Date Night At The Medical Testing Centre Pt. 1

Date Night At The Medical Testing Centre Pt. 1

One man's dream to get money for very little work, per se.

By Simon Webster

Header photo via.

I arrived home from Norway last week – six months in the land of $9 coffees – and if I wasn’t broke enough already, I went out and bought a suit. Okay, maybe I needed one, maybe it was getting to be ‘that time’, but still, my bank balance was in no position to take such a hit.

My first weekend back came and went in a blur of jetlag and uncomfortable encounters, where I was repeatedly asked, ‘you were away?’

But still, good to be back. 

By Sunday afternoon, I was beginning to accept that my real life would have to roll on – that this state of jobless, homeless limbo could only be temporary.

A job. There’s a sick joke. When you have one, it feels like an inevitable thing – you take it for granted, complain about it – but when you don’t, finding a job seems impossible.

Not helping the cause was my skillset – think Tom Hanks, Castaway. Too few employers are looking for people versed in self-dentistry...

So I jumped online, embarking on what stank of a fact-finding mission: specifically, how many jobs can I not do?

Can’t be a brickie’s labourer, as I don’t have experience carrying bricks. Don’t have a Blue Card, nor a White Card. Somewhere in my past is an RSA, I’m just not sure where. Maybe it’s with my Bronze Medallion, or that First Aid Certificate, denoting my competence in a thing I am not at all competent in. I can’t make a coffee, and I’m told my 90% foam beers are not the perfect pour.

Surely I have some skills, I thought. Though I couldn’t think of what they were. $50,000 of HECS debt has bought me 5/6ths of two degrees, but you can’t do shit with that.

So I emailed friends, their parents, old teachers – maybe I could tutor, though what if these high schoolers turn out to be smarter than me? I could coach cross-country at my old school, but again the fear of being shown up by some 14-year-old string bean vetoed the idea.

My options were thin, and, backed into a mi-goreng corner, so would I be if my situation didn’t change soon. But still, no ideas.

Out of desperation I adjusted the parameters of my brainstorm, started letting even the shittiest ideas through. I caught myself scrolling through the website of the army reserves. They always need fodder, right? Maybe I could just do some training – it’d be like scouts, but for grown-ups – and then after a few weeks, when I’d found something else (or at the first sign of rising geopolitical temperatures), I could hand in my resignation. This could work, I thought.

Then it struck me – if I did sign up, I would literally become one of Tony Abbott’s foot soldiers. I’d sooner march behind Attila the Hun.

So it seemed the only thing left for me to do was sign some frighteningly detailed waivers and submit my body to experimental medical testing. If it’s good enough for Homer Simpson, well…

I was maybe half-joking when I mentioned the idea to a friend, but she didn’t seem taken aback. She told me that some of her friends do it, from time to time, when money’s tight. Told me she could put me in touch with someone, if I wanted. Told me there was a trial beginning soon.

I was hesitant. I scanned the clinic’s website, looking for an excuse to back out, but the models in the photos looked so trustworthy in their white lab coats. My reticence was, I’m embarrassed to admit, partly waylaid.

My friend kept the details flowing: this upcoming trial was to be a relative cinch. A one-nighter in the clinic, vitamin E supplements, some fairly non-intrusive observations throughout. And then it came, the clincher: $450. I was in.

The next day I called up and arranged to come in. A few days later I had my initial screening (basically just a check-up to make sure I wouldn’t die under their care). There were questions, a blood test, pee in this cup, put on that inflatable thing that squeezes your bicep like a frustrated parent, hook yourself up to the ECG machine, waive a bunch of your rights... When I left, it was with the intention of participating in my first trial in two weeks’ time. That easy.

(By the way, gang, if anyone wants in on this racket, make sure you tell them that I sent you. Referral voucher pyramid scheme!)

On my way out the nurse asked if my partner would also be interested in doing the test.

"We can put you in rooms next to each other, and take your blood samples at the same time?"

It sounded like the strangest couple’s activity ever, but the money was talking: $900 in basic remuneration, plus a $50 gift voucher for the referral. All we’d have to do is go on a weird sleepover. We were both keen, but exams ruled my girlfriend out, and I realised that people with normal-type commitments probably weren’t the typical test subjects. I’d have to go this one alone.

I went home and swam breaststroke through my imaginary earnings. I’d gone from feeling like the coal miner’s daughter to Jordan Belfort in a matter of minutes. And in my head I set myself a goal: travel to South America at the end of the year, and do it solely on the proceeds of my casual lab-rattory.

To be continued...

If you like this, you might enjoy Simon's ruminations upon the perils of Instagram.