Tuesday, July 03, 2007

What's my age again?

So far, I've said almost nothing on this blog about my summer ministry at Catholic Charities. Working with refugees can be both rewarding and tiring, and at the end of a full day at the office I typically look forward to doing things that will take my mind off work - like reading a good book or taking an evening walk along The Alameda - instead of having to think more about work so I can write about it. Nonetheless, over the course of the coming month I'm going to try to share some of my summer ministry experiences for readers who may be interested in how I spend my days.

This morning I went to a county-run health clinic in San Jose for a work-mandated TB test. My guess is that, like me, most readers have taken this test multiple times - you go to the doctor's office and get a quick needle prick on the arm, then you return three days later so the doctor can look at the area around the needle prick to see whether you may have some form of tuberculosis. Since my previous test results are out of date, my supervisor told me I should get the TB test done as soon as possible after I started work at Catholic Charities in early June. Despite my best intentions, various circumstances kept me from making it to the clinic until this very morning.

Quick and relatively painless, my visit to the clinic passed mostly without incident. The key word in the preceding sentence is 'mostly,' because if the visit had passed entirely without incident I'd have little reason for this post. The one mishap I encountered in getting my TB test concerns my age - or, to be more precise, my year of birth. The nurse who administered the test apparently had a hard time reading my handwriting, which led to the following exchange:

NURSE: (Copying information from a handwritten form onto a computer) Your date of birth is... May 27th, 1966.

ME: No, 1980.

NURSE: I'm sorry, 1986.

ME: No - 1980. Eight, zero.


I'll confess that my penmanship isn't the best, but I didn't think it was bad enough that someone would mistake my '80' for '66.' Complicating matters, the nurse apparently thought I meant '198-' when I said '1980.' Though I sometimes encounter people who think I'm older or younger than I actually am, I think this is the first time I've been mistaken for 41 and then 21 in rapid succession. I suppose the nurse in question was either particularly credulous, highly unobservant, or simply too busy or tired to think much of what I'd written on the form. I'll probably never know what was going through her mind, though I may see her again on Friday when I report back for the test results.

On an unrelated note, a reader named Shawn has posted a comment asking me to "post a not-so-subtle reminder" that the Harry Tompson Center still needs your daily votes at Campaign For Your Cause. Shawn is absolutely right - the race is heating up, and it's still important that you cast your vote each and every day between now and July 13th. I'm sure that the people who run the Harry Tompson Center and the clients they serve appreciate your help, and once again I urge you to join me in giving them your support. AMDG.


At 7/04/2007 9:47 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

I had a very similar conversation with a nurse this week - except she wrote 1936. When I responded, "No...!1958", she smiled and said, "Oh, sorry, 1938..." I'm not particularly vain, but I'm not yet 50 and don't think I look like I'm in my 70s.

I suspect the brain is not engaged at all in this setting, which worries one a bit when it's health care.

At 7/06/2007 8:19 AM, Blogger Michelle said...

Ah...I found it. There is an essay called Vision in a collection by Danielle Ofri, "Incidental Findings" that speaks to this issue a bit. How do we see people? or not! A good read for anyone doing pastoral work.

grace and peace,


At 7/07/2007 6:39 PM, Blogger Joseph Koczera, S.J. said...


I'll take a look for the essay - a number of people I've told this story to have recounted similar experiences, so it's not uncommon. I just hope the nurse gave me the right shot, regardless of whether she thought I was 41 or 21.


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