very irate, gentleman.

A few days later, on a busy Saturday afternoon, in walked the gentleman, to collect his glasses. I didn’t particularly relish the idea of serving him again, but I was the only person available at the time, so I put on a smile, and asked him to take a seat while I got his glasses ready. After adjusting his glasses, and making sure everything was okay, apart from paying the balance, he was finally ready to leave. That’s when the fire alarm sounded and we were instructed to evacuate the premises. Our shop was situated in a shopping centre, and the whole shopping centre was being evacuated, so we couldn’t delay as the smoke barriers were coming down locking us in the building.

The gentleman refused to leave until I gave him his glasses, which I couldn’t give to him, as there was a balance to pay. I’ve never been rude to a customer in my life, but I could have happily kicked him. He eventually got his glasses, swearing and grumbling all the while that we shouldn’t have pregnant women working for us, and that he was never coming back to a shop that made people leave just because a fire alarm went off. Needless to say we were all glad to see the back of him, and were thankful he was never coming back, we just felt sorry for the poor opticians who were going to have to deal with him in future.  He gets my vote for the grumpiest, rudest man I’ve ever had the misfortune to meet.