Flu Season is Playtime for Secretaries, Nurses

    January is flu season, so I didn’t think anything of it when
    I started to develop a cough earlier this quarter. When it comes to doctor
    visits, there are two types of people: those that rush to make an appointment
    over the slightest sniffle and those that will hobble around for four days on a
    nearly-broken ankle before they angrily admit defeat; I’m the latter.

    Even as my cough turned to a sore throat, throbbing head
    congestion and weird ear pressure, I popped some Tylenol Cold and trudged to
    class. But when the sickness spread south and I spent one horribly sleepless
    night vomiting, I decided it was time to see what antibiotics could do.

    On Jan. 16, I called student health at 9 a.m. on the dot. This was, as I had heard from the
    friendly answering machine minutes before, the time it opened. But instead of a
    person I was again greeted by the machine.

    “Hmm, the secretary must be in a little late today,” I
    thought to myself. “I’ll give her a few minutes.”

    But 15 minutes and three calls later, I was greeted again by
    the chipper, but now substantially more grating, answering machine. Annoyed, I
    pushed the phone-tree number that would allegedly direct me to a human being,
    only to be disconnected.

    Taking a few deep breaths, I called one more time. Finally,
    rather than dropping my call, the obnoxious answering-machine voice redirected
    me to Catrina. Brimming with hope at the sound of a real human, I forgot my
    frustration and asked to make an appointment to see a doctor. But apparently my
    any-time-you-have-available scheduling request was too much to handle, because
    rather than oh, I don’t know, do her job and book an appointment for this
    audibly sick caller, Catrina decided to play doctor and investigate my symptoms
    via phone interview.

    Whatever, I never call student health; how am I supposed to
    know how this works? I told her all my symptoms, and she told me I should come
    to the urgent care waiting room. I explained to her that I had a busy day ahead
    of me and would prefer to book an appointment, even if it meant I would be seen
    later. Catrina told me if I wanted to make an appointment, she needed to
    forward me to a nurse who would evaluate my symptoms and schedule an
    appointment.

    Wait? Then what the hell was all this for?

    I said I’d like to make an appointment. She told me the
    nurse was busy and that if I came to student health before noon a doctor would see me right away. Too delirious to
    argue, I hung up the phone and made my way over.

    When I got there, another student was checking in at the
    front counter. I waited behind her, and as she moved aside to fill out
    paperwork I stepped forward. Maureen the secretary ignored me, looking down at
    her papers. She was middle-aged, but her hair was perfectly coifed in a harsh
    little bob and her petite features were sharp like a bird’s.

    “Hi,” I said. Maureen’s beady eyes glared up at me.

    “You’ll have to wait there until someone can help you,” she
    said, snapping a glorified talon toward a wait-here sign a foot behind me.

    I couldn’t help but laugh; she wasn’t actually serious, was
    she? But as Maureen turned quickly back to her papers I swallowed whatever
    runny-nosed, bleary-eyed pride I had left and took a big step backward.

    Fifteen minutes later — after Maureen decided to acknowledge
    my existence with a simple “fill out the blue form around the corner,” I
    noticed a sign telling me of a potential two-hour wait and we had lovely
    discussion that boiled down to her inability to schedule me an appointment — I
    again accepted defeat and plopped down on a waiting-room chair. I was in this
    for the long haul.

    I figured I should at least get some work done, so I opened
    my battery-depleted laptop and plugged it into a nearby wall socket. Not five
    minutes later, an official-looking man came out of nowhere to inform me that I
    was not allowed to “tap into the electrical system” in such a way.

    And that was it; student health broke my mucus-y soul.
    Sensing my dejection as he watched me silently unplug my computer, the man
    added one more gem to student health’s bureaucratic stockpile of wonder.

    “Yeah, you’re just not allowed to,” he said. “And the reason
    is: A lot of people want to, and you’re just not allowed.”

    Yes, he really said that. I kid you not.

    My name was called a little over an hour later and a nurse —
    not a doctor — looked down my throat and told me to take some Sudafed, which,
    conveniently, isn’t sold at the on-campus pharmacy.

    So I pay $849 a year for the Student Health Insurance Plan,
    and the one time in three years that I get really sick and need to call upon
    student health for assistance, I’m harassed for two hours and sent home? Great.

    I guess the daily hassles of ever-increasing tuition
    expenses, cramped and costly housing, outrageous textbook prices, overcrowded
    buses, downright shitty parking and a total rejection of student input just
    weren’t enough. Now UCSD’s staff is going out of its way to give sick students
    a big fat fuck-you when they’re at their weakest.

    So good luck, Tritons. Call me if you need some Sudafed.

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