SHELBYVILLE, Tenn. — At last, a legitimate reason to wake up early on a Saturday.
I first pulled into the line for COVID-19 testing at about 9:20 a.m. Saturday, April 18. Due to the length of the line, I started out on the street about six vehicles prior to the turn into the Shelbyville Central High School parking lot.
Like most other MTSU employees, I have been working from home for about a month. When I ran across the notice of the COVID-19 test in the online Shelbyville Times-Gazette, there was no doubt I would participate. I had no symptoms personally, but I wanted the experience and I wanted to know the result. The drive-thru testing site was among several announced throughout the state in recent weeks. (Editor’s note: The Tennessee Department of Health will host a drive-thru site from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, May 2, at McKnight Park, 120 DeJarnette Lane in Murfreesboro. Find more sites across the region and state on May 2-3 here.)
My fellow Shelbyville citizens and I followed a circuitous, cone-bordered route, encountering two junctures at which two lines were obligated to merge into one. Bedford County sheriff’s deputies were on hand to ensure that drivers would be gracious enough to avoid impatience and collisions.
Along the serpentine path laid out for us, I spotted a cab once owned by the brothers of a high school friend. A young boy sat in the back seat, his head barely rising above the window. A blue bandana covered his nose and mouth.
Around the far turn and into the home stretch, my cellphone, with which I had been shooting video, picked up another driver sticking his arm out the window and shooting cellphone video. Obviously, I wasn’t the only person who considered this to be a pivotal personal moment.
A few yards away from the National Guard tent, a young woman with long black hair approached my window with a clipboard in her hand. I quickly put my mask over my nose and mouth. Through her mask, she cheerfully asked me for my name, address, phone number and email and whether I had experienced any symptoms of COVID-19.
A few more yards farther up the line, the tent personnel came into view. Some were clad in conventional Army-type camouflage, gloves and face masks. Others were covered in white jumpsuits, gloves, N95 masks and face shields. Their white foot coverings looked vaguely like the slip-ons that pest control agents wear while inspecting your home.
One of them approached my window with swabs in hand. Again, cheerfully, a different young woman asked me to pull down my own mask so she could conduct the test. She inserted a super-long swab well up into the nasal cavity — the nasopharynx, it’s called — of my right nostril. I closed my eyes tightly, but I was only uncomfortable for about five seconds. She repeated the process in my left nostril.
The scary stories I had heard ranged from tales of nosebleeds to nonsense about swabs going so far up the nostril as to rub the eyeball. Save that stuff for the campfire, provided you sit six feet apart around it, along with the Bell Witch and other such chatter of Tennessee childhood. If you’re looking for sinus drainage, a good Cajun meal would be far more effective.
The second young woman put the swabs into a container and told me to proceed up the line, where I encountered a young mask-clad man. After securing my mask over my nose and mouth again, I asked him when I could expect to learn the results. He said probably Monday.
A National Guardsman told me to put my cell phone down before I exited the parking lot. Then, I made my getaway, hoping I had shot enough video to record the experience sufficiently.
Upon reflection at home, I felt as though I had made a tiny contribution to the American historical mosaic. I would never liken it to such noble social efforts as working for the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression or launching a neighborhood scrap metal drive during World War II. First responders, health care workers, grocery store and drug store employees are far more deserving of that comparison.
It was more like voting, which we’re scheduled to do again in November or before, depending on how many of us vote early. It was a voluntary, individual vote in favor of fighting the coronavirus with factual, scientific information. In my case, the whole event took about an hour.
The test was the short-haul experience. Continuing to adhere to guidelines such as social distancing, washing hands and wearing masks all constitute the long-haul experience. The COVID-19 test is about patience and perseverance, not pain.
I waited patiently for my result. On Tuesday, April 21, the Bedford County Health Department called me. I tested negative.
Shelbyville, Tennessee, resident Gina Logue recently took advantage of the opportunity to undergo a free COVID-19 test in Shelbyville, Tennessee. Logue is a veteran content producer in the MTSU Office of News and Media Relations.