Everything put together, Paul Simon once observed, sooner or later falls apart. This is, of course, a variation on a Law of Thermodynamics: from chaos we may have come — choose your own vector, I'm not up to arguing creation stories just now — but to chaos we inevitably must return. And getting there, I suggest, is way less than half the fun.

A great deal of mockery has been directed toward the faceless entities responsible for the debacle that was the debut of healthcare.gov, and while much of it, perhaps most of it, is well deserved, it would be well to remember that hardly anything more complicated than a fly swatter works the first time, and that it's probably not likely that Health and Human Services compiled a list of Best Practices, handed it out to vendors, and said "Don't do any of these." (I am prepared to believe that they said "Don't do anything that will give away any political advantage," but this sort of thing is de rigueur in these days of Insane Ideologies, particularly among those who think they're smarter than the rest of us and have managed to parlay that delusion into a position of power.)

Still, it only takes one point of failure to bring a system to its figurative knees, and as long as we're on the topic, here's a case where three points of failure managed to intersect in my face.

Thursday, I noticed I was getting low on one of the seemingly dozens of drugs I take on a regular basis. I duly read the label on the bottle: scheduled for automatic filling, good; number of refills allowed on this schedule, exhausted. Just in case, I called the pharmacy: yes, that's right, would you like me to send this off to your physician? No need, I said: I'll use the automated system. This might have been a good idea had I done so right then, but no, I waited until about 10 pm for some reason.

Now the reason this wasn't such a swift idea has to do with the office schedule: they shut down at noon on Friday, to make up for staying late four other days of the week. This fact didn't bother me particularly, since historically only Robinson Crusoe — and maybe Rebecca Black — tended to have everything done by Friday. But if whoever (or whatever) plucks things off the Web site hasn't done so early enough on Friday morning, it will be Monday before there's any response. I knew this; I just didn't think about it.

Saturday afternoon I breezed into the pharmacy, and breezed right back out again. I had a tab for that evening, and another for Sunday; if I pick up on Monday, it's all good.

Came Monday. I drove from work directly to the pharmacy. Still nothing. I called up the doctor's office — remember those late hours? — and got "Oh, yeah, we just sent that." Just? I stared at the fax machine for an eternity or two, at which point the Person In Charge discovered that the fax machine was broken. Embarrassed, they handed me a container with a couple of pills in it. "You can pay for it when you get the whole 30-day supply."

Which wasn't Tuesday. The machine was allegedly fixed; this tells me that however much they spent for this dinosaur, they didn't bother with any internal memory, in case the machine isn't able to print.

So: multiple fails on a four-dollar prescription. Imagine how many fails went into, and inevitably came out of, a Web site priced somewhere in nine digits. I'm hoping this mess is cleared up by Wednesday. It's pointless for me to point out that there's another drug store around the corner: they'd charge me $15 for the same stuff, and having once wandered in there late at night for some you-must-sign-for-this-because-meth preparation, I have no reason to think they're any more competent. And I can probably survive without this tablet, if push comes to shove; proponents of the ACA, if they can't get their ducks in a row, will become objects of even greater ridicule, and if there's anything bureaucrats hate, it's having their feelings hurt.

The Vent

#842
  23 October 2013

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