I had expected to get another nasal swab test when I went in for mandatory Covid testing at work. Surprise, surprise, we have switched things up!
This time, we got to do a self-administered spit test instead of the nasal swabbing. It makes total sense to me, because the nasal swabbing requires the use of health care workers who could be doing something more useful than swabbing nasal cavities all day, and rather than 2 at a time, they can go 10 at a time. But it was still a pretty surreal experience, more so than the swabbing because it lasted so much longer. The swab was step up, pull down mask, get swabbed for 10 seconds, done, out the door. The spit test is different.
The classroom’s normal desks had been cleared out to make room for stations set up at folding tables. There was a set in the center of the room and then tables all around the walls. The windows, those leaning ones that seem to be found in most any school building, were cracked open despite the chill in the air and the rain pouring down outside. I was directed to the far table by the windows by the room’s sole attendant, dressed in blue PPE of some sort and, like everyone else, wearing a mask. At my table (and every other table), a placard was taped to the wall, providing instructions.
I read them through once, to make sure I knew all my steps before I got started. Not that I expected there to be any gotchas on this particular test, but you never know when you might run into your own incorrect assumptions. First, sanitize, easy enough with the provided sanitizer, sitting on the window sill next to a box of tissues, leaving the table itself absolutely clear for easy cleaning between testers.
Next, caps off both the tubes, and then, the first fun part. Forcefully push the ribbed end of the collector straw into the little tube. No, a little more forcefully, almost got it, whatever you do don’t let it pop out of your hands and fly around the room… got it.
Then, just make yourself salivate. Standing there, in a repurposed classroom, with no food smells to be found, with 6 to 10 other people, all but one of whom are also trying to jumpstart their salivary glands, yes, you’ll find it easy as pie to get those juices flowing. I mean, I didn’t. And at least one other guy was vocal about issues. And one guy thought he was done, but the attendant said it was too foamy and he needed to collect more non-foam. It’s just not as easy as it sounds.
I kept putting my mask back on between collection attempts, though I saw others keeping theirs off for the duration of the testing. There wasn’t a specific protocol about that, and I figured they are probably just letting people do whatever since we have all averred that we are not currently symptomatic just to get into that room.
I did, after a couple of attempts, manage to get it about halfway filled. And then I stood, with my eyes closed, and tried to think of appetizing food smells. Pizza, hot and fresh, with stretchy cheese and too much grease. French fries, golden and glistening, salt crystals catching the light like little diamonds, fresh out of the fryer, crinkle cut so they have a crispness to the outside and pure molten potato on the inside. Strawberry ice cream on a hot summer’s day, looking so soft and gooey as it melts and begins to drip dribble down the cone to your hand…
The meditation on food didn’t really work for me, but I did eventually fill the collection tube sufficiently to pass muster. I had to tap it a lot to clear the bubbles, but I got that spit.
I’m not really looking forward to the next one, but I’ll be better prepared.
Maybe I’ll wear some eau de bacon