Man versus Machine
I have always had trouble with anything mechanical. “Mechanical” to me has a broad definition. For instance, it includes can openers and corkscrews. I was the last person I know of to get an ATM card because I never thought I’d learn the machine and therefore would lose all my money. We were the last family to get a VHS when they came out. A young “runner” at my law firm once left a TV with a VHS attached to it in my office for me to watch a deposition . I had never used one before as they had been on the market for only about eight years, and I had to call him to ask about it. “It’s just like your one at home.” He said. “I don’t have one at home” I replied. He had to come back and put the tape in the slot for me. I am told that most people believe that action to be intuitive. I could talk about my work with computers and cell phones ,but we’d be here all day.
So I was more than a little upset when my doctor told me that my blood glucose tested a little high and he wanted me to check it for a couple of weeks and report back. I tried to get out of it. The nurse whispered to me, “it’s really not that high. He just wants you to lose weight “ and if we could have put the thing to a vote, I’d have won two to one and not had to do the test. The doctor did not favor a vote. Fascist.
Me: What’s the big deal, don’t some people have blood sugar that’s higher than others ?
Doctor: Sure, diabetics do.
So I had to set an appointment with a “Duty Nurse” for this last Monday to be given a machine and taught how to use it to check my glucose. The fact that they were giving it to me ,and not selling it, made me think I was probably not getting the state of the art equipment. I worried that it was some old fashioned thing and that the needle prick would hurt like hell. But mostly I worried that I would have to use a machine which meant that I would never use the machine, at least properly.
When I got to the Dr’s office for my appointment with the nurse, I was kept waiting. I had gotten there 15 minutes early and after twenty minutes past the appointment time I was still sitting around a waiting room among various people who all looked and sounded like they had the swine flu. Finally a very young blonde, slender nurse called my name. “Kelly” was maybe 27 years old and I was in a foul mood form the wait when she called for me. Fortunately for Kelly she weighed me first and we found that I’d lost five pounds over the last six days (I know, I know, water weight, but don’t ruin my high). At any rate, I was as nice as I could be after that.
Kelly sat me down in an examining room and told me in a manner normally reserved for fourth graders that she was going to teach me how to test my blood.
Kelly: Now a lot of people are squeamish about this, but the needle is nothing. It feels like a bee sting.
Me: (not particularly comforted ) A bee or a wasp or hornet because I got stung on the back by a Yellow Jacket once and almost wrecked a car at 75 mph.
Kelly: No, a bee, just a bee
Me: What kind of bee, a European bee of one of those African killer bees ?
Kelly: European Bee
Me: What kind of a European bee, Honeybee or Bumble bee. ?
Kelly: I’m not exactly sure, I have never been stung by a bee.
Me: Then how in the hell do you know that it feels like a bee sting ?
Kelley: That’s what the manufacturer reps tell us to tell people.
Well, this was going to be just great. Kelley then proceeded to show me the infernal machine and its parts, which included needles. She patiently explained the workings of the device and how I was supposed to prick myself and stick this little piece of cardboard that I bled on into this computer gizmo which would then, if I had done it right, give me a reading which I would record in a journal. The journal had pictures of an apple and an eaten apple in it. If you took the blood before eating you recorded it next to the apple. Even I could guess where you recorded it after you ate. Through all this Kelley continued to talk to me and treat ne as if I was about 10 years old. This was about two years above the level I needed her to use and so I slowed her down. Then, I actually put the machine together and took a sample myself. It all worked well and would continue to work well as long as Kelley promised to move in with us and supervise every morning. She would not so promise. But she gave me a step by step booklet. She said. I did not look at it.
I awoke at 4:30 this morning worrying about the machine. Finally, my wife came in a couple of hours later and encouraged me to face my problem head on. Which I did. I opened the box and there was a product I felt that I was seeing for the first time. It may as well have been a Saturn rocket for all I could remember about it. Well, at least I had the step by step booklet. I found it and opened it. It was in Spanish. Cursing ensued until I turned it over and found the English version. This was not a lot of help. The booklet was written by the same guys who write the booklets on furniture that you have to put together yourself. It had the information I needed, but just not written in a way that I could understand it. I tried the Spanish version and it was no better.
As I fiddled around with the thing ,I dimly remembered some of the instructions and sort of put the thing together. However, I had problems with the needle, and the spring portion of the gun which was the only thing keeping me from having to test my blood with a Paring knife. I yanked the needle out of the small barrel and proceeded to put a nice gash on my right index finger. This did not feel like a bee sting, more like wound from a sword, but blood was blood and I could have used it for testing but I had forgotten how to do that part too.
I got out the little computer and the little cardboard sticks that you are supposed to put the blood on, but after I dripped blood on the stick and stuck the stick into the computer slot it registered, not my glucose level, but flashed E-3. I cursed some more, by now blood was trickling onto my hand, moving toward my sleeve. At this moment my wife entered the room, the better part of an hour had passed since I had begun a process which had taken under thirty seconds in the nurses office the morning before.
Rayda: What level did it measure ?
Me: E -3
Rayda: That sounds like an error.
Me: you think so ?
We pulled out another manual and found that E-3 meant that I was putting in the stick incorrectly. I tried several more times (each including a needle prick) and E-3 appeared every time. It was time to give up and call Kelly to accuse her of giving me a defective machine. I did not look forward to this because I knew that the problem was the operator, not the equipment which meant that before I went back to Kelly I had to really break the machine somehow so she would not take the test and get a perfect result in thirty seconds. Can’t stand it when that happens.
After reading the manual (in English) Rayda discovered that I had not been waiting for the screen to flash a “blood drop” picture which was the sign that the computer was ready to analyze my blood. So I restarted the procedure and by now I had pricked myself half a dozen times, not counting the initial gash. Each time, other than the first, it felt like a bee sting. Once I waited for the picture of the blood drop to appear, I shoved in the stick and a reading came out. The same reading I had gotten the morning before. Well, I’m glad we got that settled I thought to myself, wiping blood off of the floor and tightening the tourniquet on my wrist.
Tomorrow is another day, but I have got the hang of it now, and will have as long as Rayda does not leave the room.