PSA: Cut the grass? Wear glasses! By Chris Zwar

PSA: Cut the grass?  Wear glasses!  By Chris Zwar

Every January, I look back at the previous year and consider whether anything noteworthy happened that might be worth writing about. Last January I wrote about upgrading my home office with a NAS, but this year it’s gotten a bit less technical.

Without a doubt, the most important thing that happened to me in 2023 was that I almost lost an eye. Fortunately I didn’t, but a pair of cheap safety glasses – or even sunglasses – could have easily prevented it.

This could be me! (not like that)

So, my first post this year is a simple PSA: Wear safety glasses when mowing the lawn.

Mowing the lawn can be an ordinary task, a perfect symbol of suburban life. Obviously, housing patterns vary around the world, and cities have apartments, townhouses and other types of housing of high and medium density. But in many parts of the world, once you get to the suburbs, the houses and yards get bigger. There is usually a patch of grass in the back, front, or both. And it continues to grow.

A quick calculation suggests that I’ve mowed lawns several hundred times over the course of my life, and I’ve never thought of it as a dangerous task, or even something a little risky. I got out the back and quickly mowed the lawn while waiting for the showings. It’s not exactly in the same league as skydiving.

Last August, I was mowing the lawn in our backyard and the mower dropped a small rock into my right eye. This has never happened before, and can only be considered an unfortunate coincidence. The small stone, just a piece of gravel, carried a lot of energy and the impact alone was painful enough that I wasn’t sure exactly where I was hit. At first I couldn’t even open my eyes at all.

The short version is that I initially lost the sight in my right eye. I went to the local hospital before being transferred to a larger hospital with a specialist eye clinic. I had multiple tests including ultrasound and CT scan. I’m not sure if I’m reading the picture correctly, but I think my eyes were pointing in different directions, like Homer Simpson.

Fortunately I did not need any surgery, and after a grueling regimen of medications, my vision began to return the next day. For several weeks everything seemed light and blurry, as if I were viewing the world through a piece of cling film (or a heavy promising filter, for the essentials out there). By the time the scratch on my cornea had healed, my vision had mostly returned to normal.

My eyes were permanently damaged, but only slightly. When measured using a basic eye chart, it is slightly worse than my left eye which is 20/20. I don’t notice this indoors or while working, but my iris muscle is permanently damaged, so my iris will always be different sizes and I need to wear sunglasses outside.

The real point is that all of this could have been avoided with a pair of cheap safety glasses, it’s just that I never thought mowing the lawn was unsafe.

Since I love a little DIY, and because I’m naturally goofy, I already owned several pairs of safety glasses and goggles. I’ve always been vigilant about wearing goggles when using power tools, and when I use an angle grinder (something I generally find intimidating) I wear safety glasses and a full face mask. I even wear goggles when using the line trimmer, something I do almost as much as mowing, and I’m always impressed by how the line trimmer leaves me covered in dirt from head to toe.

But mowing the grass? Meh.

In the months following my accident, I talked about it with all kinds of friends and colleagues. None of them – not one – said they wear safety glasses when mowing.

It was an unlucky coincidence to get hit in the eye by a small stone while mowing the lawn. But if things had been a little different – a larger stone, or a few millimeters to the left – I might have been luckier. I’m still amazed that my vision has recovered so well, and having to wear sunglasses has a much better result than wearing an eye patch.

The prospect of going blind is terrifying for everyone, but perhaps even scarier for visual artists. I don’t really think about what could have happened, or what I would do if I was no longer able to work professionally. I was lucky, but a cheap pair of glasses would have taken luck out of the equation.

If you have a backyard or front yard that needs mowing, and you’re looking for a New Year’s resolution – look no further.

Safety glasses are cheap and there are many styles available that don’t make you look like a mad scientist. Google suggests that the cheapest pairings are priced at under $2, but even the most elegant options are less than the price of a good brunch.

Do yourself a favor.

Wearing eye protection doesn’t mean you have to go to a science lab and look like one of the Slo-Mo Guys. There are plenty of stylish options that look like regular glasses, like the ones I found on the Globus website. Many of them cost less than $20.

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