My kitten and I waited nearly 8 hours for a COVID-19 test
DALLAS -- I checked the clock as I pulled up at the back of the COVID-19 testing line Monday in Dallas: 1:06 p.m.
A little late in the day, but at least I secured a spot. I had driven to the same place, the Ellis Davis Field House site in the Red Bird neighborhood, around 4 p.m. the day before, but they had already stopped accepting people.
I did a half-hearted search for at-home test kits at a few different pharmacies, not really expecting to find any. I didn’t.
My symptoms were mild — congestion, sore throat, minor chest tightness — but all the experts say the omicron variant can be that minor, especially if you’re vaccinated and boosted like I am.
I glanced at my gray and white kitten, Zoe, in her carrier. She had a vet appointment that morning, and I decided to bring her with me instead of dropping her off at home.
How long could this really take, anyway? An hour, maybe an hour and a half?
There are three areas of the parking lot for cars to weave through while in line. I’m still in the third and last section when I realize an hour has nearly passed. We’ve been moving forward somewhat consistently, so I’m not too worried.
I get a text from a friend in Austin. She got tested on New Year’s Eve and just got her result back today, 11 days after the fact: positive. “What good does that do for anybody?” I ask.
Not exactly reassuring.
The Sudafed I took this morning has worn off.
Another friend, this time in Miami, sends me a similar text: his test from New Year’s Eve just came back negative.
OK, so it’s not just Texans suffering through this.
Zoe has remained sound asleep in her carrier, exhausted from the trauma of getting her booster shot that morning (No, not the COVID-19 one).
We’re moving forward much less consistently now.
I go over the last two weeks and think about where I could have gotten COVID-19: a haircut, five friends at my apartment for New Year’s Eve, a doctor’s appointment last Wednesday …
It’s entirely possible that I’m doing all this for nothing. The pollen count in Dallas has been high, and I’ve always had bad allergies.
I’m roughly halfway through the line, though. Guess I’ll stick it out.
Why didn’t I bring snacks?
I start feeling pretty bad for Zoe, so I open the carrier. In her six months of life, she’s never been in a car outside her crate. Immediately, she’s playing jungle gym on the seats and dashboard.
I watch her head to the backseat and pause at the floorboard.
“If you have to go, just try and go on the floor mat, OK?” I tell her.
She thinks better of it and instead settles down on the back seat.
Only about six cars have given up and left the line — North Texans persevere, it seems.
I’ve now watched three episodes of "The Serpent" on Netflix and am debating starting another. It’s either that or scroll TikTok. Again.
I did bring a book, but it’s getting dark.
Another friend in Austin calls me. I’m grateful for the company, but as I watch the seconds tick by I’m painfully aware that I’ve only moved up two spaces during the 30-minute conversation.
The port-a-potties set up at the edge of the parking lot are looking pretty tempting.
I text my mom: This is so dumb.
I watch several people get out of their cars and walk away from the parking lot only to walk back a few minutes later with bags of food from the Love’s across the street. My stomach rumbles just watching them.
I can see the end of the line. There’s maybe 40 cars behind me. They must have stopped accepting people right after I arrived.
Eleven days for a result or eight hours in line. I’m not sure which is worse.
Finally, after seven hours, I’m in the last stretch. Zoe is looking curiously out the back window. I watch a woman in the car next to us smile as she takes a picture of her, then I grab Zoe and put her back in her carrier.
There are two lines of tents, one where they hand you your swab and confirm your information and one where someone swabs you.
I get my swab and drive up. A man in full protective gear explains that this is a rapid test, and I’ll get my results tonight. I try not to let my disappointment show.
A rapid test? Seriously? I’ve read the articles, I’ve interviewed doctors — rapid tests are not as sensitive as PCR tests and have a higher chance of false negatives. No way would I have waited nearly 8 hours if I had known that. No way.
But it’s not this guy’s fault, so I say nothing. He takes the cotton-tipped swab out of the baggie and swipes it inside each nostril five times. It tickles, but it’s not as uncomfortable as people say.
I drive away, finally free. Sort of anticlimactic. And how the heck did the whole day take that long when the swab was maybe 3 minutes max?
I check Twitter and see that Dallas County will require appointments at Ellis Davis Field House from now on. I just missed it.
I’m crawling into bed putting on an episode of Bob’s Burgers when I get a text that says my result is ready.
I guess it was just allergies after all.