Swabbed, but not sorry

  • Jason Antos puts a COVID-19 testing swab up the nasal passage of Anya Wolfe of Wardsboro, Vt., in May. AP

  • Concord Hospital medical staff place a COVD-19 testing kit into a bag. Monitor file

For the Monitor
Published: 7/24/2020 2:07:20 PM

Just as I was about to go all Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka on the medic that was administering my test for COVID down at Highland-Goffes School last week, when he finally, after what felt like an hour, pulled

the rooted swab from the back of my brain and said I was good to go.

Good to go? That rotted! I mean, it rotted to the bone. Not painful, no. Not like a pair of piers to the eyelids or anything. But the test brought on a level of uncomfortableness that I didn’t see coming. My eyes filled with water, my nose ran buckets, causing a small wrench and the pit of a peach to come cascading down my face and into my mouth. I never have felt anything like it.

The most passive of stabbings, yes, but still, I’d never make it in a knife fight.

And swabs are usually my thing. Nothing I like more than standing in the bathroom mirror after a hot shower and rip a Q-Tip round-and-round my ear drums until my toes curl. I just love it.

When I was in college, I’d beg my roommate, Pat, to wrap his finger in a tissue and clean my ears with his own finger if we were out of swabs. And yes, he would do it. And I’d lean into that cleaning, like a dog does a neck scratch. Why did I ask him? I don’t have a clue. Maybe just to see if he would agree to do it. Why did he not refuse my request? I have no idea, either. He was just a nice guy and I’ll be sure to ask him when we go deep-sea fishing on Friday.

The city of Manchester sent an email to everyone who attended one of the high school graduations at Fishercat Stadium, suggesting we all get tested for COVID. I was at the stadium with about a 1,000 others, give or take, watching our kids walk the plank into mini-adulthood. But, the city suggested we all get tested and it was free, so I bit.

With no medical training, I figured I was clean anyhow after being relatively smart for the last five-months. Ridiculous of me, of course. I know nothing. I could have been spreading it. I could have contracted it while I was talking about jazz and the blues in a garage during a foosball match up with a musician buddy of mine. Charlie Parker will make anyone’s spit fly. Still, it was not out of arrogance that I didn’t get tested prior. I just felt like I always do. Kinda skinny, kinda fat, like I’m trapped in a heat wave. Normal.

So, I went.

I was scheduled for a drive-by test at Goffes on a Tuesday at noon and the lot was nearly empty and the tents were right there, an easy half loop around the cul-de-sac and boom, before I knew it, my car window was down and I was getting dug out. The medic, who couldn’t have been nicer, told me to take a deep breath and breathe through my mouth. I did, but then, Yowza!, what I thought was going to be a quick spin around my nose hairs turned into something far more menacing. Violated, that’s how I felt. If you’ve had the swab test and can come up with a better word to describe it, please do. I’m too busy to think, still dabbing at my nose, pushing stuff back up there.

The medic could have done anything he wanted with me. He owned me at that point. He had the death grip on me. He could have converted me to a new religion or forced me to call the mayor and ask her out for pizza . Had he said, “OK, Meatball. Don’t move an inch or I’ll go even deeper. Now, tell me your darkest secret!” I would have spilled so much he’d need a mop to clean it up.

But alas, the swab slid from out of the craters of my brain and I was released, told to wait for a call in a couple days for the results.

For a good two-miles, I was way out of sorts. Just saying over and over, “What just happened?” I couldn’t get my bearings, my eyes still dripped. Dramatic, sure. But that’s the business I’m in.

For the next day, I didn’t think much about the test. I figured the call would come and I would be told everything came back “negative.” Cool, now I can go back to being sorta smart when it comes to all the social distancing.

A day and half later, I was on a work call when another call came in and, well, you never bump the boss for another call. But I could clearly see it was the health department calling on the other line. I finished up with the boss and there was a voicemail and all I heard was a voice saying they had the results and to call back. Results in under two days. Just saying. New Hampshire getting it done!

Ok, my anxiety can flourish instantaneously. And suddenly I was in the grips of a near panic, and there’s nothing dramatic about that. I wish I had taken the call. I wish I heard a live voice telling me I’m all set, mask up and carry on. I wished and wished and kept calling and getting a voicemail and figured, well, okay, people are busy. Relax, chunk, it’s not all about you. So, immediately I called back again and same thing, voicemail. I bit into the phone and cursed my fading luck.

That night, after doing radio and getting my mind off the missed call, I headed home to find my wife and our friend on the porch lapping at the vino. Finally, it came up that I missed the call on the COVID test and didn’t have the results, yet. “You have it!” said the friend, her confidence at an all-time high. “They would never call you unless you had it.”

I shot daggers at her. I was not in the mood for a mind trip. I would administer that myself soon enough in the basement, but on my own terms.

Nearly always right, her words spun round my brain. She was probably right. I’m a social freak and need to interact in order to survive. I have sinned! I have conversed with others and spilled wine with others and even, dare I say it, thrown out a hug or two during the pandemic. Can’t help it. It’s in the bloodstream. Now, I would pace the floors till dawn, when I would start calling the health department again.

Hours later, after a wretched attempt at a night’s sleep, I woke with a halt, per usual. With one-eye open, I dialed up the COVID hotline and got Karen on the phone, the keeper of the keys. “Oh, good morning.” she said. “Just wanted to tell you your results came back negative.” Rocks fell from my back and I took a deep breath, pointed to the skies, thanking the Big Man.

“Take that! Negative!”

Get tested. Sure, it stinks, but well worth it.

(Rob Azevedo can be reached at onemanmanch@gmail.com.)


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