Tuesday, February 01, 2005

THE NEEDLE: Making a difference, one swoon at a time

So I rocked up to Bangkok *very* early this morning, and in a fit of compassionate fervor, brimming over with love for my fellow man, I began my trek to every NGO, UN outpost and half-reputable aide agency.
I was met with varying degrees of polite disinterest, polite refusal, polite (but restrained) thankfulness, and on my fourth visit (as my spirits were starting to flag) with a needle direct from Little Shop of Horrors and a syringe that looked like it belonged in a novelty costume store.
After a brief conversation with the lovely girl at the Red Cross Office, it became apparent that the most immediate need was for blood (not having any tents or cholera vaccine about my person). So I trundled off to the Bangkok blood bank, nodded and smiled politely as I worked my way through the labyrinthine construction of the blood
bank, moving from challenge to challenge (Trying to remember my passport number without haivng to go burrowing through my bag for my passport, trying to remember my mother's maiden name) until I was finally confronted with


Let me assure you, dear friends, it deserves that hallowed place in your intrepid reporter's correspondence, for it was a *fearsome* beast.

A note of clarification: I don't have anything against injections/needles/medical procedures generally. I don't go all butterfly-ey whilst watching ER, I've never had a problem having blood taken in the past, I don't squirm when doctors come near me with moderately-long moderately-pointy things: This particular apparatus
will haunt my dreams until I die.
It's not possible to accurately describe in words the kind of thing that was levelled at the soft-and-tender regions of my arm without sounding just the slightest bit hysterical, so in order to preserve some semblance of manly virtue I'll simply say this: IT WAS *BIG*
The polite Thai Nurse perhaps spotted the slightly wide-eyed look on my face and, mistaking my concern for a hygiene one, showed me the sterile packet from which the device had just been removed: Whilst my Thai is getting much better, and I even managed to convey to someone yesterday that I wanted to find yesterday's newspaper, I couldn't, with this thing pointed at me, remember the words for "blind panic"
"overwhelming terror", or the phrase "dear god, please tell me that needle's not going anywhere near any bit of me" (disappointingly that one turned out not to be in my little phrasebook at all, and not knowing the words for "dear god", "needle" or "any bit of me", I was rather at an impasse)
In fact, in this moment of near-hyteria, the only phrase I could remember is that most charming of Thai phrases: Mai pen rai...

"Mai pen rai", I said (no doubt sounding ridiculous, I've been trying to imitate Thai's falling/rising intonation, with (judging by the hoots of derisive laughter my attempts usually produce) varying degrees of success.

This was... in all the circumstances, a very poor thing to say. It was a very poor thing to say because the nurse took this as her cue to leap in to action: Fearing that she was about to lose a customer, she leapt upon me, siezing my arm in a single motion, inserting the giant needle in to my arm and sucking a good 12 or 13 litres of blood in to the waiting syringe or "bucket" as I preferred to call it.

After that sort of experience, I felt the orange juice and the jelly cup was the least they could do.

In any case, I've survived another day, managed to meet some friends from KL, and generally recover from my ordeal. Tomorrow I've got a round of "second interviews" I guess you'd call them for volunteer work: My vaunted "IT skills" seemed to prick a few ears, and one organisation was particularly pleased to see I had a qualification in Nuclear Physics (Having inadvertantly handed them the resume I usually
keep in reserve for ASX 100 listed companies, for situations when you can be absolutely sure they're never going to check your work history). For now I'm off for a beer or two, (to replace lost electrolytes, what with all the walking and attempted murders I've gone through today)

As for changing the world, It appears I'll probably end up changing the world by ensuring that news releases get posted to a website nobody reads. Oh well, you can't change the world all in one week I guess. Whilst I've already used my annual Catch-22 Re-read free pass for 2004, events of the last few days have encouraged me to splurge
and spend my 2005 one early :)

Your Intrepid Reporter,



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