Teeny Tiny Food Fonts

Open bookYesterday I was enjoying a veggie burrito in the crowded food court at the local mall when I noticed a man of indeterminate age reading a hard-copy novel that had a teeny tiny font. There are a number of remarkable things about this observation.

The first is that I no longer have any idea how old people are. That man could have been thirty or fifty, but I couldn’t tell. I did notice that he wasn’t wearing glasses, but since the arrival of contact lenses the absence of spectacles cannot provide an indication of youth and healthy vigour. In any case, now that I am officially a senior, everyone else looks younger than I do.

The second remarkable thing is that he was reading an actual hard-copy book. Around us there were multiple people reading their phones, and one person was reading a tablet of some sort.  Don’t get me wrong. I have no problem with people reading on their phones or tablets—in fact, I do it myself—but I do get a little frisson of delight when I see someone reading a book. I think that’s partly because I can see what they are reading. When people read on an electronic device no-one else can tell whether they are reading the news, a novel, a history of ancient China, or a brochure on social housing. Not that it’s anyone else’s business, but still, it’s interesting. It tells me something about them that watching them read on a phone does not.

The third remarkable thing is that I could see from three tables away the size of the font in his book.  I had cataract surgery a little while ago and now I have fabulously good distance vision.  It is a treat. It was the second thing I noticed after my recovery. (The first thing was that colours were so much brighter.) Now, when I’m driving out and about without my glasses I can read road signs from a block or more away. Previously I depended on my GPS system to tell me which roads and exits were coming up, but now I know before “the voice” does. Yippee!

Magnifying glass and packaged food instructionsI am at an in-between stage with my eye treatment because, now that the surgery is complete, I have to wait a while before my optometrist can check my vision. When he does, I know exactly what he’s going to say. He’s going to tell me that I need glasses for close work.  I have no trouble reading my laptop or most books, but when the font gets really small I can’t figure it out. I do that seeing-how-far-I-can-stretch-my-arm thing that old people do when they are trying to put their reading material at the perfect distance from their eyes.

Sometimes, though, even arm-stretching doesn’t do the trick. Some fonts are so small that only a magnifying glass will help.  The magnifier I have is one I bought to use when doing embroidery, back in my embroidering phase. Now it sits on my kitchen counter to help me read the instructions on packages of prepared foods.  Yes, folks, I sometimes eat frozen dinners.

If anyone can read the teeny tiny fonts on the backs of those packages, I’d be surprised.  In Canada we are required to have all instructions in both English and French, but instead of redesigning the packages or the instructions to accommodate this need, the frozen food people just squeezed twice the information into the same space. For the record, Nestle or Coca Cola or Heinz or whoever you are, the instructions are now illegible.  I doubt anyone, even that forty-year-old reader in the mall, can read them.

Oh, but I just had a thought.  Maybe the frozen food manufacturers also make magnifying glasses! Yes, that would make sense.  That way they can make money both from the food and from the illegible instructions.  Brilliant.  Those guys should be running the world . . .  if they aren’t already.








  1. A couple of weeks ago I was on the bus and there was a young boy (early teenager perhaps) who was reading a hard copy book from the library. I was quite amazed, especially given his age. I must admit that I prefer reading on my Kindle rather than lugging a big novel with me on the bus.

    • I’m always pleased when I see young people (or any people, really) reading. These days I seem to flip back and forth between reading a hard copy book and reading on my Kindle. The e-reader is great for travelling, but at home on the couch I really prefer a book.

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