Wednesday, November 25, 2020

On a ‘Quest’ for a Flawless Online Appointment

Recently I had to get blood drawn before my annual physical. In the past, this task always has been quite a “quest.” For the blood test to be accurate, you have to fast for at least 12 hours. When going that long without food or drink, time goes by anything but fast. Instead of a “fast,” they should call it a “slow.”

Because of this fasting requirement, every morning at 7 a.m., when the testing facility opens, there are usually eight or 10 people waiting impatiently to begin their “quest” to scribble their name on the first-come, first-serve sign-up sheet. Last year, I got there at quarter to 7, but I didn’t get my blood taken until after 8 o’clock. By the time I was done, the snacks in my car (coffee and a glazed ham) had gotten cold.
This year I began my “quest” by going to the facility’s website, to confirm that it opened at 7 a.m. I discovered they now have an online sign-up procedure. By clicking on a calendar and searching for an open time slot, I could make a personal reservation. I found an open spot, 7:30 on the following Wednesday, and reserved it. The website immediately sent me confirmations via email and text message.

My first thought was, “This is never going to work.” You see, I’ve done online sign-up and ordering in the past. Once I ordered six grinders for a Saturday afternoon party, using the website of a local deli. When I went to pick up the food, they had nothing ready. The guy behind the counter apologized and said, “The computer thinks your order is for next Thursday.”

Another time I placed an order online for a pharmaceutical product, and when I went to the drug store to pick it up, the clerk searched his computer and finally exclaimed, “Oh, the computer says you’re gonna pick it up at our Torrington, Wyoming, store.”

So, I was convinced my blood sample “quest” was going to be another high-tech, online disaster. The possibilities for a screw-up were endless: wrong day, wrong time, wrong location, wrong procedure. I mean, maybe instead of giving a blood sample, the computer decided I needed a kidney transplant.
Finally, the day of my “quest” arrived, and 15 minutes before my scheduled appointment I received a text message. It contained a link so I could inform them I was in the parking lot, and it said they would send another text when it was time for me to go inside to get my blood drawn. 

“Oh sure,” I said to myself. “I’ll probably be here for hours waiting for a text message that will never come.”

I began outlining a newspaper essay in my mind, which would chronicle this high-tech disaster, and how computers and the internet are ruining everything nowadays, even something as simple as getting a blood test.

Well, at exactly 7:29 a.m., I received a text message saying they were ready for me. I hoped this didn’t mean they were ready for me at the Torrington, Alaska, facility.
I went inside and they ushered me into a small room, where a very pleasant young man took my blood sample. I was never so relieved to have someone stab a needle into my arm. I was back in my car by 7:40, washing down a warm glazed ham with hot coffee.

The only problem with this whole adventure is that I had to ditch all the sarcastic and critical things I was going to write. Now, instead of saying I was on a frustrating and futile “quest,” I can say I had a terrific experience at Quest. And I don’t mean Jonny.


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