Category Archives: Americana

A LabCorp Adventure

Today I had to deliver 3L of my piss to a private company called LabCorp.

Those of you living in civilized countries, where healthcare is all about making people better, rather than making an entire stratum of society rich, will no doubt be confused by why such a circumstance would arise. This is America: if someone can make money out of something, it is enshrined in law that they must do so, even if the “something” is blood, urine or egesta.

But, we get a choice! The specialist’s office asked me which private blood/piss/turd merchants I would prefer to patronise. The choice was really down to how far I wanted to travel with my 24 hours-worth of excreta and so I selected the only nearby franchise: LabCorp.

Since moving to this country I have had cause to visit various LabCorp branches on numerous occasions, usually as the result of company hiring policies that require pissing in a cup. Despite the awkward, and potentially embarrassing situation you find yourself in when attending one of these places, the staff work hard to make the experience as miserable and irritating as possible and let me tell you, they really do go the extra mile. Every “customer” is treated equally: as if they were imbecilic sex-offenders.

So, today at 8am, I wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of entering our local branch with a large specimen. But I needn’t have been concerned because everything was exactly as awful as I’d imagined!

Despite all of the covid precautions invoked by LabCorp, and publicised in countless posters and floor markings, the first thing you encounter in the waiting area is a mandatory touch-screen. Nice one LabCorp! And thanks for the bottle of hand-sanitizer taped to the touchscreen; it’s less safe than soap and water and far less safe than not requiring the use of a touch screen at all. I mean, there’s a window, with staff behind it, and a glass screen in front of it but yes, I understand that in this brave new world, all human interaction that can be removed should be removed.

Not having state ID on me (I don’t drive), I went through the tortuous procedure of typing my name, address, DOB and various other details using the unresponsive on-screen keyboard. It then asked me to scan my insurance card, front and back. Next, I was informed that I owed LabCorp $25 for previous services and offered the convenient opportunity to pay now with a credit card, which I politely declined. Finally, I was shown a summary of my details which, with a cursory examination, appeared to be correct, and was then invited to sit down and wait to be called. So, with a generous squirt of hand-sanitzer in one hand, and a big bottle of piss in the other, I sat down.

After a couple of minutes, a lady behind the aforementioned glass screen, started trying to attract my attention by yelling:
“Sir! Sir! Are you here for bloodwork?”

“No.” I answered truthfully.

“Well you have to wait outside. Because of covid. We can only have people who are having bloodwork done in here.”

Odd, I thought, but apologized and began walking towards the door. Before reaching it, another customer called out to me, pointing out that I probably was having something done. Oh. So I went to the window to make sure that I hadn’t got the wrong end of the stick.

“You’re here to have something done?” asked the lady behind the glass.

“Yes!” I said looking bewildered. I mean, why the fuck else would I be there at all, let alone at 8 in the morning and carrying a 3L bottle of piss.

“Well you have to sign in on the tablet!” she yelled.

“I did!” I yelled back.

“Well you’re not in the system!”

“I just did! I did it!”

“What’s your name?”
I gave my name.

“No, you’re not here. You have to sign in and choose ‘Drop off'”.

“I just signed in!” I protested. The lady responded by flouncing out of the room behind the glass and into the back. Now what? Was she going to ask for help with the tablet? I decided to wait and see.
After about 5 minutes of waiting by the glass, she returned to the back room and sat at her desk, avoiding eye contact with me. So yeah, she hadn’t been seeking assistance, just fucking off out the back until she thought I may give up and leave. With my piss.
“So! Should I try to sign in again?” I asked. She ignored me.

“Should I sign in again?” I persisted.

“YES!” she yelled back, in semi fury.

“Will it work this time?”

“YES! And choose ‘drop off’!”

So, I went through the tortuous procedure of typing in my details all over again. I scanned my insurance card again. I declined payment again. I confirmed the details were correct again. At no point was I asked about why I was there. Finally, I was told to take my seat and wait again.

“I’ve done it, but there was no option to select ‘Drop off’!” I called.
She glared at me with incredulity and fury before getting up and stomping towards the intervening door while angrily pulling on some rubber gloves (there’s no way she was going to deal with an unhygienic touch screen without rubber gloves).

She angrily prompted me to repeat, for the third time, the touch-screen procedure. At every screen, she angrily told me to click “Next” just before I clicked it. Until we came to the final screen, that told me to sit down and wait to be called, at which point her mood completely changed; confronted, as she was, by some evidence that I wasn’t a belligerent fucking moron.

I had to resist the urge to launch forth with a barrage of smug sarcasm, or questions about how embarrassed she was feeling.

She took the print-out of my details I’d been provided by my specialist and went through the procedure again, very sheepishly. This time, she stopped at the “would you like to settle out outstanding invoice” prompt.
“Ah, you have to pay this, ” she said politely. “That’s why it didn’t work.”
Oh really? I paid it.
This time a new prompt appeared which allowed me to select “drop off”.

Now, at this point, let’s consider the technical aspect of the touch screen software. I chose not to pay an outstanding invoice (there is a legit reason for this that you really don’t want to be bothered with), at which point it let me confirm my details and told me to sit down and wait to be called. If I hadn’t had the interaction with the charming assistant, I’d be sitting there still. Because it didn’t pass my meticulously entered details onto the staff! Did their QA engineers not spot this bug? There was a choice between paying LabCorp some money, or being told to sit and wait for something that would never happen.

Anyway, I had passed the challenge. My details were entered.
“So what now?” I asked.
“Go out the back and leave it on the table in the room with the green curtain.”

Wait – so after all of this, I’m just putting it on a table? Together with the document I was given by the specialist which contains all of the details I had repeatedly entered into the disease vector and an explanation of the test expected? Why yes. It’s almost as if the whole thing was a complete waste of everyone’s time.

