What is the perfect Seattle souvenir? A pound of coffee from the original Starbucks? A Seahawks jersey? A cooler full of fresh salmon? From my view right now in a standing-room-only clinic waiting room surrounded by face-masks, my recommendation would be: not a chest cold. Because it turns out that it tends to freak your co-workers out when you return from a weekend jaunt to the North American epicentre of the coronavirus with a sporadic cough.
I don’t blame them for insisting I take the day off to go get tested. I do, however, blame myself for thinking an overnight trip to Seattle to visit my brother would be a good idea in the middle of a global pandemic. I also kind of blame said brother, for marrying an American and then moving to a place that would eventually cause widespread health hysteria. Another great contender for blame is my mother, who made the road trip down with me and shared a hotel room with me while nursing a hacking cough. Overall, a real family accomplishment.
Anyways. The point is, I came home Sunday night with a teensy little dry cough and very maturely kept myself at home yesterday, but this morning, feeling much better, I was ready to head back into the office, only to be politely encouraged to confirm my clean bill of health with professionals. Because the thing about coronavirus, apparently, is that it can lurk within a young healthy person (wow, thank you, yes that’s me, thank you for noticing) with minimal symptoms—even though my own gut feeling that this sore throat is Mom’s doing.
So in order to put my cubicle neighbours' minds at ease, I trek over to my local clinic, thinking I’d nip this in the bud and getting back to writing about crosswalk conspiracies or whatever it is my job is, but my doctor informs me the only way to get tested is via an Urgent Care clinics (of which there are two) or an emergency room. And that I should probably do that, like, now. She then gives me a mask before putting on a mask of her own, which made me feel, shall we say less than welcome. Luckily, blue really makes my eyes pop, so I don the medical mask, a scarlet letter for the city's unwell. I get on the bus to downtown. I absorb the side-eye of my fellow passengers as they try to gauge whether I was a leper, or just a jerk stockpiling medical supplies. Perhaps those of us who received our masks through legitimate medical means should get a special new colour of mask? Or like a stamp of approval from a doctor on the front? Just a few thoughts that run through my head as I sit in the waiting room for three hours.
At the Urgent Care clinic on Homer, I find myself surrounded by fellow mask-wearers—truly a band of brothers. Because I am confident I do not actually have coronavirus, waiting all afternoon is boring but thankfully not terrifying. Because there is no wifi, I have plenty of time to wonder what the test for coronavirus actually IS. I see a lot of people coming in but not out, so I assume that either means it takes a long time, or that they’ve been whisked away to some sort of quarantine, or shuffled along quietly to Seattle where they can hack up a lung in peace. I wish I brought snacks.
Finally I'm ushered into an examination room where a doctor, decked out in a face mask and what seems to be the plastic ponchos you get when it rains at a music festival, proceeds to tell me that Seattle is actually not a hot spot of coronavirus activity (thanks for the lies, Big Media) and that my lack of literally any other symptoms besides my mewling cough means I'm unlikely to be a carrier. But then she admits, "We've been surprised before!" and slithers a six-inch cotton swab up my nose, stopping just shy of what feels like my brain. So that's what the test is. Now I know.
It'll take a few days to process the results, so Doc encourages me to self-quarantine while I wait: no going to the office, no inviting friends over, no cooking for other people, no breathing on people on the bus. Boring boring boring. She doesn't ask if other people live in my house, and I don't tell her, probably because my left lobe has just been scrambled by her probe and I temporarily forget my husband exists.
While this medical professional doesn't think I have it, and I don't think I have it, it looks like I'm working from home until we can prove it. I may not have a coronavirus diagnosis, but I've tested positive for something else: not putting on real pants for the rest of the week.