Monday, June 23, 2008

Backblog: January 3rd, 2008. Testing me.

It's kind of funny. I woke up at 8:00 this morning to take my shower because I had somewhere to be at 10:00, and I didn't want to be late. My roommate was taking his shower at the time, so I just waited for him to get done. He finished at 8:45 so I leapt in, brushed my teeth and shaved before I stepped into the shower. I got out of the shower at 9:08 if I'm remembering correctly. I checked my laptop to see what the temperature was. It was only about 15 degrees outside so I decided to wear my long underwear and to wear a warm sweater under my winter coat. I picked my second-to-warmest hat off of the shelf and headed out the door.

One might ask where I was going. The answer was to Quest Diagnostics in downtown Pittsburgh. I applied for a job last week and I needed to have a drug test before they would hire me, so I went online to make the appointment (as per the company's instruction) and was delighted to find that there was an office on Stanwix Street, not even two miles from my front door. I used to walk downtown everyday when I was going to school, so I thought, "why not walk there today." The map that the website gave me was clear enough: the office was just outside of point park by the Monongahela River on the other side of town.

I had plenty of time to make it to my appointment. It never takes me more than fifteen minutes from my door to the Allegheny and then usually never more than twenty minutes to anyplace downtown. The problems started when I mistakenly thought I knew where Stanwix Street was. It turns out that I didn't, and finally had to break out my GPS to be sure (I usually carry it in my briefcase just so that it's there when I need it). After taking what seemed like a longer-than-normal time to acquire satellites, my little device told me that I had passed it, and that's when I was reminded that my GPS pointer stick wasn't working properly (it rarely moves the pointer up or down anymore). Fiddling with it for a while got it to point me in the general direction. I was on my way once more.

When I came to Stanwix Street my leather shoulder bag decided to give up the ghost and the threads holding the strap in place came loose, causing it to fall off of my shoulder. This was especially disheartening because I have been packing it lighter than I used to, ever since I was laid off from work. I can't repair it, as I don't have any needles that will penetrate the leather. That's okay though; I'm not worried about it. I clipped the straps up and carried it like an attache case for the rest of the day.

Now on Stanwix Street I began to look for the building number (625). It turns out that this is especially difficult because the various businesses that line the street make no effort to let you know where they are - they're just there! I had to walk a block before I found a building that had the numbers 220 on it. That's when it hit me - MapQuest's picture was wrong. The street ran the other direction, so I was near the beginning, not the end. It was not the corner of Fort Pitt Blvd, like the map so plainly showed, but closer to the Allegheny River. My time preciously short now I made my way up the street - I had four city blocks to cross and less than fifteen minutes to do so.

At this time I should point out that my bladder was quite full, as to ensure that I would have a sample to give them I had been "holding it" ever since I had awoken nearly two hours before.

I could see it in the distance - a parking garage with the numbers 625 on the side. I knew that I was almost there... Except that when I crossed Liberty Avenue I discovered that the entire northern half of Stanwix Street was being renovated, torn up, and blocked off (even the sidewalks). As I had gone as far as I could go on the walkway I went into the nearest building I could get to, I hoped that it was the one with the office in it. I walked in, began perusing the big sign that listed more than three-dozen businesses... none of them in alphabetical order. My time was almost up when the nice security guard lady noticed that I was kind of confused and asked me if I needed any help. I asked about Quest Diagnostics and she told me that I was in the wrong building, but gave me directions on how to get around the construction to the right place. I thanked her, and following her advice I was out the door again.

I arrived at Quest with two minutes to spare (I had been questing for it all morning, so the name was apropos) and my bladder about to burst. I signed the book got my paperwork out and then.... waited.

There was no one in the receptionist's window. There was no noise coming from the back room. There was no bell to ring. I took of my coat as noisily as I could, packed up my GPS and then picked up a magazine (a Smithsonian magazine, so that wasn't too bad) and read for about 15 minutes before someone noticed I was there and said that they'd be right with me. Mind you, I don't blame them for being sluggish - if I had to collect strangers' piss and blood to earn my daily wage then I'd probably drag my feet too.

Man, it felt good to finally use that cup.

Now here's my gripe:

You would think that a business - any business - would take the time to make sure that all of its offices are represented properly on the stupid MapQuest page, especially if they're embedding that page into their own site. If I had been driving, I probably would never have found it because at 9:00 in the morning there is nowhere to park in the city to get your bearings (most tourists use green lights for this) and to scout around. It kills me that every single time I use MapQuest, or have it forced on me by some corporation's website that it is wrong, inarguably, 100% of the time. I don't blame the people at that particular office because they are part of a larger conglomeration with a central hub. It's the people at the hub that should be figuring this stuff out, or at least knowing where their labs are. I'm just afraid someday in the not to distant future that I'll be lying in an ambulance with a gaping chest wound while the driver consults his in-dash GPS navigation system and then drops me off at the nearest IHOP instead of the hospital (mmmm... pancakes).

With any luck, the drug test will come back negative and I will actually get the job this time. One can only dream.

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