So LabCorp, here are some action points for you:

  1. Fix your software so that it’s not buggy and unpleasant to use. If you need some help, let me know and I’ll put you in touch with some software companies that actually know what they’re doing.
  2. Why not try not using a dirty-ass touch screen at all and instead employ a human to just take people’s details.
  3. Consider a new approach when training your staff. Maybe transition away from the prison-officer training, and more towards, I don’t know, customer-service perhaps? Think outside the box.

Fridays again

As I have mentioned before, one of the loveliest things about London (possibly England (possibly Britain (possibly Europe))) is the “after work drink”, especially on a Friday. In this job, my 12,000th since moving to America, I am very lucky to not only have a bunch of people who enjoy the same semi-religious ritual, but we also have a de-facto place to worship.
Nothing dramatic, gossip-worthy, or significant, needs to happen; we just need to talk and laugh. It sounds like such a simple recipe doesn’t it? But it’s surprisingly difficult to find. You need people with whom you can communicate in a way that doesn’t involve sport, and also who aren’t affected negatively by someone with a foreign accent, and who says a lot of stuff that doesn’t make a lot of sense. You also need people who don’t drive to work. How fortunate to have found such people! And tonight, after my old team-mates had left to pursue their commutes and domestic duties, how extra-lucky was I to be invited into a new cabal of people who work in a related team and share this odd collection of values?

It has been a while since I last blogged, and a lot has happened. The last couple of weeks have been genuinely enjoyable and that probably has something to do with why it’s easy to write again.

Some cryptic stuff to remind myself about why life has been enjoyable:

  • Working with Homehub CPE on TLS1.2.
  • Nick and his team are delightful to work with.
  • Pub quiz with Matt, RJ et al
  • Birds…including Russ.

Balls of the base variety

The company paid for us to have a day in the sun and even provided some food and beer – all while we should have been at work. Who could object to such a good deal? Me.
Without wanting to sound ungrateful, I feel the need to comment on my first baseball experience. The TL;DR version is:

  • Tailgating is a depressing testament to the failure of America to live up to its own hype.
  • The Phillies played like crap
  • Baseball is a stupid and boring game. Stupider than Cricket. Stupider than American Football (and that’s saying something).
  • It was 92F and there is no shade in the vast majority of the ground. But that doesn’t put people off for some reason.
  • Fans of the Phillies (pretty much everyone in Philadelphia) absolutely do not understand how anyone could not be thrilled by the experience let alone understand my view on it.

So, for the uninitiated, the start of a day of serious sportsfanship in this colony involves “tailgating” which means starting the day’s celebrations in the parking lot [car park] where people “party” by drinking beer, throwing things around and sometimes grill food.
Now, like every other human being on the planet, there’s nowhere I’d rather be on a hot sunny day than a massive concrete parking lot together with a bunch of people I don’t know from work who are all wearing the same clothes. Drinking a beer, having a sandwich and watching everyone thrill to the excitement of playing “cornhole” (they really do call it that) is indisputably fun of course. But doing so in a massive concrete car park, with all of the romantic and sensual sights and smells that go with it creates a truly memorable experience.
Wiley enterprising patriots set up stands near by where you can purchase bottles of overpriced water and “Trump for President” T-shirts; proud murcans all.

But of course, this rich cultural experience was just the hors d’Oeuvres – the main course (which is inexplicably known as “entree” in the U.S.) was yet to come.

A few of us were unable to suspend our excitement and so left the parking lot before all of the beer had been quaffed and headed over to the stadium. The obscene heat punished us for daring to leave the shady serenity of the concrete but we persevered in the knowledge that excitement, refreshment and seating awaited us in the cathedral of sports that was only an agonizing few minutes walk away in the 92F heat and 90% humidity.
We eagerly presented our company-bought tickets and were permitted entry to the ruby city of the Phillies stadium. It was everything I imagined it would be! A vast amphitheater packed with armies of identically dressed people sampling the gastronomic delights and audaciously over priced beer before returning to their seats where the non-stop action can be enjoyed.

There was some initial confusion regarding the location of our seats, but after a long and tiring slog through the labyrinthine stadium village we eventually found the oddly shaped grill that was our alloyed seating: the Budweiser Rooftop! Imagine the top shelf of the oven but with a good view of the lush green sportsball field.

I started writing this over a year ago but ran out of inspiration, though you can pretty much imagine the rest – especially if you’ve seen a baseball game.

Finest American Wingnuttery

This morning I received some spam via a comments form on my website. Here it is with identifying information removed so as not to accidentally generate traffic for them:

The 2016 President of the United States is . . . Hillary Clinton!

Did I scare you?

We’re [A Bunch of Delusional Simpletons] and we’re committed to keeping Hillary Clinton out of office in 2016. Unfortunately, if voters do nothing this election cycle, Hillary stands poised to take the presidency.

But you can help! Join us in the fight against Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Sign up and be entered to win FREE CCI Mini Mags 22 lr.

Paid for by [A Bunch of Delusional Simpletons] Not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee. Contributions from foreign nationals or entities are prohibited. Contributions are not tax deductible for federal income tax purposes.

In case you don’t know what “CCI Mini Mags 22 lr.” refers to, allow me to save you the effort of Googling: it’s ammunition for rifles.

So help us defeat Hillary, and we’ll send you some ammunition. Could there possibly be a more perfect example of deranged Tea-Party insanity?
So here’s a challenge: if you can formulate an offer of equal or greater batshit-craziness then please let me know. The best one will win a picture of an Eagle holding an M16 on a Harley Davidson, signed by Donald Trump’s hair.