It happened so long ago, that my phone rang. It didn’t chirp or beep or buzz, the little bell inside the plastic housing actually rang. It also didn’t light up, so on that Sunday morning I fumbled around until I found the cord and followed it to the phone.
It was a different era with a different set of circumstances.
“Hello,” I said, or mumbled, or both, it was mid Sunday morning, and I was in my early twenties, so it might as well have been the crack of dawn.
“Hi, this is Sandy.”
“Sandy?” I responded yawning and rubbing the sleep from my eyes.
“We worked together at [insert hip swinging nightclub name].”
“Oh, OK,” I responded my recollection barely registering. Back then I worked at a lot of different places. Bartending in the club scene felt like surfing, jumping from one wave to the other before they broke. No one wanted to be left in a slack water eddy.
“What can I do for you?” is how I remember saying it, but truth be told it was probably more like “whaddya want?”
“I just came from the doctor,” she said, obviously lying. A doctor? On Sunday morning?
“And I got a test,” she continued.
“OK,” I said realizing this information was probably a week old.
“I’m sorry, but this is really awkward,” she said.
“Uh huh,” I responded.
“And it came back positive.”
“What are you talking about?” I asked.
“I’m not pregnant but I have an infection, not a bad one, but…”
“Sandy,” I interrupted.
“No let me finish.”
I tried to interrupt again.
“Please, please, let me finish. This is hard enough. My doctor told me that I should call all the people I have had, you know, contact with, and let them know.”
“This is so embarrassing, please just let me finish,” she said.
“It’s the right thing to do,” she said.
“Let me finish!”
She explained the circumstances: after party, contact, no proper protection, and then, infection.
“I just wanted to call everyone, uh, I mean, the few people, who, well, you know. So, they don’t spread it.” She then issued a long sigh, signaling that she was, finally, in fact, finished.
“We never slept together,” I said.
“We didn’t?” she seemed surprised.
“We never even held hands,” I said.
“Oh,” she said her voice getting smaller. “I knew it was a bartender, I thought it might be you.”
“As flattering as that is,” I said lying, I was in my twenties, but I wasn’t totally ignorant. “It wasn’t.”
“Well this is awkward.”
“I bet,” I said.
“Do you think it might have been Mark?” she asked.
Just recently I received another awkward early in the day call about exposure to an infection. The call was from my work. Apparently, several employees had tested positive for Covid-19. This time there was no mistaken identity. I didn’t fit the criteria for high risk: within six feet, no mask, 10 minutes of contact, etc. And I have no symptoms. Still testing was recommended.
This disease is no laughing matter. Take it from me, you won’t really understand until you get the call. It’s frightening. You start evaluating your health more seriously. You think about all the people you might have encountered, the lady at the bank, the barista, your grandmother. And then, all the people that they may have encountered.
I self-quarantined, and I got tested. It was easy enough. I made an online appointment, and then arrived at the Civic Center, in my car, on time and was ushered immediately into what looked like a County Fair tent.
“Lean back,” said the young woman in the mask, face shield, gloves, and gown.
“Don’t hold your breath, and try and relax,” she said.
She then inserted a long thin swab into my nostrils far farther than I would have thought possible. Think the entire length of a regular cotton swab. I was expecting just a touch and go. Instead she swirled it around and let it sit for several seconds. Thankfully, it was all over in 3 minutes. And now I wait. If that test comes back positive, I will have my own awkward calls to make.
Leaving me with these thoughts:
-I have recently wondered what Mark’s test entailed.
-More testing is going to be absolutely necessary but reducing your risk by following CDC guidelines to the “T” will probably help limit how many you will have to get. You can thank me later.
-Without protection, it only takes a few minutes to change your life, or someone else’s.
-If you think receiving a call like that is awkward, just imagine being on the other end.
-Stay safe. Please.