Over the Summer there was a news story about a Hepatitis A contamination afflicting a certain brand of frozen berries. Sometime in the previous twelve months prior a poor, sick person in China had defecated and his or her shit was then harvested and used to fertilise some raspberries that would be snap frozen, transported thousands of kilometres on a boat, sold with double FlyBuy points and then blended into a dessert smoothie for some unlucky Australians. What a time to be alive.
I never had my Hep A vaccination as a child, but I tried not to involve myself in the resulting societal panic/trending hashtag that followed. It was like the Sydney Siege all over again (Omigod, I walked through Martin Place during a family holiday in 1995 - it could have been me!) I was pretty sure I hadn't eaten any of that brand of berries (...Where do they source the berries for jam from? And pastries with that raspberry filling? That berry flavoured shampoo and conditioner that costs less than $2? Jesus Christ.) I primarily knew I'd avoided them because there had always been cheaper brands available and the berries in those packets were sourced from Chile where they probably also have a lot of poverty but they seem to have higher standards about what poo they apply to the berries. At least the ones they export to Australia.
Also, it's a whole lot easier to live in denial rather than tempt fate by getting a blood test.
A while later when everyone had forgotten about berries and was focused on fretting about metadata I figured the lines at the GP would be short again and I decided I should do something about my Hepatitis vaccinations. It doesn't take nostradamus to predict that I'm probably going to consume a lot more imported food/feces as I grow older in the modern world. To be honest I also made the GP appointment because I/the internet had convinced me that I had a hernia in my groin (nope - just a classic soft-tissue exercise injury). As a man it's not worth me spending 15 minutes receiving free health care unless I have at least two things to have seen to.
After I'd pulled my pants up the doctor sent me off for blood tests to determine my official hepatitis infection/resistance status. A few days later the results came back and he confirmed that I was free of the disease as well as the antibodies and so I could have the vaccine. Then his tone changed and he pointed out some other metrics in my test results. I was low in iron, he explained. Oh no. I explained that I'd let Sam Neill down and I had been eating pretty much only chicken lately for ethical and thrifty reasons. He nodded, but wasn't satisfied and he retrieved some plastic tubes from a draw and handed them to me. Faecal haematology tests. Three days worth. Each tube contained a tiny plastic sword which I would have to poke into my human poo.
If you have never skewered your shit before you might not know that it's not allowed to touch the water first. The doctor suggested that I could lay a few sheets of toilet tissue on the surface of the water before I jettisoned my 750g daily surpluses. Sure, he's been through medical school, I'll trust in his wisdom. A short lived trust, the splash proved.
Day two and with a lot more strategy and toilet tissue I was able to achieve my undesirable desire and provide a sample. Three consecutive days I did this, wondering what I'd done to deserve this. Oh yeah, I'd gone to the doctor about my concerns about avoiding contact with human excrement.
The irony was not lost on me.