After spending the last month around New York on a friendship tour, I returned to the balmy, garbage-free streets of my family’s home in Maine. The laws for quarantining and testing when jumping from state to state seem to change on a daily basis. Fortunately, just before we left, New York was placed on Maine’s quarantine-exemption list, meaning that New York’s cases were so low that if you came straight to Maine from New York—do not pass go, do not piss at a truck stop—you wouldn’t have to sit out for two weeks. From epicenter to exemption. Well done, New York.
Only, my family doesn’t give a damn about exemptions. Mom recently had a shoulder replaced, sister is pregnant, and dad is chasing chardonnay with scoops of Häagen-Dazs as if to say goodbye feet, don’t need ya. “At-risk” is the gentle way to put it, I’m told. If I wanted a seat at the dinner table, I needed a test.
I called a few urgent care facilities. They all said their tests would take 7-10 days. Everything was backed up beyond belief because Texas, Arizona, and Florida were sending their tests to the labs in the northeast given that their labs were overwhelmed. I’ve never felt territorial over science labs before, but here we are. Left with no choice, I walked in to the urgent care whose receptionist sounded the most content with her life. They took my insurance card but had no clue how much my testing would cost me. That was the first bad sign. Urgent Cares are the Dunkins drive-thru windows of medicine. You’d think they’d have a sense of their own prices. Nope, just a good luck, hope you don’t get smoked, wink wink you will.
Then I waited. The pointlessness of the test grew more apparent with each page turn of Outside magazine. My sister was leaving in five days, so I wouldn’t even have the results in time for her. Over the next 7-10 days, it was entirely possible I could contract the virus and it wouldn’t show on this test. And finally, if the results were to take 10 days, couldn’t I just hold out for the full 14 and avoid all the rigmarole/potential shellacking when my insurance company told me to stuff my dong in my mouth? And SECOND finally, couldn’t I just avoid my family entirely, as I used to when they’d tell me to get a summer job?
“Francis?” said a man in scrubs, wearing a mask, with no hair.
I stood and followed him in to an examination room. Someone else came in and took my vitals. She was impressed by my blood pressure and oxygen levels. Peloton. The real threat is cholesterol. Runs in the family. I eat nonfat greek yogurt to be safe. Tastes like something that went wrong during sex. She asked why I was getting the test. My explanation fell flat, and she echoed the sentiments I listed above. I never liked her.
After she left, the bald guy came back in and he was goofy as hell. He took out his q-tips and asked if I was ready. I said I guess so, and he told me to tilt my head back as though I was getting my hair cut. But the only time you tilt your head back during a haircut is if you’re getting a shampoo. I thought about mentioning this distinction but I wasn’t sure if I liked him either. Next thing you know, he’s plunging my nasal tunnels with these croquet mallets. I gagged upon the first and he said “oh that’s a GOOD one.” Didn’t gag on the second, to which he said “not quite as good there.” Which made me wonder—was he hoping for a gag? Is that his service bell?
He made a second pass with new q’s. More gags and a wobbly tear at the corner of an eye. This time, he laughed. It was a high-pitched titter, too. Then: “oh, come on. It’s not that bad.”
I expect condescension from a full MD. But you, sir, are the bartender of the medical profession—a murse at an urgent care. Like a patron grimacing after his first swig of the cocktail you mixed, if I’m showing discomfort, it’s because you did your job poorly. I’ve seen plenty of videos of folks getting their COVID tests without a cough, wince, or tear. My guess is the people administering their tests were skilled, or had hearts in their bodies. Either way, you made me feel like a bitch. I am no bitch. I can hold my breath for almost two minutes underwater these days.
Then he wished me well, and I left. I was SHOOK, but at least I had the test out of the way. As I drove home, I did that thing where I had a conversation with myself in my rear-view mirror, telling him how I really felt, telling him what I would do if I ever saw him again. Needless to say, I sped through a school zone. Good thing it’s summer.
This was last week. I just checked the online portal: negative. And by the way—the results were posted four days after the test. So much for all that 7-10 day bullshit.