I signed up for a medical trial with an optician. Why?
“They need to see you for an initial assessment to determine if you’re suitable,” I’m told. “It’s unpaid. I hope that’s ok?”
AmenabAl. I said “Yes”. I drove from Chiswick where I had just been consigning some signed pictures of the Queen at the auction house.
I didn’t clock it was in the Congestion Charge zone. Minus £15 with this one already.
There’s no parking anywhere near the place I had to get to. I was already running late. I illegally parked in a Westminster resident’s bay thinking I would only be there a short while. “If they aren’t compensating my time, they won’t take the piss with time,” I thought. “I’ll be out before I get a ticket.”
Into a Westminster basement. The woman at reception fills in some forms with me. “How long have you been wearing contact lenses?” “Since I was at drama school… Twenty years?” “Which drama school did you go to?” “Guildhall. You’re an actress?” “Yes.”
So I’m in a basement. Nobody knows I’m here. The receptionist is an actor.
Two men take me into a room. Only one of them knows how to operate the machines. The other one is the one operating the machines. It begins.
It takes a long time to end.
Left and right and up and down and flash and focus and flash and focus. Blink don’t blink blink don’t blink tick tock car. Lights on lights off lights on lights off. Paint the fence. They are getting every possible angle on my eyes. They are videoing me through some app on their mobile phone, which has got weird foam things stuck all over it. The guy is sticking his paw in and crushing my eyeball as I look up and down and A C X R K. “You’re deforming my eye with your finger as you try to stop my lash, is that ok?” “That’s ok”.
All the while the one who knows what he’s doing is issuing instructions and I wish he was operating the machine as it crushes my nose again. I’m a guinea pig for this big handed chap to learn how to be an optician… And I’m not being paid or in any way compensated. What the hell am I doing here? Literally why haven’t I walked out? I’m trying to go with it because I don’t want them to write me off for the trial.
“I’m just going to fold over the top of your eyelid,” he says and then almost immediately does it and I freeze, fighting the gag reflex as “Just keep looking down” comes and he fumbles over the machine he doesn’t know again and my EYELID IS FOLDED. Then he unfolds and does it with the other eye too and I’m almost actually sick on him for it as he faffs endlessly with the fucking machine. All I can think is “no money for this what the hell am I doing?”.
Then he’s putting two different types of dye into my eyes and still and still and still I haven’t left. Nobody even tells me what each “test” is for, we just get through them and are they even tests? At one point I’m looking into a seventies hypnosis type device. I just mantra my own name and my date of birth thinking I’ve fallen in with some weird unit and they are trying to programme sleeper agents or something. Another time I’m staring at two cameras and they are making me keep my eye open as long as I can and I’m stubborn so we are there ages.
They’ve got enough there now to put my retinas onto a super soldier robot. They don’t need to call me in for this bifocal contact lens trial that I thought I was going in for now… If they don’t I’m gonna be fucking angry as they have got so much free eye data out of me. I’m never gonna be able to safely use retina security now. Not that I’d ever voluntarily set stuff like that up. But I’m pissed off with myself for going through with it all. For what? For the possibility of being involved in a comparatively atrociously badly paid trial for contact lenses that might not even work. Because I’m skint and the happy job I was relying on this year ain’t happening. So now I’m your crash test dummy. I should have been paid for that. I should have been paid for that. I should have been paid for that.
“We will email you if you’re eligible for any of our trials,” the actress tells me as I’m leaving. I should have been paid for that.
My heart rate is up as I leave that building. It was light when I went down down into that basement. Now… now it’s dark. My car.
I lope up to the Buckingham Palace Road at the pace my body can sustain and call speed. I get to Bergman and PHEW he has no clamp, no ticket and he hasn’t been towed… Thank heaven for small mercies. I can’t really afford to put fuel in him right now. A central London fine would be another knife. I sit in him, get my breath back, and put my lenses back into my poor eyes. I should have been paid for that.
When the invading robots all have my exact eyes, you’ll know why. When there’s an AI Al at the check-in desk you’ll know why. It was those two non-paying guys in that Westminster basement!
I’d better be selected. I’m not sure I want to be selected.
Either way, I should have been paid for that.