It takes a special kind of a$$hole to create ransomware

Gorilla hands typing on a computer with a banana snack
Photo courtesy of Gratisography

My dad has Covid. This in and of itself sucks. He’s vaccinated and has done all the right things. But he still managed to get Covid. The doctors did not immediately suspect Covid, and so weeks (and several doctor appointments) went by without so much as a test to check it. The Delta variant is sneaky, and many of us (the ones who cared in the first place, anyways) have let our guards down. It took an urgent care visit, ambulance ride, and hospital stay for the Covid diagnosis (paired with pneumonia) to rear its ugly head.

While none of the rest of our vaccinated family has been symptomatic, we all felt it was the right and responsible call to get ourselves tested, and here’s where my adventure begins.

I knew from my Tuesday physical therapy appointment (in which my PT had to handwrite her notes and pull from memory the exercises and therapies I was supposed to do) that all systems were down across my entire medical organization. It’s the largest medical provider in the state of Illinois, spanning several suburban counties outside of Chicago. And I’m pretty sure they’ve been hacked and are being held ransom by some douchebag (or collection of douchebags) with a knack for out-teching the tech protectors. Because it is now Friday, and the systems are STILL down. They haven’t done more than apologize for the inconvenience and blah blah blah.

So on Wednesday, when we found out Papa Bear had Covid, Brian, Mom, and I tried to call our doctors to get test orders…to no avail. All systems, including the phone and scheduling systems, were down. Mom asked me if she should just go over to the testing site and yell at them until they give her a test. Having attempted it last December (yes, I did yell at medical practitioners in the midst of a pandemic and I already feel guilty as hell about it so you can withhold your judgment please and thank you), I was able to gently inform her that that particular tactic would not work, and it would expend significantly more energy than necessary without yielding any results.

So she did the only thing she could think to do. She drove over to her doctor’s office to get some answers. She talked to the nurses at check-in, patiently (I think) reminding them that we were in this situation for their failure to provide a single covid test a few weeks earlier, and she wasn’t leaving without orders for a test. They sent her back to her car and said they’d call when they were ready. A few minutes later, she had a paper order for a covid test, went upstairs to the lab, and got it done.

That was when she called me. “Great!” I said, “I’m on my way over to do the same.”

Brian and I climbed into the car, drove the 15 minutes or so to Mom’s doctor’s office (ours is a bit further, actually, and this office was familiar with the situation, and as they’re all a part of the same organization, it’s all kind of the same anyway). I went in, explained who we were, and the nurses at reception were like, “great, got it. We’ll call you when we’re ready for you.”

So I went back to the car and waited with Brian. When they called us, they handed out paper orders and sent us upstairs to the lab. We waited again. When the lab called us back, they were like, “Oh hey, we’re out of tests. You have to go to this other location. It’s only like 10 minutes away.”

Frustrated, we clambered back into the car, and drove to the other lab — where they proceeded to ask, “uh what doctor ordered this? Because we don’t know, and we need to know.”

I shrugged and made one of those sounds that sort of implies I don’t know while also physically admitting total and utter ignorance.

“Did you see a doctor at Lombard?”

“No.”

“So how did you get the order?”

*Repeat full story for the eleventy-billionth time*

“Okay, well, I have the manager of Lombard on the phone and they have no idea what’s happening.”

“Well, that clearly can’t be true.”

“Who did you talk to at the front desk?”

“All four people sitting there.”

“Okay well…uh…be right back.”

A few minutes later, someone else comes to stick cotton swabs up our noses.

“Did you get it figured out?”

“Yeah.”

“Who was the doctor.”

“[Insert the name of Mom and Dad’s doctor, who I actually adore, and kind of should have suspected and named all along].”

“Oh. Duh. That makes sense.”

Three days later, we still can’t call or follow up, Mom still hasn’t gotten her results back, my brother, niece, Brian, and I are all negative, and Dad is finally home from the hospital.

And I can’t stop thinking about the “all systems down” portion of this story. The fact that we can’t contact our doctors or make appointments or get prescription refills or anything without physically walking into the doctor’s office like it’s the dark ages or the 80s and 90s or something is baffling. Our doctors can’t access our medical histories or charts. And it’s all because of money-grubbing hackers. Ransomware is terrifying because it’s not like negotiating with terrorists. These motherfuckers get their money. And move on to the next system they can get their grubby hands on. Earlier this month, it looks like a lot of the hospitals in the area fell into the same situation. I want to have faith in people and believe in the good and all that, but this whole concept is some fucking bullshit. And to mess with people’s medical information and needs is just the worst.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

A day of lasts: At the beginning of the pandemic

Forgive me, as today begins the long list of memories that are about to flood my social media accounts.

One year ago today, I took my last in-person improv class. I stayed until midnight for the optional student jam to get one last class in. We played a game called elbows and wrists, in which we could only touch our peers using elbows and wrists, a way to “acclimate” to new touching procedures that may be implemented.

One year ago today, I hugged the last stranger I’d ever hug. She was a friend of my nephew, and I’m a hugger. We were at my aunt’s new house, celebrating her move home.

One year ago today, I ate inside a restaurant for the last time. I met my friend, Kristen for dinner before my class. We only talked briefly about the pandemic in hypothetical terms and not in a we’re living in the end times way. We both knew something was coming and a lockdown was inevitable, but we weren’t sure what, when, or how.

One year ago today, I got dressed in one of my favorite Disneybounds to date, a gorgeous belted dress/top ensemble with a baller accessory game.

Chrissy Disneybounding as EVie from The Descendents wearing a blue dress and belt with black leggings and an evil queen purse.

I didn’t wear a mask. I didn’t carry hand sanitizer or Clorox wipes in my purse. The phrase, “social distancing” was only just starting to rear its ugly head. Hand sanitizer was made available, and I knew that even if we had an in-person class the following week, I wouldn’t be there.

