I’ve long been a fan of found objects.
They could take the form of a discarded piece of still-functional furniture hauled out to the sidewalk, and quite possibly with a hand-written “Free! Take Me!” sign affixed to it with masking tape. Perhaps a photograph. A plastic toy whose time on the street has left it gravel-scratched, and therefore, to me anyway, somehow more appealing. On a morning walk to work back in June, as schools were letting out for the summer, I happened upon a rather elaborate, hand-drawn, construction and manila paper game board that some youngster presumably crafted for a school project. The name of their invented game, delightfully, is Osos Locos, and while I was disappointed that my surruptitious treasure did not include the game cards as well, I was pleased enough with my find to share it in the office–an online retailer of games, ironically–for all to enjoy, which we still do.
For some parts of this colorful chunk of the planet I now call home, I employ an advisable look but don’t touch rule. Off-puttingly soiled or otherwise unportable items upon which I stumble may only come back home with me in memory or photograpic form.
And some found objects are truly unsettling, such as the scrap of paper that I’m going to put into the shredder imminently.
I currently live a short walk from downtown in Oakland, California. There is a large, regional health care service provider whose offices I walk past (there are likely smaller others in this dense commercial area as well). On my route this breezy morning, a small flurry of 8-1/2 x 11 sheets crosses my path, and instictively, I grabbed the nearest flutterer-by before it would no doubt have joined the others on their trek down the street toward Lake Merritt. I start to read it, I’m stopped in my tracks as my jaw drops.
Here’s a brief excerpt:
TREATMENT PLAN: continue same medications and follow -up with spine surgeon for further pain management, and pain medications, he has refills for the same pain medication. We are awaiting for input from the spine surgeon and we will order for the MRI of the right hip…
Catching my drift? This is from someone’s medical file. Blowing out and about on the street. The single page includes some of the most fundamental, must-guard private information, including but not limited to this person’s name, address, SSN, and date of birth, among other personal attributes, not the least of which are details of their ailment and diagnosis.
Now then. I’m wanting to speculate well beyond where the available facts would otherwise allow. It could be the case that the patient himself was careless with his information. I have no idea if the fluttering papers that I let pass me by are associated with this individual or not.
I just know that there is a big health care concern right nearby. I also can report that this sheet is two-hole punched along the top edge, and that it has a blue and red ink date received stamp on the back, both of which suggest that where this page came from (and should have remained) was some manner of office.
So then. In light of the necessary stories of inadequate coverage, of the ‘pre-existing condition’ shell game carriers increasingly play, in light of the millions of people whose coverage fails them, and their families (not even getting into the millions with no coverage at all), I’m bewildered and pissed at this apparent negligent disregard for privacy.
What the hell are we paying these people for?