Our new reality of Pandemic World is scary and dangerous. I am considered an “essential worker” through my job as a public servant, so I have been on the front lines every single day since this nightmare started. I’ve washed my hands so often I no longer have fingerprints, I’ve got tan lines from wearing a face mask and I’ve worn more rubber gloves than a doctor at a Free Clinic. Also, did you know the pinkie of a rubber glove and the thumb of a rubber glove look remarkably alike, but fit remarkably differently? It only took me a week to figure out why my pinkie always had so much wiggle room.

When COVID-19 tests FINALLY became available in Shasta County, I booked an appointment as soon as possible. Not because I think I’ve been exposed (maybe I have, maybe not) but because I could use the peace of mind. It’s not like I’m bringing the President his Happy Meal or anything, but I still don’t want to be Patient Zero for my entire department.

I scheduled an appointment for this afternoon at Shasta College. While I’ve heard tales of how the tests are conducted, I wasn’t fully prepared for the experience…

1) I was ushered into the gym at Shasta College where I shouted my information through a mostly-clear shower curtain at a human-shaped nurse (gender impossible to determine) who shouted information back at me and then handed me a plastic bag with paperwork in it and gestured vaguely at some shadowy figures across the room.

2) I then walked 700 yards across the *totally silent* and otherwise empty gym to two other human genderless nurses, also standing behind a mostly clear shower curtain. Their silhouettes stood motionless, awaiting my arrival.

3) One of the shapes beckoned for me to join them and made sounds that may have been words but were impossible to understand behind the face shield and mask. I took a seat at the single chair in front of a long and literally empty table.

4) I *think* First Human Nurse asked me my birthday, which I thought was really nice of her/him/them, considering it’s in a few days. However, I did not receive warm wishes and many happy returns, the Human Nurse merely nodded. It felt a little like a test which I think I passed.

5) The Second Human Nurse stood silently behind me at the table, probably in case I fought back or tried to run. We did not exchange any indecipherable words, only wary glances.

6) First Human Nurse produced a stick the size of a Harry Potter wand but longer and with a cotton tip, which she then waved around a little.

7) Then the First Human Nurse regarded me coolly with a side eye for a moment and suddenly and repeatedly jabbed the foot long stick into my nose until it bent and I heard a crack. It was like he/she/they were stoking a fire inside my skull. It sounded like squishing jam in a sandwich bag.

8.) I saw some pretty colors for a little while, perhaps just a moment or perhaps an hour, and distantly I heard shrieking which may have been me or maybe the human nurses cackling in delight. I suspect I blacked out and while I have no proof anything happened to me, when I got home my shirt and underwear were on backwards.

9) When the stick was yanked from my head I felt much better but I no longer remember my last three birthdays and when I hear dogs bark it sounds like they’re saying my name. Also I can’t count past sixteen anymore. Maybe that will come back, it’s too soon to tell.

10) First Human Nurse peered into my eyes for a moment, and then pulled out her phone and tapped on it a few times like she was sending a text. Distantly I could hear what sounded like a radio station, but the gym was so quiet I must have imagined that. There is still a slight buzz coming from somewhere nearby but I can’t pinpoint exactly where.

11) First Human Nurse then gave a solemn nod to Second Human Nurse, who tipped me out of my chair and shoved me towards the exit on the other side of the gym.

12) I finally stumbled outside into the rain but I had to walk around for ten minutes to find my car in the empty parking lot. I got home safely, so at least I still know how to drive.

13) There’s a shiny black suburban parked in front of my house now, but it’s probably just First and Second Nurse keeping an eye on things to make sure I don’t get COVID-19 while I wait for my test results.

I don’t understand why the government says testing is quick and easy because mine took about four hours but I’m told the headaches and dizzy spells should pass soon. Hopefully things will go more smoothly for you and then you can JOIN US. I mean…and then you can have some peace of mind.

(I might be exaggerating about some of this, like the length of the q-tip, and the sensation of the swab that mostly felt like a deep and uncomfortable tickle. Also, the nurses were very professional. But the rest of it probably totally happened.)

Matt Grigsby

Matt Grigsby was born and raised in Redding but has often felt he should have been born in Italy. By day he's a computer analyst toiling for the public good and by night he searches airline websites for great travel deals. His interests include books, movies, prowling thrift shops for treasure and tricking his friends into cooking for him. One day he hopes to complete his quest in finding the best gelato shop in Italy.

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