A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

It Pays To Be Opinionated

Last night I attended a round-table discussion at my health clinic. I had been randomly selected to participate, and offered $50 for my trouble. Trouble?!? Getting paid to shoot off my mouth is my idea of dying and going to heaven.

A pleasant lady from a market research firm pressed refreshments on the eight of us, then had us sit around a table on which she had placed a recording device. After a few minutes of ice-breaking chitchat, she turned on the tape and began asking us questions about our experiences with the clinic. Did we think this or that service was available at the clinic, how had we learned about the place, what did we like most and least about the place, would we recommend it to a friend, and so on and on.

I had originally visited the clinic a few years back while a student at the community college nearby. A notice on the college job board was offering $20 to participants in a study there. All you had to do was have a rapid-result AIDS test and give your impressions of it.

I've always wanted to be a human guinea pig. The clinic was only a block from the school, so I signed up for the test. A nurse drew some blood from me, I was informed I didn't have AIDS (surprise, surprise), quizzed about my knowledge of the disease, given a little well-intentioned counseling about sexual activity, and, finally, presented with a $20 bill. I bragged about it to a friend who replied that he had once volunteered for an on-site, overnight study for which he had been paid hundreds. Damn!

At last night's discussion, reviews were mixed. One person had had a horrible experience and would never go back, no matter what changes the clinic made. Another had liked it fine, but had since found a place she liked even better. A couple went out of their way to use the clinic because they were so satisfied.

I myself could think of nothing negative to say. The clinic is convenient, never crowded, and I've always been treated well. The nurse I see seems competent, and I've never paid for anything. In fact, between my first and last trip, I've earned $70 for visiting. No complaints!


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