Friday, June 29, 2012

Asian Eyes' USA - Community Service

Parking ticket means summon in America; 
for us it means parking fee.
         I went to school in USA back in the early nineties. While I was there I had my fair share brushes with the law, all petty offences. I remembered it happened once again when I had to pick up a new student who just arrived at my city, waiting at the airport. It was a last minute rush to pick him up as he had earlier missed his connecting flight in San Francisco, so Delta Airlines routed him through Memphis instead of the normal route through Dallas before landed in Mobile. Since there were no parking space, I parked my old Chevrolet Cervette by the roadside next to the entrance and dashed in to the arrival hall. After picking him we made our way to my car. From far I noticed a piece of paper on my car windscreen, held up by the wiper. "Oh, oh" I said. It was a citation ticket from the local traffic police for unlawful parking and it carried a $60 fine for first time offender.
           I reported to 'work' the following Monday at Mobile City Hospital. Dr. Youniss was at her office, in full white doctor
Donated blood goes through 
stringent test
attire, with her stereoscope dangling from her neck. She smiled when I knocked on her door and she gestured for me to join her in an adjourning room. Her department was in charge of blood bank and blood transfusion, and they did stringent test to ensure the bloods were good, meaning not contaminated with pathogen or disease. She introduced me to a clerk, a middle age woman, Stella, who in turn assigned me to my 'job' - data entry. With that Dr Youniss bade me good luck while Stella briefed me of my 'work'. All I have to do was to key in the blood donors information - date of birth, their age, sex, blood type, education level and home address onto a computer database base from log cards that came together with the donated bloods. It was an IBM PC with DOS entry system. By the time I arrived at 8 am, being briefed and readied to start the 'work', it was break time. Coffee break at 10 am was half an hour affair, and we congregated in a opening at the hospital compound beside the canteen.  I was introduced to some acquaintances who were also on break and had small talks before I resumed my 'work'. Initially I struggled a bit as the doctor's writing on the cards were hardly readable (after all it was doctor's scribble). Often I need to refer to the Stella what to enter when there were blanks, or blatant errors or unreadable words? She glanced through and casually mentioned "Honey, just write as you see it. If you can't read the words, just copy the previous one, if no age, just put 35, got it?". Huh! I reckoned, someday, when a person turned 35 years, it was an inner calling to donate bloods! Beats me. That day I managed to enter about 30 odds record. At 12 noon on the dot, Stella stood up and asked for my community service form and proceeded to put a stamp on the paper and then she initialled it. "Here you go, see you tomorrow same time". I was  not sure what was her urgency in showing me the door, either I was a nuisance to her or she was bored in guiding me or maybe she was hungry. Ah, well! 
        I turned up for 'work' for the next 4 days, entered some 100 records on second and third day before racking up something like 120 on day four. I learnt quite a lot on the demography of the donors - where they come from - Daphne, Saraland, Chickasaw,Theodore, Tillmans Corner, Fairhope etc.; mixed of Whites, Blacks, Asians and Hispanics; their southern double rhymed names like Abby Gail, Mary Jane, Billie Jean,  Rita Mae, Billy Joe, John Boy, etc. and also their education levels - most did not even finished high school. Again, like clock work, works stopped at 10 am. I guessed it was the same anywhere in the world in governmental office when it comes to coffee break.
          On the final day, as I was happily keying away, a disturbed Stella stormed into the office and slammed a heavy stack of files on the desk and gave a huge sigh. "Max, I am sorry. I was given the wrong file to enter. Those data you had keyed in had been those diagnosed with disease and they should not be entered into the database. We have to erase all of them", she told me in halting tone to her voice. Well, all my 20 hours 'work' just vanished in a second when the reality sunk in. My mind was racing how could such thing happened. Luckily I was not handed HIV positive contaminated blood cards to key in, else it will be disaster. Stella continued "I was hoping that you will continue to key in this stack". No way as I had done enough hours for my community service duty. I started to erase those data one by one as told. I completed them and clocked out on time. Stella stamped and initialled the form and bade goodbye. I tried to seek out Dr Youniss but she was not in her office. I managed to thank her during class. Later I mailed the completed form back to my local community police department. 
 To me this community service, irrespective whether it was a good job done, was a good experience and it gave me an insight to some activity outside real life classroom. Along the way I also saved $60 of my hard earned money.
$60 cannot buy my community service 
experience gained 
Location: Mobile City Hospital, 900-950 St. Anthony Street, Mobile, Alabama 36603, USA.
Coordinates: 30°41′28.37″N 88°3′20.03″W

1 comment:

  1. May be not. May be the result is not what Stella want but $60 bought you an interesting story to tell in the life time. A chance to see the world from a different angle, those donors from different corners of the world and wonder how is their life stories behind the interesting names.

    20 hours can just finished in 2 days for computer games or couching at home.

    Mostly it opened the eyes of people who never got the chance to experience this.