A Disclaimer of Sorts
I would like to say that despite writing about the subject below in a light-hearted way, I do take the pandemic and everything to do with it, extremely seriously. Like many, we have people in our close family who are vulnerable, either physically or mentally. We have stuck to all the rules. Like everyone, we have our personal fears and struggles. I write this blog, not because I think it’s funny or clever to poke fun at a serious situation, but because I believe that laughter is the best distraction, and I love the idea that I might bring a lighter moment into someone’s difficult or tedious day. I hope that continues to be the case, because I read every single lovely comment many of you make, and that in turn brings light into my day. Thank you.
We’ve been extremely lucky so far to have escaped the need for a virus test. But it had to happen eventually I suppose. About ten days ago my younger daughter came down with a cold. After a few days, a relentless, violent and dry cough set in. I still thought it was just a cold, but you have to follow the rules, so we booked her a test, and isolated our little family of four from the rest of the world, as per government guidelines.
While my older daughter was less than thrilled to be back to home schooling, and my husband remained less than thrilled to be working from home, I had the lucky job of taking our youngest to the drive-in test centre, not too far from us. We drove in, and after they had confirmed who we were, they passed us a test kit through the car window, told us to park up, do the test, then put our hazard lights on when finished.
I dutifully parked, opened the test kit and read the instructions. The gist of it was that you take the swab which is basically a cotton bud on a really long stick, swab the tonsils, swab one nostril, then place the swab stick into the vial of liquid provided. Seal it all up then go back home and get back into your pyjamas. Easy!
Or would have been, if I could actually SEE my child’s tonsils. She opened her mouth, I looked inside and saw a lot of tongue, some teeth, some gums, but no tonsils. Much to her increasing disgust, I got her to stick her tongue out further, lift it up, down, in, out, shake it all about, but still nothing. I spent about fifteen seconds wondering wildly if she had somehow had them removed without my knowledge. I eventually came to the conclusion that since I couldn’t even see the gap where the tonsils would have been, that she simply must have the World’s Largest Tongue. So I got her to put the car seat right back and lie down. Hallelujah! Tonsils in sight. Just a glimpse mind you, not much space to play around with.
The difficulty was that under no circumstances are you supposed to touch anything in the mouth with the swab EXCEPT the tonsils, because it voids the test. So with a great deal of trepidation, in I went with the stick. I was millimetres away from the first tonsil, when she coughed (that being the reason we were there in the first place, it was unsurprising). The swab went smack down onto her tongue, so on went the hazard lights, over came the helpful person working there, and they had to bring us another swab.
This happened in exactly the same way a further three times. It got to the point where I was genuinely worried they might just throw the entire box of swabs at my head if I asked again, but luckily they were nothing but lovely and patient. Finally on the fifth try, I did it!! I touched a tonsil with a swab!! For one nanosecond. My daughter gagged violently at the touch of it, voiding the test yet again. On went the hazards again, and again, and again.
Eventually, they took pity on us. Or else realised that without intervention we would still be sitting there at three o’clock in the morning. They said we could just swab both her nostrils instead. All well and good, but by this stage I was sitting next to a sobbing, coughing, gagging child who, in between sobs, coughs and gags, was informing me in no uncertain terms of precisely how much she hated not just me, but everything I stood for. But we did get there in the end.
I then had the simple job of putting the swab stick into the vial of liquid. In it went, at which point you have to snap the top of the stick off so that it fits properly into the vial, and so that the lid will go on. ‘Any fool can do that!’ I thought to myself, and proceeded to confidently snap the stick just ABOVE the right point. This left it just 1mm too tall for the vial, meaning I had to somehow snap off that tiny 1mm with my stupid fat thumbs. Cue some pretty impressive gurning from me, not to mention some inner swearing and plenty of murderous thoughts.
Once managed, all that remained was to seal it in a bag together with an absorbent pad, then put that bag into a larger bag. How could there be a problem with that? Don’t worry, I found a way. The larger bag didn’t open quite wide enough for the smaller bag to fit inside, so I had to spend several minutes trying to squeeze it in, panic rising as every second went by. By the time I’d finished, it looked like it had been happily chewed for a couple of hours by my dog, before going three rounds with Mike Tyson.
When I handed the half-destroyed bag over to the young girl working there, I said I thought we must win a prize for the worst people ever to complete a test. She was understanding and made me feel better by telling me that they had had people who had blown their noses on the absorbent pad, or had used the vial of liquid as hand sanitiser. One person had even drunk it! Armed with that information, I drove home basking in the knowledge that I must in fact have Stephen Hawking-like levels of intelligence. Or more realistically, I may have been in the top ten, but at least I wasn’t the biggest moron in the country.
Two and a half days later, we received the results. Unsurprisingly they were ‘inconclusive’. I won’t bore you with the details, but it actually wasn’t related to the fiasco described above. Nevertheless we had to book another test and go through it all again. This time though, we were three days older, somewhat wiser, and I was sensible enough to bribe my child heavily. We completed the test calmly, sticks snapped in the right place, bags opened correctly and we breezed in and out like pros. Or at least like the rest of the planet manages to do the first time, not to mention all the key workers who do it every day.
I’m very pleased to say that we are now celebrating a negative result, and that my relief about that is second only to the relief I will feel when I am able to pack the kids back off to school in the morning.
Bring on Bedtime!