I’ve suddenly come to the realization that I no longer have much privacy. I’ve forfeited it, bit by bit. Some was intentional–this website, my decision to talk about my personal life in stand-up comedy, my compulsive need to show my penis on the bus–and other things were beyond my conscious control, although I suppose they would have been in my control if I exercised slightly more control. Most things I didn’t notice, but now I’m struck by the cumulative effect. Struck and stuck.
Honestly, it makes me more wary about willful sharing, because lately I’m much more conscious of who might be reading my words, commenting on my Facebook status, clicking my links, watching my videos, subscribing to my Flickr stream, following my Twitter feed, etc. I’ve consciously chosen to engage in all of these aspects social networking tools, but separately. To see the picture of my personal life they create, all together, is a little intimidating. I could unsubscribe to all of them, in one sweeping gesture, but in this age doesn’t that just make people think you’re suicidal/dramatic? I used to be really amused when people would discontinue posting to their websites because they’d never just neglect them into obsolescence. Instead, it would usually end with One Final Post. A long goodbye, filled with all of the many reasons This Must Happen. Or worse, a pithy and obviously labored sentence meant to convey, in as few words as possible, the weight this website has burdened the author with all these many years, and their regrettable–but necessary!–acquiescence. Something like this:
So I’m in a bind. I’m not paying much attention to this website lately, and trying to put more effort in other places. But I don’t want it to go away completely, because I do like having it here. It’s just that, with the way I feel these days–maybe being married has suddenly impressed on me the need to better protect my privacy–I’m just less inclined to post stories like this:
Yesterday I gave away some fluids–two of the less viscous kinds. I didn’t want to give them away, but it was starting to become necessary. For the last few weeks I’ve been experiencing pretty consistent brain-grabbing headaches and occasional dizziness. Like, real dizziness. The kind you got when you were doing that trick in grade school where you to make each other faint by hanging your head toward the ground and then standing up very fast. Rug-pulled-out-from-you dizzy spells.
I experienced the first of these on my wedding day, I think. I hadn’t eaten much. I was too nervous to eat for most of the day and then, when I stopped being nervous, I spent cocktail hour hugging people. So, no food. I was making the rounds, chatting with people at each table, and I’d been squatting low at a table of old friends from high school, so they wouldn’t have to look up at me. After a few minutes, I stood up and suddenly it was like the planet had just been hit by a giant pinball and the ground reverberated from the soles of my feet to the top of my head. All the blood drained from my head and my legs felt like they could no longer support me. I didn’t go down but, man, I was close. I can’t imagine what a scene that would have caused. People are already unnaturally attentive to you on your wedding day; a public fainting spell would be like an irresistible bucket of chum spilling out on the dance floor.
Since the wedding, the dizzy spells have persisted. Sometimes it will occur if I stand up too quickly (is there even such a thing as standing up too quickly?); other times I’ll just be walking down the street and the world will tip sideways for a second, just to remind me that I could die at any minute. After spending a few weeks of very well-informed self-diagnosis–both my brother and a good friend were recently diagnosed with diabetes, so maybe it’s a rare, contagious strain?–Lisa convinced me to give someone my fluids and let them sift through them for the source of my vertigo.
Here’s the thing about testing labs; they’re not a ton of fun. The whole mood in these places is very “impending AIDS-y.” As an aside to the many medical testing laboratory employees who subscribe to the tremble.com RSS feed: This is no fun for us, either. We don’t like being forced to bleed, secrete, or micturate according to your whims, especially knowing the best possible outcome of all this painful and humiliating work is that we don’t have brain worms. Knowing this, would it be so hard to cheer up the process a bit? Why not put one of those hairy troll pencil toppers on the end of your hypodermic needles, or tape a photograph of Bush to the bottom of the urine specimen jars? Or, better still, hang a few Mylar balloons printed with upbeat messages, like “I HOPE IT’S THE *GOOD* KIND OF HEPATITIS!” or “THERE’S NO ‘U’ IN AIDS!” or “TO PEE OR NOT TO PEE: THERE IS NO QUESTION.”
Giving blood was easy, and I think I did a great job. I had a little help from their various needles and rubber belts and strong, beefy arms that held me down as I shrieked and squirmed. Giving urine was no more difficult–I’d had a ton to drink that day, in eager anticipation of this moment–but certainly more confusing. For one thing, I don’t mean to be showy but I easily had enough urine to fill their tiny jar, and then some. But how much urine is enough for a workable specimen? And, more to the point, how much is too much? I didn’t want to freak them out by unnecessarily filling the jar right to the rim. (Forgetting for a moment that this would be a fine demonstration of my can-do spirit and urethral agility.)
In the past, when providing urine, there was usually a sliding door in the bathroom–kind of like that plexiglas mail puzzle at post offices, where you open your side, place the package down, then close it, and they open their side to retrieve it. That seems like a good system to me, urine sample-wise. However, at this facility, the technician asked that visit the bathroom directly across from the patient waiting area and then return the jar directly to her. Not in a paper sack, but naked and exposed to public scrutiny. I held the jar close to my chest and side-stepped out of the bathroom, shielding my hideous pee from any patients who might be faint of heart. Then I walked it back to the examining room, where another patient was already in the middle of having his blood drawn. Tacky!
Now, I can’t say exactly what the protocol should be when dropping off urine. Maybe it’s best to say nothing and just scurry away, but that seemed to me like it would be a gesture loaded in shame. Like you weren’t asked to leave the urine sample; it’s just something you do to get off. You place urine jars all around town and then run away with your eyes cast downward, then hurry home and pleasure yourself to thought of people discovering your urine jar on a chair in Starbucks, or resting next to a salt shaker at Popeye’s Chicken. I don’t know if such a fetish exists but I would guess that if I could conceive of one so easily, there is probably already a website, DVD series, and hand-bound monthly magazine devoted to the subject.
If silent shame, following by fleeing (on a gimpy leg, in my vision of this scenario), is not the best way to deposit a urine sample, I know for a fact it is still not the worst because here’s what I did: as I entered the examining room and saw the technician drawing a patient’s blood, I placed my half-filled pee jar on a stainless steel examining table, nodded to the blood donor (and not the technician, for some reason) and said, “Enjoy!” And that, in no uncertain terms, is the worst.