Monday, November 17, 2008

The Year of Living Dangerously

Money can't buy everything,
That is true

In the summer of 1975, I was detailed by the Federal Government to Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, to take a turn at overseeing the medical surveillance system that had been set up there to process Vietnamese refugees into this country.

Every refugee had to be tested for every disease known to man and given all manner of shots and other injections, plus physical examinations by military doctors. Everything had to be documented, which meant, in those days, recorded on paper. I was in charge of a huge paper mill.

Everything revolved around a xerox machine which copied out a set of medical forms for every refugee who came through. With forms in hand, these hapless exiles were directed through a gauntlet of medical stations where they were abused by modern medical practice. At each station, one form was selected from their handful, and written upon and then placed in a hopper. An army of summer college students - boys and girls - had been hired to run around to all the stations, collect the forms and deliver them back to the Xerox machine where countless copies were made of everything, and sorted and filed, or delivered to some other place.

I remember it being hot that summer. The Pennsylvania outback had the feel of a tropical outpost, like San Juan or Rio. Everybody was running around in shorts. I confess I didn't have much to do. The operation had been set up before I arrived and was running smoothly. The kids did everything. I spent a lot of time in my motel room, catching up on my reading.

I didn't make any money that year, but it was a good year, nevertheless. The IMSAI computer was first introduced in August. And Larry and Sergey were running around in their nappies.

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