I’ve been writing these Sunday posts for three months now, although I did miss one week along the way. Blogging, especially in non-video form, is a very old-timey thing to be doing these days, so maybe pass along a good word if you know someone who enjoys sleepy, archaic things or could use more junk mail.
Who is this person?
Have you noticed that the most captivating story is often just “Who is this person?” I have had several experiences that are difficult to retell because they sound like nothing much happened, when in fact the experience was alive with drama and suspense because my mind was engaged, the whole time, with trying to piece together a satisfying understanding of the person with whom I was interacting.
A particularly intoxicating offshoot of “Who is this person?” is “Is this person of sound mind?” I once spent hours listening to a guy, encountered randomly on a multi-use trail, rail against the city government for having taken land from his family 40 years earlier. He seemed to know all about the flora and fauna of the space, and all the names of city figures and dates of city events were accurate to the extent that I was familiar with them, but his story seemed fantastical. Also, at a practical level, it seemed the land had been taken from his family decades ago but he was still probably living on it, either in a house the city leaders had conspired to condemn or in the surrounding bush, although he got very cagey on the particulars whenever I sought satisfaction on this point. After a couple hours of mostly listening, I was left with the impression that I had just met either the most wronged man in our city’s history or an amateur naturalist and city historian who was utterly out of his mind. I’m still not sure.
(On the fascination of “Who is this person?” I heartily recommend Humans of New York.)
Amelia Bedelia gets a flu shot
I got a flu shot last month. In the course of one brief visit to a drugstore pharmacy, all of the following confusions or mishaps occurred:
- The confirmation email said to present my insurance card and photo ID upon arrival. The person at the check-in counter didn’t ask for or want to see the cards. So I thought “Oh, maybe the person who gives me the shot will need to see them” and kept my cards in hand the whole time.
- Instead, the counter woman said “I’m going to take your temperature now” and pointed a mysterious device at me. I was standing several feet from the counter at the time. She did not indicate if I should step forward, step backward, attempt to put the device in my mouth, etc., so I froze in place with a confused look on my face. She then said “Okay” and didn’t tell me the reading. But I was not expelled from the store, so… good?
- With my paperwork completed, the counter woman said “You can go to the waiting room now” without making any gesture or eye movement to indicate the location of said waiting room. After briefly eyeing the hallway behind her and then stepping back and looking down a nearby aisle to see if it might contain an entrance to any room-like facility, I decided she probably meant that I should sit in one of the three chairs lined against an unmarked wall 30 feet away.
- While I was sitting in the presumed waiting room, the counter woman called out “Christopher” and then immediately assumed an expression and demeanor as though she hadn’t called for anyone, so that when I looked at her I thought “No, the sound didn’t come from there.” In puzzlement, I looked for anyone who looked like they might be looking for me; I even glanced down an aisle. Then she called again and, this time, I caught her at it. I was needed for one more thing at the counter, her facial expression and overall comportment notwithstanding.
- When I was finally taken into an actual separate room for the shot, I was all prepared to show my insurance card and photo ID to this new person. Instead, this new person wiped a spot on my arm and poked a needle into it almost as soon as I’d sat down. She slapped on a crooked Band-Aid and away I went.
I was able to get my flu shot easily enough, but at no point during the process did I have a firm idea of what was happening or what was expected of me. They managed to keep me in a constant swirl of confusion from start to finish.
I returned to the same store for a COVID booster a couple weeks later and had a much less disorienting experience: My identification was taken immediately, I was told to step up to a particular spot at the counter for the temperature reading, I was told my temperature, there was an indicatory gesture toward the waiting room at the appropriate moment, no phantoms called my name, the shot-giver took a little more time to explain things, the Band-Aid went on straight.
Maybe the difference between a seamless experience and an Amelia Bedelia experience is just the quality of the directions and guidance being given. Don’t blame Amelia.
Amy’s, of delicious organic frozen meal fame, opened a drive-through restaurant here this week. We should probably feel honored, as there are only three other locations and those are all clustered closer to San Francisco. I haven’t tried it yet.