My turn for a COVID-19 test

This ‘Life In Quarantine’ column originally ran on Sunday, July 26, 2020 in the Hendersonville Times-News.

I was fully expecting the call. It certainly didn’t come as a surprise. They had told me it was going to come, but to be perfectly honest, I was hoping they were going to somehow forget about me.

I was having a sleep study coming up and the only way they’d let me show up for it was if I passed my COVID-19 test – with a negative result, of course. And sure enough, at 9:06 a.m. on Thursday – exactly four days before the sleep study was set to commence – the call finally came.

The lady on the phone was trying to get me on the schedule at one of the local COVID testing centers – preferably sometime that day.

Now this lady clearly doesn’t know how I operate. I’m the kind of guy that needs time to process medical procedures that involve sharp needles or long penetrating objects. I like to be mentally prepared. However, with less than four days, there was no time to stall. I had to act. I ended up choosing a timeslot later in the day, settling in on 2 p.m.

After agreeing on the time, she then instructed me where to go, how to get there and what to take with me. She wrapped up the call with a pleasant and encouraging, “You’re all set!” My response?

“Thank you”.

Do you see what I just did there? I just thanked this lady – a lady whom I’ve never met before – for giving me the opportunity to have my nasal cavities violated with a six-inch long brush later that day.

But alas, I knew this day would come – the day where I’d have to submit myself to a coronavirus test. Let’s face it – we’re all going to have to get a coronavirus test at some point. I was just hoping I could put it off as long as possible.

So later that day, I hopped in the truck and headed towards the testing site. I pulled into the parking lot where two large white tents were set-up.

Now where I’m from, large white tents set up in a parking lot in the middle of the summer usually means only one thing – you’re in the market for some explosive surprises. These surprises usually take the form of bottle rockets, black cats and cherry bombs. But in my case, the only explosive surprise I was going to get on this day was within the confines of my nasal cavities.

Once in the parking lot, I followed the signage which led me to a visible line of cars headed right for those big white tents. Healthcare workers were walking around the parking lot, back and forth between the tents and the cars in line, wearing yellow medical gowns, rubber gloves, at least two face masks and a face shield.

I don’t know how they did it. It was the kind of day you’d expect in the middle of July. The thermometer only said it was 89 degrees, but with the humidity, the “real feel” temperature read exactly how it felt – a whopping 97 degrees. And here these healthcare workers were – simply doing their jobs, walking around in layers upon layers, in an effort to help us and to keep safe themselves.

And despite the overbearing heat and humidity, everyone I dealt with was super friendly. No one seemed irritable or annoyed. One lady stopped over to confirm my name and appointment time. She then approved me and told me to wait and that they – her fellow nurses – would “get me swabbed”.

Another lady administered the actual test. And I was ready. I was determined to make it as easy on her as possible. I even leaned the car seat back as far as it would go so she’d have the best angle to enter my nose.

And then she told me, “Oh yeah, this is going to be a throat swab.”

Wait. What? Just a throat swab?

Apparently, the throat swab is not as painful as the nasal swab. The nasal swab was causing some minor issues with some people, so this particular testing site had made the switch to the throat swab.

She then instructed me to open up and say ahh. I did just that and she jammed that thing in the back of my throat, tickling my uvula, causing me to gag.

That was no surprise for me, but she still apologized anyways. But I told her no apology was necessary. I was just grateful that the explosive surprise I was expecting ended up being just a dud. I’ll take a throat swab over a nasal swab any day.

That’s how life goes in these COVID times. Some days are explosive, and some days are duds. I know I won’t always be that lucky. But if I’ve learned anything in the fight against COVID-19, it’s to be grateful for all things big and small. Even the duds.

Ben Dungan has been writing about how life has changed since the COVID-19 outbreak. You can email him at [email protected] and read more from him at