Yes, laughing and spitting. It was a sunny day in beautiful Park City, Utah. And Mr. Parker and I found ourselves sitting in our car in a hospital parking lot, spitting into tubes and laughing.
What has brought us to this bizarre circumstance? Two words: COVID testing.
We’d made it almost a year into the pandemic without needing a test.
That’s saying something, considering we were actually in ground-zero Seattle on March 11 2020.
These days, we rarely leave home. We go almost nowhere…and the liquor store. Our COVID pod is small and select.
But people we like were about to enter that pod from out of town, and everyone was getting tested first. We were doing our part. Hello, testing!
Until now, I’d thought that a COVID test meant a long swab up your nose and into the back of your brain.
That thought alone was enough to keep me from going anywhere or engaging in mask-less mingling.
But there’s a new kid in town: the spit tube.
Sorry if this creeps you out , but…
All you have to do is juice up enough saliva that you can spit three milliliters of it into a plastic vial. Then, drive up to the spit take service entrance where you hand it to the nice lady in the hazmat suit.
Simple. Painless. No one touching your precious gray matter.
Let’s do this.
It was a bluebird day as we drove to the hospital and pulled up to a temporary office hut that looked like it might be possible to purchase coffee from the gentleman inside.
When that smiling gentleman leaned out the hut window, Mr. Parker placed his order.
“COVID tests for two, please.”
“Spit or swab?”
Not even a question. “Spit, please!”
The gentleman then informed us that this test is not acceptable for travel to Hawaii. Have you ever said to yourself, “Thank god I’m not going to Hawaii?” Yes, it was a first for us, too.
He handed us our plastic tubes, told us to where to park, and showed us how much spit we needed to produce.
“Get to the line marked 3. If there’s a head on the spit, then the bubbles need to reach the number 4.”
I’ve been spitting for longer than I can remember. I got this.
Surprise. It’s a long, involved exercise in purposeful hypersalivation.
(Mr. Parker found that word for us. He’s like that. I was happy to stick with “working up spit.”)
We pulled into a space, parked, and started spitting. How hard could this be? How long could it take?
Answers: hard and long. (Yes, I said hard…and long.) My spit dried up in a matter of minutes. Mr. Parker quickly gained quite a lead on me.
Should one put on music for such an exercise? What would be appropriate?
As it turned out, there was no need for a soundtrack. The longer it took to fill the vials, the more we laughed. And laughing lead to more laughing. The kind of laughing that takes over when you’re watching a good, bad movie.
My vial was all bubbles. Mr. Parker, overachiever that he is, had already made it to line five. Five! Damn. That’s when I gave us our new temporary rapper names: Juicy and Li’l Bubbles.
Finally, I crossed the finish line.
We called the phone number for spit retrieval, and as per instructions, we drove to the hospital side entrance.
A nice lady in a bizarrely enormous hazmat suit came out. Kinda like if the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man’s very happy wife showed up, dressed for surgery.
She bounced out the door and smiled big as she confirmed out birthdates.
We held out our juice and bubbles. She held out plastic bags. We dropped the vials inside. She smiled again from inside the big plastic fish bowl on her head. “Have a nice day! Stay safe!”
And, just like that, the adventure was over.
In truth, figuring out how to get the results from the website was another adventure. And no laugh track.
Drum roll…Negative and negative!
Oh, the adventures of pandemic-living. Here’s hoping you don’t have to go to Hawaii any time soon.
Juicy & Li’l Bubbles
If you’re reading this, you made it past 2020. God bless us, everyone.
But here’s something that keeps sticking with me through the beginning of the new year. So many people kept talking about how they couldn’t wait to be done with 2020. As if the change from 2020 to 2021 would magically make things right again.
I don’t think it will be that simple.
So, what do we all want from 2021?
Maybe surprisingly, despite the absurdity of Careful-ish, I have a certain amount of optimism for 2021. Why not? Eye on the prize, right?
There’s a saying in auto racing: “Watch the wall, and you get the wall.” Meaning: look at what you don’t want to hit and that’s exactly where you’ll go.
Here are three things on my 2021 short list.
1.My favorite drink at my favorite bar. What and where are that, you say? In the last couple of years, the Vieux Carré has become my favorite cocktail. It’s a uniquely New Orleans concoction of Rye, cognac, sweet vermouth, Bénédictine, bitters and a maraschino cherry. And my favorite Vieux Carré is made by a committed young barman named Eric, who tends bar at a Park City restaurant called The Farm. Since The Farm also happens to be a short walk from my digs, I can stumble home responsibly.
2.Make many, many more people laugh. I loved writing Careful-ish, in great part because it has made so many people happy to laugh, sometimes out loud. I’m closing in on finishing the sequel, and I’d love to bring a bit more of the joy of ridiculousness and infectious fun to folks feeling the overwhelm of life behind a mask.
3.Hugging my father. Here’s where I get sappy. In Careful-ish, Steph’s father is Murray. He’s based on my father, Jerry. Steph’s mom Ida is based on my late mother. I haven’t seen my dad since April 3, 2020. That’s the day I left him in New Jersey and flew back to Utah. Two days later, my mother passed away. We were well into COVID by then. While I was in Jersey, Jerry was recently over pneumonia. I had just flown in from Utah. For all these reasons, I didn’t hug my dad. But before I left him, I broke down. I had to touch him. So, I kissed him on the forehead. He looked up at me, then finally asked, “Do I feel like I have a fever?”
So many other things are beckoning, things I’m looking forward to experiencing, seeing and eating. But the three on this list keep bouncing back into my brain with the rest of the Super Balls in there. I’m excited for each and every one of them.
Now, let’s assume world peace is already on your list. What else do you want to see happen in your world in 2021?
I’d love to hear about it...
Honey Parker has been writing, writing, writing for decades, decades, decades. In there, she has also been a standup comedian, a Hollywood screenwriter, a director, and a co-author of edgy business books. Careful-ish is her debut novel. It is the first in a trilogy. It is comedy-ish.