I’ve been probed. Yep. That was weird. It tickled. And, no, it wasn’t aliens. (Or were they?) Yet another surprise from 2020 that I hope never has to be repeated. Probes and masks are something unexpected. I’m also seeing a lot of new facades and fallen ones, too.
On the official side of things, Island County Department of Health was finally able to begin testing people who don’t have symptoms of corona virus aka Covid 19 aka SARS-CoV-2, also known as one of the few things to make us reassess every aspect of life and lifestyle. From what I heard at the drive-through testing, they wanted to test about 3,000 Island County residents to get a diverse demographic sample. Because the pandemic can also be asymptomatic (a word many of us never typed before), they have to test as many people as possible to find out who has it, who carries it, who had it, and who doesn’t have it. That’s a tough test to set up. I’m glad I was selected.
On the practical side of things, here’s what it was like for me. To start with, it isn’t drive-through testing. I had to actually stop the truck at three stations. Drive-through would be cool, but really difficult to take the test at speed. Drive by has a different connotation. Drive up? Closer. Station 1) Lowered the driver’s window to get instructions, which was basically a name check and the instruction to drive to the next station. Station 2) Name and age checked again, and they prepared a little packet that they placed on the hood. That’s one way to keep the speed down. Station 3) They asked me to lower my mask so they could stick the probe up both nostrils. Sure, but how long does that probe have to be? It looked like it could clean out my ear wax by going in through my nose. One nostril, innocuous. Something in the other nostril took a wrong turn and hit something that tickled. Imagine being tickled from the inside while there’s a stick sticking out of your face. Don’t laugh. Seriously, don’t laugh. After she pulled it out, I tried to imagine what would happen if it broke off in there. Needle-nosed pliers for real noses? It was actually fine; weird, but fine. I started to wonder if that was a way to clear out mental cobwebs. Station 4) I think they handed me some paperwork. The cab of my truck was messy thanks to running errands and taking care of one of my real estate listings so I may have lost it. I was more interested in what the attendant(?) had to say. Test results can be ready within 72 hours, frequently within 24 hours; but the testee may not hear back for days. Positive results, meaning the test indicates the person has the virus (which the test can get wrong), get the results first. That makes sense. People who need treatment need to hear it about quickly. Negative results (which is positive in normal language) take longer to report because there’s less urgency and more people to call because they expect most people are clear. That may also be why they’re not calling back the folks that weren’t selected for the test. The testers are busy. In a county with only 80,000 people, they only needed about 3,000 to test but had 6,000 sign up. That’s a lot of phone calls and a larger fraction of the population than I expected to volunteer. By the way, I asked what demographic was under-represented. The young woman said they needed more young men. I got out of there before I played with that straight line in too many inappropriate ways.
I’ll probably post my results in the Comments section eventually. Stay tuned (but why would you?)
Within the last few weeks the good news has been that the rates of infections in the county are down from the peak. At the same time, businesses and even municipalities are becoming stricter about mask usage. At the same time, some people are protesting masks, social distancing, and the shutdown in general because they think their rights are being violated.
I’m fine with wearing a mask. It’s a mask. It’s a bit of cloth. I’ve studied enough science and history to know that what we’re being asked to do is very little compared to previous crises. Besides, I’m finding side effects that I like. My hay fever is more in control. Wearing a mask while bicycling is like resistance training my lungs, something like runners carrying weights during a jog. Diplomacy is easier and harder. It is easier to hide an accidental (or not so accidental) grimace. One person talked about practicing laughing eyes, conveying a smile however possible. It is also a sign of respect of others. And, of course, it is at least some barrier to the virus; possibly more than enough.
Once a week I shop. It’s usually the day I check on my real estate listings. Today included a stop at a grocery store. Outside the exit were three people, none wearing masks, all rather close to each other, and bracketing the exit. Everyone leaving the store had to walk through the cloud of their conversation. I doubt they stood there intentionally. Perhaps they weren’t aware they were putting others at risk. Perhaps they simply didn’t care.
They aren’t alone. There are more of ‘them’ than I think most suspected. Within the last few years America’s mask and facade has been stripped away. Truth, Justice, and the American Way were a fine (and somewhat ambiguous) motto. But, we’ve seen truth dismissed in favor of feelings and emotions. Justice is more obviously based on discrimination not equality. And the American Way, ambiguous as it sounds, is no longer as valued here and in the rest of the world. Americans are impressive, generally. Witness the mass mask production that was mostly done without thought of profit or applause. Witness the work of the essential workers who frequently aren’t paid what they’re worth, yet they continue to work even under threat from the virus, finances, and local armed intimidation. America as a governing body, however, is governing – well – I’m glad I live in Washington State and Cascadia where people’s lives matter. The other Washington is making itself moot.
Life, school, work, and even worship have been upset. By necessity we must reassess what we value, what’s essential, and how we will manage our lives during and after this crisis. I’m a minimalist. A friend called me Mr. Frugal. Some of that is by necessity, but most of it is by choice (which has turned into necessity after my Triple Whammy.) Writing a book about personal finance forced me to think about my values, my finances, and my choices. Wearing a mask during a pandemic? Working from home? Limiting my trips and shopping? I would do that regardless of governmental declarations. How better to respect my community, my friends, and my self?
As for the test and the crisis, I’m glad they didn’t use a pipe cleaner, that this was nasal and not one of the less accessible orifices, and that it didn’t cost anything. I do miss dancing though. Some day. Some day.