Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Take AIM

A delicate subject, STDs, but occasionally one I can find some humor in. Take what happened to me a few months ago…

Now, I’m not monogamous, and neither are my partners. We’re all as smart and as careful as we can be, and I actually have great confidence in smart-and-careful when it comes to STDs. For my entire sexual life, using latex protection and basic safer sex practices has served me and my partners very well indeed.

But you can’t get complacent in these matters. Thus, I go get tested (for everything) rather more frequently than most people. Sometimes I’ve done it through my regular healthcare provider, but more often I use a stand-alone testing center, and I usually don’t do it under my real name. Why? Because I trust health insurance companies about as far as I could throw an overpaid Wellpoint executive. God forbid something serious should ever happen, but if it does, I want to know about it before it gets into any medical record with my name on it.

And there are plenty of ways to do that. This outfit, for example. You make the appointment online, show up, let them jab your arm, pee in a cup, and boom, you're done. In and out in twenty minutes, get your results on the phone in three days. Sure, it’s more than a $15 co-pay, but you cannot put a price on peace of mind.

So last November when I was booked to shoot with Kink.com, the prospect of getting an Adult Industry Medical test did not alarm me. My first reaction was: Cool, it’ll be time for me to get tested anyway. I won’t have to pay for it this time.

But then I thought: No - this is connected to my real name. I want to know for sure I have a clean bill of health before I sign my name to anything. So as ridiculous as it sounds, I scheduled myself for a medical screen about two weeks before I was due to take the AIM test for Kink.com. What? Control issues? Me? Like I said, I just call it peace of mind.

When I booked my private appointment, I chose a different lab than the one I’d been to previously. This isn't like going to the neighborhood pub, where you want the bartender to call you by name when you walk in the door. It was in the same area, though. Medical business always clump together like bunches of grapes, and this was no exception. At the appointed day and time, I showed up at the little no-frills lab and gave my usual fake name to the two people behind the counter.

Even though intellectually I know this is a big ole whatever to these lab techs, one does wonder: what do they think of people who come in for full-battery STD testing? I’ve never had anyone say anything to me, but it’s nicer when they don’t look at you funny.

This pair seemed pleasant. One of them was a nice-looking guy, clearly gay, with a round face, chunky glasses and thick, spiky hair. The other was a woman who made me think: this is a nice girl who’s trying to look a little edgy, with magenta-red hair and some tatts, but who still seems like a rather sweet, earnest, small-town sort of girl.

After a few minutes of fumbling around in filing cabinets, they found my appointment paperwork and led me off to the blood-drawing area. I’m not afraid of needles – even when they’re going in me - and I’m pretty easy to get blood from, so that went smoothly. Then the nice red-haired girl handed me a little cup with a plastic lid, like a Tupperware container for a single shot of booze. She indicated where she’d drawn a black line on it with grease pencil.

“Now - I know this is kinda tricky, but you see this little mark? If you can fill it up right to that line, as close as you can, but please not go over it…”

I smiled and took the container. “It won’t be a problem.”

Three days later I get the call: all clear. Which is what I had expected, but it's always nice to have one’s beliefs confirmed. So, okay - bring on the official AIM test. A few days after that, I called the Kink.com office in San Francisco to get the where/when details.

“Um – you’re in Seattle? Looks like there’s a lab in, what is this, Lynnwood? Is that good?”

“Good lord, no. That’s way far away. Is there a place in Capitol Hill or First Hill anywhere?”

There was more noise of papers ruffling on the other end of the phone. “Okay, here’s one that says Capitol Hill.” I scribbled down the address, day and time on the back of an envelope, tucked it in my calendar, and thought no more about it.

When the day came, I started driving towards the address and thought, “Hey, wait a minute, this address looks familiar…” Yeah, you guessed it: it was the very same lab I’d been to less than two weeks before.

Damn, I thought, there must be a dozen labs like this within a mile! What are the odds? I should have gone to Lynnwood. I walked up to the doors. Well, maybe there will be different people working. I’m under a different name, so…

I went in, and there they were: Chunky-Glasses-Boy and Nice-Redhaired-Girl. Oh, this is going to be slightly awkward.

They looked up, smiled at me, and then looked puzzled, in a way that clearly expressed: “Hey, we recognize you, hi there! But wait - you were just here before. Why are you here again?”

“So, yeah, hi.” I pulled out my ID. “I, uh, was here recently, but today I’m here for an AIM test, under this name.”

They both stared at me perplexedly for a moment, then a look of comprehension flashed across the boy’s face. He crouched down and began rummaging through some folders in a plastic milk crate that was shoved far back under a desk. There were quite a few of them, I noticed.

His co-worker continued to look confused. “A NAME test?” she asked in a loud voice, looking from one of us to the other. “What’s a name test?”

He stood up and elbowed her sharply in the ribs, eliciting a small ow! “Cybernet Entertainment, right?” he asked me.

“Yeah.”

Hr frowned at the file he held. “But you’re not a nineteen-year-old male.”

I laughed slightly. “No.”

More rummaging. His associate had lapsed into silence, but she still looked baffled. He eventually flushed out my (new) file, and the three of us went into the blood-draw area, where I turned away and made rather a long business of setting down my bag, taking off my jacket, and slowly tugging up my shirt sleeve, waiting until the whispers behind me stopped.

When I turned back, the boy had taken himself off, and the red-haired girl was smiling at me with an expression of apologetic friendliness. I smiled back to indicate: It’s all right, darlin’, I didn’t take no offense, and laid out my arm for the needle. We chatted lightly of minor matters, and she remarked to me all her friends were phlebotomists, too. “We kinda all hang out together.”

I know some people who’d like to crash those parties, I thought to myself, watching my blood trickle into the plastic vial. But I didn’t say anything. The girl had been clued in that I was a kinky porn star, I didn't want to overload her brain completely.

As I pulled down my sleeve, she turned to me with the familiar little cup and the same earnest expression as last time and began to recite, ““Now - I know this is kinda tricky, but you see this mark I made…” Then she stopped. “Oh, wait, you know how to do this, don’t you?”

“Oh yes,” I replied, “I certainly do.”

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