Size Matters

Unless you have the eyes of a Marvel comic book superhero, you’re not able to read the directions on the side of a bottle of medication of any type these days.

The pandemic had me on screens and reading more than usual, straining my eyes.  What aggravated the situation was attempting to read what is written on any of my store-bought meds.  This issue existed long before the pandemic but was made clear to me. Whether they be vitamins or aspirin, good luck reading something you need a Hubble telescope for.

As a kid, I recall going on a trip to Martyr’s Shrine in Midland, Ontario. It was a day blinded by religion. The reprieve was when we all got a chance to go into their gift shop. Inside was floor to ceiling Catholic paraphernalia and iconology. I had enough money to buy one thing, and it ended up being a necklace. It had a crucifix significantly smaller than Madonna’s but more significant than what Stephen Tyler might wear. Where the horizon lines met, or as some Catholics know it, the ‘tree of life’ sat a protruding bubble. It served as a magnifying glass that laid over the Lord’s Prayer. I thought this was so cool. You’d put it to your eye like the key chain viewers from the sixties, and you could read the whole prayer. Who knew such cool and progressive stuff existed in a Catholic gift shop. The entire bus ride back to the city was filled with kids clawing over each other to snatch the thing and put it on their eyes. All convinced I had acquired the grooviest item when it came to religious iconology.

Now my eyes are pretty good, but I have found that I routinely need one magnifying glass on top of another to read the sides of some containers.  Only then does the collage of letters take on some discernible shape that is legible. When did the fonts become beyond micro-mini?  I know Kit Kat, and Coffee Crisp bars have shrunk every Halloween. They use to be half the size of the chocolate bar and then a third, then a quarter, and now they’re around an eighth. Anything less and all that will be left in the package will resemble a smartie in an otherwise inflated candy wrapper.  The same thing has happened to fonts. 

We can go on about how cursive is in the toilet, replaced by the computer. But so too have fonts.  Becoming so minuscule that the medical Leica lens used in labs could be employed to decipher what is written. After recently picking up a few items from my local drugstore, I noticed it’s becoming an industry standard. The fonts were infinitesimal on everything I purchased.  Good luck reading the ingredients on the back of some face creams, eye drops or hair products. This has me highly suspicious. My mother had aspirin in the house as a kid, and she would comfortably read the directions to make sure any doses administered were in line with my weight and age, but she could read the bottle, not like today.  I’m wondering if the companies have put their own indemnity clause on the sides of these items to deflect any liability from themselves. A paramecium would need glasses to read what is printed on the back of these varied products. Forget that it’s been allowed to happen. Why is it permitted to continue?

There I am, straining my eyes, trying to focus on the bottle bringing it in and out of my vision but to no avail. I can’t comprehend any of it because I can’t read it. Add to that, that I can’t take the tops off of any of the bottles. When our kids were young, I’d sometimes ask them to help me remove the caps, and they did, no problem. It says right on it that it’s childproof, which isn’t true. It’s really adult proof. The nimble hands of a child can crack that sucker open in no time while you’re busy toiling double-checking, whether it opens clockwise, counterclockwise, up or down. Even James Bond would have a struggle after a martini hangover.

I believe this issue of mini fonts infringes upon our health literacy.  It’s getting to the point that you pick up what you need in one aisle of the store and then head over to the area with the reading glasses. From there, you commence building a Meccano set of lenses so you can interpret what it says.  How is that not insane?

The craziness gives the most vulnerable part of our society whose eyes are the most compromised the tiniest fonts to navigate through. No wonder there are issues with seniors taking their medications incorrectly; they can’t read the directions.  And it’s not just seniors; it’s anyone who has compromised vision.  Having it on over-the-counter medicines that, if misread, can be lethal is wrong.  Was that some smart-ass graphic artist’s way of seeking a solution to include all the legal ramifications indemnifying the company whose product it is?

Have you ever watched a car commercial?  Somewhere in that 30-second space, a screen full of text is required reading concerning the terms and conditions on the deal that just flashed your way. Most of it is invisible, a fraction of a second blur, the colour, size, and speed rendering it near invisible.  Those that can see it need to freeze their television frame, and even on a 75″ screen, they need a magnifying glass. Put a QR code somewhere on the ad to expand the small type so the instructions, legal ramifications or amendments can be referred to on your phone so that you can read it. What exists now isn’t working.

Instruction booklets for appliances and software amongst a host of other directions are generally no different these days.  They’re all designed for miniature smurfs to read. The smaller the item, the smaller the instruction booklet with pages of information compressed into a brochure more fitting for Barbie, who would even need augmented bifocals.

Then there are the pages upon pages of contracts that you need to sign off on that the software companies insist you accept. You have no idea if it’s asking for your firstborn or other pertinent information, but I can promise you the ask is enormous. It could be total access to everything you would otherwise consider private, but who reads it? The answer is no one. You press ‘accept’ because it’s reams of tiny type.   For the few who choose not to, billions of people who have no time have already clicked ‘accept.’ That’s another problem. A contract is a document that two parties engage in and is supposed to be mutually agreeable and transparent. When it’s not and is presented in miniature type, what can be very important vanishes into the abyss and can bite you in the ass somewhere down the road. 

As we age, our eyesight transforms where we see things from our heart instead of our head. Our sight may dwindle, but our capacity to see on a higher plane through your third eye of wisdom grows exponentially. Our vision is a melding of forgiveness and release. Our eyes no longer serve as they once did in a one-dimensional way. Seeing what we do and believing it for what it is. With a lifetime of collective experiences, we surrender to perceiving life from the lens of our hearts. We have a bullshit detector that is every bit as sharp as Wonder Womans’. That is the mature woman’s route. But on that journey, we might have an ache or pain and require a tablet or homeopathic medicine. When the font on the side of a container of over the counter products requires an industrial magnifier to decipher it, what we do see is rage.  When we can’t open the lid because it’s kiddie-proof and can’t read the directions because the font is microscopic, then our vision goes fire-engine red, and all we see is frustration and anger. We go from the place of size doesn’t matter to one where size matters.

The Carson 3XX MagRX Lighted Medicine Bottle Magnifier exists for assisting in reading prescription medications only, but that’s another aid that you need, which should be unnecessary.  Just use bigger fonts. I don’t want more crap in my house. I’m trying to get rid of stuff. 

I’m not yet intuitive enough to stand in front of a bottle of over-the-counter products and transcend the instruction in a means outside of my vision, but I wish I could. All these bottles and instructions need the aid of the bubble on my crucifix—a magnifying droplet built into the product to read the directions comfortably.  If you’re going to make it small, then you’re responsible for providing a reading aid.

Even Clark Kent, whose vision was of that of Superman’s, would be saying WTF.