Monday, June 4, 2018

Rage Against the Machine


If you felt the earth turn recently, don’t set off the earthquake alarm. It was just Kafka turning over in his grave, concerned that his prophecy of a broken bureaucratic world has become even worse than he ever dreamed.

This is the second time this year I’ve been caught in a downward spiral of rage-inducing incompetence, unresponsiveness and uncaring bureaucracy blocking me from getting something that I need, something that should be simple, but suddenly—and for no reason— it’s not.

The first was the nightmare of my Indian Visa, thanks to the company Cox & Kings that the Indian government hired to do this relatively simple work. Which they promptly converted to the most maddening, inefficient and waste-30-hours-of-your-life and good-thing-you-don’t-own-an-assault-rifle uncivil service that Kafka could never have imagined.

And now close behind them is Kaiser Permanente, insisting that there is no way in hell I can get a typhoid shot and the malaria pills that I need for my upcoming trip to Ghana without talking with a travel nurse. But the Catch-22/ 44/666 (the devil’s number!!) is that if you miss your appointed call because the travel nurse did not request the person answering the phone at school to go get you from the other room 15 feet away, you go to the end of the line and have to call back the person who connects you to the person who connects you to the person (I am not making this up!) who writes a note to the travel nurse with your preferred times and phone numbers and promises you’ll hear back within 24 hours for your next appointment time.

72 hours later, not a peep from said travel nurse and you call again and go through the whole cycle once more and than said travel nurse waits outside your house, watches when you leave and then calls your landline to say that the times you asked for are not available and the call will be scheduled for three days before you leave for Ghana and they can’t guarantee that the appointment to actually get the shot you need can happen in that short window of time, but they’ll do their best. (Okay, I made up the part about waiting outside the house, but all the rest is true.)

Now the fact is that I’ve done this twice before on trips to Ghana in 2014 and 2016, the people I’m going with miraculously had their phone call this year and I know what shots they got, so I know exactly what I need and this extra step of discussing it for 30 to 40 minutes with the travel nurse who will never call when I’m available is completely unnecessary. Can’t I just go into the hospital and get the damned shot and the malaria pills? Wouldn’t that make sense?

Yes, it would, but no, I may not. So I went to the hospital to Member’s Services and laid the dilemma out to a sympathetic person in that office,who then went through her own round of 12 phone calls searching for the escape route to sanity. 90 minutes later, we arrived exactly back where we started. My appointment is June 14th. Oh, one of those people within people who writes notes to the travel nurse did write down the slight emergency nature of my request, but how confident am I that this will make any difference whatsoever? Need I ask?

I know these stories are boring as hell, though they might either validate your own frustrating experiences or make you glad you’re not going to Ghana and your summer trip to the park down the street is just fine, thank you. But people, it’s getting worse out there. I’d like to advise a collective rage against the machine, but hey, the machines (including the machine-like people caught up in the broken systems) don’t care. And then your blood pressure is going to go up and you’re going to have to see the doctor, but the catch is you can’t see the doctor until you talk to the blood-sugar nurse first.

But don’t worry. Your appointment is three days before your nervous breakdown. It should work out fine.

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