Protecting My Privacy … from ME!

The Gatekeepers are at MY Door

Protecting My Privacy

Most days we worry about our lack of privacy. Our devices listen to our conversations. Yes, I’m talking about you, Siri and Alexa. Online our interests and purchases are being tracked. Yes, Target and Nordstroms, I’m talking about you. This week, however, I faced a different sort of privacy problem. Nameless gatekeepers were protecting my privacy from me!

It started out seemingly simple enough. A close family member had COVID. I needed to be tested. Coincidentally, I was scheduled for a minor surgical procedure that required one of those PCR COVID tests done at doctor’s offices, medical labs, and pharmacies. Since I was already scheduled for that fancy, more accurate test, I didn’t bother to do the quickie at-home one.

So, on a sunny Sunday, I dutifully headed out the door to the pharmacy (drive-up window).

After taking the test, I isolated while waiting for the results which I was CLEARLY told by the Walgreens staffer would be available online in 24 hours.

Protecting My Privacy

Monday I clicked online for my results. The computer link proclaimed that my sample had not yet arrived at the laboratory.


I waited a couple of hours and tried again: same readout.

I called Walgreens, only to be told that the online info was correct. My swab was still on the way to the lab and the results won’t be available for at least another 24 hours, maybe longer.


I explained I had been told the results would be available after 24 hours. The Walgreens representative — sounding somewhat surly — repeated I needed to wait at least another day. He never acknowledged I had been given incorrect information in the first place or even sympathized a bit with my distress.

The Wait Continued

Now, if I had known there was going to be such a long time lag, I would have taken the at-home quick test in the first place. This would have answered the immediate question of did I have COVID and also, eased the minds of people I potentially had exposed to the virus. Additionally, it could have resolved the pressing question of was my surgical procedure still “on?”

Obviously, the next step was to take the home test. I did. Happily, the results were negative. Hooray!

However, from the hospital’s perspective, that wasn’t good enough. It wanted the results of the PCR test before determining “officially” if the medical procedure would take place. So, the wait continued.

Finally, I received the email late Tuesday afternoon saying the test results were in.

I rushed to the computer and attempted to log in to the site — only to discover the portal would not recognize my sign-in information!

Something was wrong either with the system or (more likely), I had entered one of the information fields incorrectly when I first signed up for the test. I am, after all, a Luddite.

Down the Dis-Information Rabbit Hole

I then went down a mind-numbing rabbit hole of dialing phone numbers, punching in this number, then that number before getting disconnected multiple times and ultimately, getting nowhere. We’ve all been down that unhelpful “helpline” rabbit hole, right?

In desperation and despair, I called the Walgreens pharmacy where I had taken the PCR test. They told me they couldn’t help — that once they shipped the swab off, it was no longer in their control.

It was now 5:01 p.m. PDT. Frustrated but determined, I finally located and dialed the corporate office for Aegis Science Laboratory, a subsidiary of Abbot Pharmaceuticals, based in Nashville, Tenn. The corporate HQ was, of course, closed for the day. Even the COVID results line kept banker’s hours and wasn’t available until the next day. Pandemic be damned!

The next morning, I managed to bypass the recorded prompts and actually spoke to a living breathing human being. He reviewed my information — name, birthdate, address, email address, when, the location where I took the COVID test, and the name of my firstborn child — OK, he didn’t ask about my child. He then acknowledged I had entered something incorrectly.

“What?” I asked politely.

“Oh, I can’t tell you,” he replied. “It’s confidential.”


We went through several rounds of “But it’s my information” and “Ma’am, it’s a privacy issue”

Privacy Uber Alles

I dropped the issue. It really didn’t matter. What mattered was my test results.

“Whatever. Please just tell me; did I test positive or not?”

“Oh, I can’t tell you that. That information is confidential. You need to access that information online. The system will update in about 24 hours.”


I asked to speak to a supervisor — to anybody — who could tell me my test results. He told me that was impossible. Test results are a matter of strict privacy!

The test was on Sunday. It took until Thursday to access my information. Happily, again the results were negative. But honestly, I’m more negative about systems that bar you from obtaining critical personal information even when you’re willing to politely jump through 9,001 hoops to verify your identity.

Privacy Smiracy

And honestly, what would have been so terrible in this specific case, if somebody else had been trying to access my COVID test results? What if it had been my spouse? My employer? My children? Even a neighbor? Isn’t the point of these tests to provide information to stop the spread of a dangerous disease? These tests really aren’t about privacy. They’re about preventing the spread of COVID.

Disturbingly, this story of “privacy for the sake of privacy” wasn’t a fluke. Both Handsome Hubby and I have had company gatekeepers block us from accessing our own information and accounts on multiple occasions. Has this ever happened to you?

And, Siri, and Alexi, stay out of this, OK? I’m NOT talking to you!

2 replies
  1. Judy
    Judy says:

    Talking about privacy. It never feels to amaze me that when I’m line the person behind the checkout counter will ask me what my e-mail is or my phone phone. I’m thinking that when I recite my personal information everyone behind me can hear. Consequently, I imprinted up some very generic calling cards with only that bit information to put in front of them if needed so my e-mail and phone numbers are overheard by curious ears.


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