Last week, I went for my corona test. In The Netherlands, one is required to take the test if one has any cold or flu symptoms. And while my clogged nose is seasonal only in the sense that four seasons take us around the year, my slight sore throat at the time seemed to be my cue to register for the test.
A slot was available the next day at 16:45. I drove to the nearby town of Veenendaal, where my navigation guided me to a derelict factory building on the outskirts, with yellow temporary traffic signs pointing to the Corona Testing Drive-In. A figure in dayglo orange waved me into a rectangular, doorless entrance. I drove to a first hall, unlit and made sinister by scattered stacks of dusty boxes, through to an enormous, well-lit second hall. Here, six testing lanes were set up on the bare concrete, demarcated by rows of traffic pylons. The testing stations themselves consisted of bright white tables, and personnel in squeaky-clean protective gear.
I was directed to Testing Lane 2, and drove up to the line on the ground, where a sign told me to roll down my window. From behind his face mask and medical mouth and nose covering, a brightly friendly young man invited me to say A. Upon speaking the vowel, he plunged a long, thin stick, with an almost perfunctory quantity of cotton on the business end, deep into my throat. ‘More A,’ he encouraged me, ‘and stick out your tongue as far as you can.’ I came very close to saying ‘Barf’ instead, especially when he decided it was necessary to repeat the procedure. After that, it was time to disover how deeply the stick could be inserted into my nostril. Deep enough, it seemed, to swab my visual cortex. It was surprisingly painless at the time, but brought on an aftertaste of excruciating agony.
And that was that, except for the drive back out, which took me through three more factory halls, as derelict as the others, with yellow-and-black markings around the rectangular openings I drove through, graffiti on the walls, and a deep and disturbing sense of abandonment. It was as if I was driving through a set for The Walking Dead, or Half-Life, or Gears of War.
Needless to say, I was hugely relieved to emerge out into the sunlight, and discover once again that despite a major pandemic raging, I did not in fact live in a post-apocalyptic Mad Max universe.
Test results arrived by Friday, and were negative.