I was already nervous, worried more about my family than myself, and preparing for my own personal lockdown. Much of the last year has been an introspective journey for me, and I know that I’ve learned a lot about who I am, and who I want to be.

But I wish I could bottle that last night in a jar, take it out and consume its essence. It was representative of everything my life was in the Before Times. Performance and play, dress-up, friendships, restaurant meet-ups, and family. Sure, all of those are still a part of my life, though some in a vastly different capacity. I knew it was going to be a long time before the world resumed as it had been, but I never realized the little things I would miss, or the memories, tiny bright sides, and glimmers of hope I would cling to in the darkest moments of the year.

The day I got in my car, drove to a parking lot nearby and sobbed for an hour. I finally called my mom, and she told me to come over. I played with my toddler niece and felt that rush of joy I had been missing.

Toddler niece surrounded by toys in a backyard patio

The Easter Brian and I spent alone, the first and hopefully only holiday we ever spend without family, brightened by the nicest bottle of bubbles we had in our wine rack and a feast for 10, for 2.

Easter dinner with lamb roast, vegetables, rolls, salad, sweet potato casserole, and champagne.

The two weeks we should have spent in Italy, spent instead trying out local Italian patios and take out orders and relaxing waterside in my blow-up kiddie pool.

Chrissy twirling in front of a mural in downtown Naperville with the caption "twirls in 'Italy' (Naperville)"

The Halloween without our annual party, made just a little more festive by the small single household of friends who came for an outdoor fire.

The Christmas not spent surrounded our extended and immediate families, made a bit lighter by getting drunk with my parents while watching White Christmas and eating mostly carbs.

Brian and Chrissy masked and drunk on Christmas

All the while planning, dreaming, and hoping. Learning what I’m not willing to give up and what it’s time I say goodbye to. It’s been the longest year, and it’s been shitty at the best times.

2.63 million people have died. We can’t change that. There’s no positives to that. Millions of families have lost loved ones to the virus. That doesn’t have a bright side.

But we have a vaccine. We have hope. And we have a future.

It’s okay to find a bright side, as long as you remember that your bright side might not be the same as someone else’s. And it’s okay to be depressed and negative. And it’s okay to mourn your past life. It’s okay to feel all the feels. But it’s not okay to negate the feelings of others.

So feel how you feel, and try to remember to have some compassion for people whose experiences are different than yours. Your empathy might save someone’s life.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Questionable sausage: Wild pandemic life and my first Covid test

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a hypochondriac in possession of illness, must be dying of a mystery disease.

I’ve had some very weird weeks as of late. One of them happened to be in the very early stretches of August, which for some reason, unbeknownst to me, seems like an entire lifetime ago. I digress.

For being in the midst of a global pandemic, I was exceptionally busy with Internet things. I had an online board game convention, an online dessert conference, and an online scavenger hunt. Busy was an understatement.

But look! I made pink Rice Krispie treat ice cream cones!

Even when we’re supposed to stay home and chill, a busy person can find ways to stay home and be busy. It is known.

So it’s not a surprise that cooking dinner was going to be sent to the back burner (you see what I did there?).

After the game con and the dessert con, I was able to laser my focus. Once my mind was all in on GISH (Greatest International Scavenger Hunt), I was ALL IN. I ate, slept, and breathed GISH. Literally.

Okay I mean, I took breaks. Sort of.

When I was tired, I slept. When I was hungry, I ate. When I had to go, you know…I went.

And after I cut up and pushed a sausage on the hands of a math-y clock, I was hungry.

A questionable sausage for a mathMEATician

So I ate.

Why yes, I did eat the sausage that was hanging on a ticking wall clock for a photograph not 2 minutes earlier.

And some mathy number of hours or days later (this was a whole lifetime ago, you understand my fuzziness with the numbers), I was feeling my absolute worst.

In the middle of a pandemic.

My stomach was all in knots. I suspected I was dying. Or that I had Covid. As any good hypochondriac does. For the hypochondriac that I am, I was surprised that I didn’t suspect Covid more than a mere passing thought…well okay maybe it was a little more than a passing thought… more on that shortly.

So I continued GISHing as hard as I could. I stayed in bed all morning and afternoon and focused on writing slam poetry (that I was super proud of and had to cut for the sake of video time limits…maybe one day I’ll share it with you), editing videos my team had previously shot, and submitting easier items that I could do from bed.

I couldn’t eat, but I had to finish creating the seven-course meal on a stick that I was SO looking forward to designing. In the end, I phoned it in and was less than proud of my work, but I did include another questionable sausage — this time tossing my finished creation into the garbage faster than you could say Covid test.

I mean, it didn’t look bad, but it certainly wasn’t my best work. Seven courses on a single stick. an amuse bouche, a salad, a chicken course, a sausage course, a cheese course, chocolate truffles, and cotton candy. Did I mention that at one point that cotton candy had been in my hair? GISH is weird, y’all. You know, now that I think about it, that romaine lettuce could have also been to blame.

Wait, did I just mention a Covid test?

Well, yes, yes I did. You see, as it turns out, I messaged my doctor, because stomach issues are listed as a symptom of our current pandemic nightmare and I just wanted her to confirm that I *didn’t* need a Covid test.

But my doctor knows me well. Her email response was, “Does seem more related to food poisioning more so than covid. If all symptoms are better, monitor for now. If you would feel better getting a Covid test, I did order the swap for you.”

*snort*

Well, at least someone gets me.

So I got the Covid test. It didn’t tickle my brain or anything, but it is kind of gross that they circle a q-tip in one nostril and then use the same one for the second nostril.

Note to future self: When in doubt, throw it out.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!