The clinical trial I am about to participate in marks the perigee of my post-university tragedy. Since graduating last summer I've pottered from unpaid internship to dole queue, pretend freelance posting to bar job, friend's bank account to unprincipled and masochistic hunger strike. Career-wise, I've had an absolute stinker. If, dear reader, you are ever unfortunate enough to reach this point, you will find that you fleece yourself (hopefully only temporarily) of serious ambition, disembark the train marked 'vocation' and skip over a few electric fences on your way to hopping on a freight marked 'survival'.
Whereas an unpaid internship can instil within you a kind of futile hope - unemployment's equivalent of the Arab Spring, like Walter Mitty wearing a turban - a clinical trial is just that: clinical, cold, an inevitable recourse with nought but raw ephemeral cash at its end. There's no purpose to a clinical trial, not the slightest possibility of finding one's virtù. The men in white coats, after all, do not care about you. They care about your body, your avatar, and how it reacts to TEST VACCINE FDXXR897C.
My mind, for what it's worth, is rather blasé about allowing its physical underling to become a human guinea pig. Needles creep the living daylights out of many people and it's pretty obvious why. THEY'RE TAKING MY BLOOD, or INJECTING SOMETHING FOREIGN INTO MY BLOOD, but mostly OW YOU'RE STABBING ME YOU PRICK. But these three indignations have never been part of my own condition, not due to me being a hard bastard (I'm not), just due to a vainglorious indifference to the whole thing. The way I've always rationalised it is a.) my health has always benefited from injections, and b.) a quick nip with sharp finger nails can hurt a lot more than a tiny needle ever will.
I don't even care about the actual risk factor. I will be given an insignificant dose of a drug that has already been tested on 100 of my fellow homo sapiens, with zero serious side effects. There is a quantum chance that the synthetic anti-body the test vaccine is comprised of could cause an allergic reaction and send me into anaphylactic shock, but there's also a quantum chance that Alan Shearer could say something interesting. It's not going to happen.
What my sentient self does find troubling is the teetotal banality that accompanies a clinical trial. For ten days I will be quarantined in a room with no windows, no company and, terrifyingly, no alcohol other than the traces of solution used to sterilise the plethora of needles going in and out of my veins. Flu Camp - the intelligently branded organisation I'm lending my body to - try their best to sell the whole thing as a liberating coming-of-age experience and do promise that I'll have my own playstation 3 and TV to alleviate the boredom. But what use are these electronic appliances when you have no friends or liquor to assuage their geeky pseudo-realities? I love getting lost in a good TV drama or immersive video game but after two - never mind ten - days of the false reality diet I fear my sanity will begin to erode.
Worse still is my current predicament. In the week before going into quarantine patients are also required to abstain from anything fun. No alcohol, no cigarettes, no "strenuous exercise" (we all know what that means), no caffeine, no drugs. So the past weekend has been an excruciating merry-go-round of refused drinks, socials and nights out. I'm sure there's a room in hell where inhabitants are forced to sit, sober, while a gaggle of pissed hedonists party infinitely around them. It's a burning tease; all you want to do is join in and knowing that you can't really bloody hurts. Having fun is fun. Watching other people have fun is horrific.
Maybe I've got a problem. A few weeks off the sauce isn't the most tasking of experiences, after all. Already, the first few days of prolonged sobriety (hello darkness my old friend) have even felt kind of trippy, so long has it been since I last drank from the wagon's salty cup.
But it's that feeling you get whilst in good company and armed to the teeth with mind-altering substances. The street reflexes to your footsteps, the streetlamps are that bit brighter, the distracted 9 - 5 circus fades into insignificant grey shading and... you forget that you don't have a 'proper' job, give up trying to pick between the varying consistencies of bullshit fed to you by journalists and politicians, ignore the redundancy of your wallet. It's freedom, it's the idea sold to us since we were born by the neo-liberal western elite, and it's no surprise that we're conditioned to depend on it.
So yes, there's going to be a big party when I'm discharged in ten days. This clearly isn't going to help my career prospects.
This article was originally published on Ian's blog - http://epistemeoryx.wordpress.com/Suggest a correction