Why I’m disappointed that my COVID test was negative

A tale of love, loss and late-night Lidl trips

Who would’ve thought this time last year that a  swab of our noses and tonsils would be a new addition to our schedule? And yet here we are, in Michaelmas 2020.  Cambridge’s asymptomatic testing programme for students is well underway and we are starting to get into the swing of the weekly swabbing. With our swabbing fate at the hands of an algorithm, I know that a fair number of people haven’t been tested yet and so I thought I’d take you all along for the ride on the ride of my first Covid test.

12:31 PM, Sunday

I receive the weekly testing email. I apprehensively click on the notification and scroll down – will it be me? Must I endure the agonising test this week?

“The following students should take part in pooled sample collection (swabbing) tomorrow:”

Ahhh. In what feels like the 76th Hunger Games, I have been chosen.

Email from the University selecting me for testing

My fate has been sealed

12:32 PM, Sunday

I now begin to panic: What if the test is as bad as everyone makes it out to be? What if the swab makes me throw up? What if my test comes back positive?

I keep telling myself that it’ll be just fine if I put it to the back of my mind and ignore it until the morning. This works for a little while, but the ‘what ifs’ dance around in my head all evening.

2:09 AM, Monday

If ever there was a visual representation of ‘the Cambridge nerd’, I think it could only be this photo.

I spent the evening with a few friends playing ‘The King’s Dilemma’, arguably the best board game you will ever play. (Pro Tip: Playing the Skyrim tavern music in the background makes the game so much better!) The thought of the test only crossed my mind a couple of times during the evening and I joked that I would be responsible for sending all of us into lockdown on Tuesday morning.

I decide I should probably get to sleep now as I need to be up and ready to do the test by 9AM!

7:30 AM, Monday

Judgement day: Will I retain my freedom or is this my last day as a free man? Either way, it’s way too early to be awake. I drag myself out of bed, gasping for coffee in a very Gollum-esque way – the effect is limited, but enough to get me to the shower. I leave the shower having only fallen asleep twice – a success in my opinion – and head to my room to get dressed and eat some chocolate pillow cereal in the dark.

8:34 AM, Monday

The moment has arrived: my neighbour knocks on the door holding my swab.I reluctantly take it from his hands as he tells me what I need to do as if I haven’t watched the ‘how to’ video three times in the last 30 minutes. The door closes and I’m alone with the swab for the first time. We begin a showdown; I stare intensely at the swab and it refuses to avert its gaze. I give in to its demands and remove it from the wrapper, slowly insert it into my mouth and do what must be done. I then push the swab into my nose which triggers an aggressive sneezing fit.

Action shot

The time has come to say goodbye – it’s weird really how much of a connection can form between you and the swab in the 5 minutes you spend together. I drop it into the test tube, say a few words, and then wave goodbye. My rating of our experience? I’d say that she was a little forward, but I’d call her after a couple days…can’t seem too eager.

4:58 PM, Monday

I spent the day doing some work and listening to a worrying amount of Renaissance vocal music. I’ve tried to not think too much about what will happen tomorrow and I’m becoming quite worried about the prospect of going into self-isolation. I clock that even if our test comes back positive, there’s a fair chance that the other person in my testing pool, who’s in a different household, has got COVID and I haven’t. I will be so annoyed if they make me self-isolate for that. Anyway, I’m late for choir so I tell myself I’ll return to this later.

11:36 PM, Monday

Choir was great and I’m now making dinner. I realised while making my dinner that I had nowhere near enough food for self-isolation and so, having spent the entire day convincing myself that my test would come back positive, I rallied up my friends for a late-night Lidl trip. I made a short, but comprehensive, list:

  1. Many pot noodles/super noodles
  2. Biscuits
  3. Bread
  4. Milk
  5. Cooked Meat
  6. Cheese
  7. Cheap wine – I was going to Lidl, what do you expect?

I think it goes without saying that I bought far more than planned and ended up cradling the carrier bag with all of the pasta, cans, jars and bottles in (turns out you shouldn’t put all of the heavy things in one bag, George) while my friends carried another two bags for me.

Anyone know who to email to join the prepper society?

My back aches from carrying all of the food so I head to bed. See you tomorrow for the results!

1:24 PM, Tuesday

After a morning of waiting nervously, not getting much work done, and putting a sizeable dent in my biscuit collection, the text comes through.

Well, this is disappointing

You’re telling me that I spent £50 in Lidl for no reason? WHY ME!? I mean great, yay, well done, I don’t have COVID, but I could start a small bakery/pub with this much food and drink. I will eat it all of course, but believe me I’m not happy about it!

Overall, the asymptomatic testing programme is great, but they really need to list the side effect of swab-induced panic buying on the label.

All Image Credits: George Ellison