Thursday, May 21, 2020

Getting tested

I live in New Orleans.  Hot spot.  Thought I might get tested.  Until now, though, I didn't want to impede anyone who really needed to be testedthose with symptoms, those in high-risk categories.

But now the city is saying testing is free, and there are no lines at the following locations...

So this morning I go to CrescentCare Health Clinic on Elysian Fields to be tested. 

The test area is in the clinic's indoor parking lot.  I'm wearing a mask.  I'm met by a man wearing a mask who asks me if I have any symptoms.  "Well, I've had a cough for about three weeks, and I get tired in the afternoon," I say.  I feel sheepish saying this.  It's just a damn cough.

I'm directed to the far side of the parking lot where there is a table staffed by two masked people seated with computers.  One gets up and walks to me.  They ask me a few questions about symptoms, take a snap of my ID and insurance card and give me a form to fill out.  I sit and fill it out, answering the same questions I have a zillion times before.  One, though, I have never seen before: "Do you identify as straight, gay...." I stopped reading.  WTF?  I leave it unanswered.

There is only person ahead of me, seated at a discreet distance.  There are three testing areas behind the greeting desk that look like large polling booths.  Blue curtains drawn shut.  A few people in scrubs and cloth masks plus those plastic SWAT team-like shields over their face. 

I'm called.  A man beckons me to one of the booths, pulls aside the curtain and asks me sit down.  It's a simple plastic chair.  There is a mobile AC unit (high today 82 degrees) and a standing mechanical gizmo.

The doctor enters.  He gives me his name, which, unfortunately, I immediately forget.  He takes my temperature (98.6), oxygen (good).  Then he reaches for the infamous long Q-tip, or whatever it's called.

"I assume you know about this," he says, holding up the long probe.

"I do."

"It's uncomfortable."

"It looks like it."

"The best thing to do is to bend your head way back and look up to the ceiling.  I take a sample from both nostrils."


He shoves the thing down my nose to my throat.  No, it doesn't feel great, but it's over in a blink.  I can think of many tests where things are shoved up you that are a lot worse. 

"You'll get your results in two days," he says.  

There's something very likeable about him.  He's concise, cheerful, and he inspires confidence.

The first guy comes back.  "Let me verify your phone number.  Is it...."

"646-267...," I say.

"Oh, a New Yorker," the doctor says.  646 is a New York City area code.  "I have a 917 code," he says, another classic NYC area code.

"Did you do your training in New York?" I ask.

"Yes.  At NYU." New York University. 

"Oh, so at Bellevue?"

"Yes." I can see his eyes brighten even through his plastic shield. 

"A friend of mine who is a doctor says that if she were gravely ill, that's the hospital she'd want to be taken to."

He smiles in agreement.  "It's a great hospital." 

I could write a entire post about Bellevue.  Most people have heard of it, but what they probably think of is a place for the mentally ill.  It has that capacity, but the hospital is far more than that.  It's the oldest public hospital in the U.S., for one thing.  It's a public hospitalnot a private one for the rich.  I lived in New York for thirty-five years, and for most of that time, I had a bicycle.  I would ride my bike past the hospital from time to time. It's at First Avenue, between 27th and 28th Streets, not a very interesting part of the city.  The only major landmark nearby is the Midtown Tunnel.  New York has a few lost areas, little pockets that are sad, featureless, devoid of energy, style, spirit, and a distinct culture.  Not every part of the city is memorable.  I would venture to say not that many New Yorkers, save the sick, have even seen this hospital. 

It always seems, for me at least, that all roads lead to New York.  I only talk to the doctor a few minuteshe has important things to do, after allbut in those minutes I feel like I'm speaking my native language again while for years having to speak another language in a country not my own.  The pull of the city is fierce, still.


  1. A very nice piece, Richard, as always.
    I have experienced the magic of instantaneous connections with strangers through the mere evocation of a building, a street, a part of a city. I like the analogy of the "native language" a lot. Good luck on the test results ! Be well.

  2. Thanks, Olivier. Everyone ok at your place?

  3. Yes, thanks. We are all doing fine.

    1. That's good. This being alone has been trying. But I'm not sick and have enough to eat. So, no complaints. Looks like you were a pioneer in this hybrid teaching thing!