I am part of a Covid study from a London University, which is being done quite scientifically apart from not taking into account the Stupidity of the Older Woman. This could also encompass the Stupidity of the Older Man for all I know and, as it turned out, all I know is not a lot.
It started last July.
I got an email asking if I would take part in a study, to see if I would die of Covid or not, and, as I was quite interested to find out too, I agreed. This involved putting a drop of blood on a window in a little plastic doodad, photographing the result and emailing the photograph back to them and then filling in a questionnaire. They said, unaware of the Stupidity of the Older Woman that I could do it all on my phone. As my phone comes out of the wall on a curly wurly wire, I thought this outcome unlikely. I got out my apparatus for taking photographs, which is, amazingly, a camera (who knew? How quaint. (I still have the reel of film in the fridge to fit the camera that got stolen from my bag at the S&H’s graduation. I can out-quaint anyone. And I have irrelevance down to an E – but you know that.)) So I completed the mission, and a questionnaire, which kept asking me how tall I was (same height as The Queen, dearie – wish to argue?) which made me worry that they thought Covid was going to drift downwards until all the little spiky bits on the virus had found a new home. This might account for the shortage of garden gnomes, I know the papers are reporting that they’re all stuck on that container ship jammed sideways in the Suez Canal, but maybe the gnomes got wind of the lower levels infection jeopardy and lent on the tiller en masse and are, right now, sitting in the bar on to the third packet of peanuts.
Eight months later, the university is asking again. Naturally I thought it would be the same process and readily agreed.
I really must learn to read the small print.
First I had to go to a web site that would explain everything. Or it would have done so if I had gone to the right web site. Some clever clogs had laid a pratfall for people like me. The address of the official website was lengthy involving many hyphens and repeated letters. One letter wrongly entered and predictive text placed me swiftly to the website of someone having a laugh and leading me around many screens, then to some advertising and then back to the start, always with references to the ‘test’ video. . After half an hour of my life I found the right site, I bet some folk gave up before then, my search engine took me after just a few letters to the wrong one.
Having finally arrived at the right place I watched a ten minute instructional video teaching the correct way to shove a swab up your nostril. Having proved that I was me and still willing to participate, in two days I received my test kit. It had a simple tube, a simple swab and a sheet with approximately twenty assorted sticky labels, including some that were arrows pointing to other labels and identifying them as labels and some with apparently random numbers and letters on them, some with barcodes, some with pretty patterns and a separate sheet with just one label on it very huge and warning that it was a seal. No, not the better kind of seal that can swim on its back while washing its whiskers, very cutely, more like the kind of seal that separates my swabbed snot from the rest of the universe because I AM A BIO HAZARD. Yes it’s ET and the blokes in the hazmat suits delivered to your doorstep by courier.
There was also a booklet purporting to be explanatory. More like obfuscating short novel. It contained dire warnings not to think of shoving anything at all up your nose until you had booked a courier. This, naturally was via another website, so I had a go and booked for – tomorrow, first thing with dire warnings about the time. It must be ready and in the fridge by eight o clock in the morning. It must be the morning when the courier is booked and no other morning and it said in the book and it said on the courier site and it said on the original, real, website YOU MUST NOT POST THIS SAMPLE. DO NOT PUT THIS SAMPLE IN A POST BOX. And there was a picture of a post box crossed out in case you were unsure. And the novelette reiterated the ten minute video at length with pictures of someone poking a swab up their nose and dire warnings about how far to poke it and the necessity of stopping before it came out of the back of your neck and how poking it up just a bit simply wasn’t good enough and how your throat swab should ideally make you gag even if you have had your tonsils out. And then there was some more about finding the web site and doing a questionnaire before you began after you finished and HOW YOU MUST NOT PUT IT IN A POST BOX and how to lay the stuff out on a flat surface with washed hands.
And even though I had set the alarm for seven I had got myself in such a state about it I woke up every half hour to check the alarm in the night. So by the time I leapt from bed at six forty five, I was knackered and terrified but certainly not about to pop along to the post box, being too fond of remaining at large.
So, knackered, terrified, bleary eyed but with hands that had been washed for twenty seconds, twice, and with a blown nose, I swabbed till I gagged each tonsil for the correct number of rotations over the prescribed number of seconds and then I did each nostril without poking the swab through my cranium and out of the back of my neck, even though the swab was long enough. Then I placed the swab in the tube, ready unscrewed as per the instruction, then I broke the swab off at the correct breaking point because I knew It was too long to go in the tube unbroken because the video had told me and the website had told me and War and Peace had told me (twice). And I washed mine hands for twenty seconds as thrice instructed and I did place the tube in the bio hazard bag after I had placed a sticker, identified as a sticker in a picture of the sticker sheet on the sticker sheet along the tube on top of the label. I did not place it around the tube because that was not allowed and there was a picture illustrating the bad bad thing to do and a cross, so you knew it was wicked. And I put the stickered tube, correctly labelled in the bio hazard bag and I stuck another identical sticker (labelled sticker in a picture) on the bag where the picture showed me to stick it in the correct orientation to fit the little rectangle drawn on the bag with the legend ‘stick sticker here’ so I did.
Then I did take my seal (but not cute near the boat, at all) and did seal my bag with it and I did place my bag in the cardboard box which I constructed from flat as per several pages of War and Peace and I did stick my BIO HAZARD WARNING STICKER FROM RADIOACTIVE NASAL SWAB DO NOT BREAK, DO NOT COLLECT £200 DO NOT PASS GO, GO TO JAIL IMMEDIATELY upon it and the address label (as depicted in the picture entitled address label) upon it and I did put it in the fridge as requested.
And it was eight of the clock and all is apparently well, well, only apparently.
And the phone did ring and the courier did speak and did arrive upon the drive eight minutes later and we did chat and I did give him the package and he did put it in his fridge and drive away.
Which is when I found the extra sticker. It was well disguised on the sticker sheet hiding in all the other stickers that said ‘this is a sticker’ (though they lied, for that sticker was long gone) and the barcodes and space takers and so on, including the label saying sticker sheet, in case you were unsure.
Mayhap, I thought, mayhap this is an item that will be required when I take the next step which is to fill in the many many screen survey that can only be filled in AFTER YOU HAVE DONE THE TEST AND NOT BEFORE. That began : HAVE YOU DONE THE TEST? Choices: yes (I am a clever girl) No ( I am bolshie) Not sure (I am stupid.) 2 HAVE YOU GIVEN IT TO THE COURIER? Choices Yes, no, what?
And so on.
On I ploughed and on, entering my height, edukashun and so on, looking all the time for the question that would utilise the left-over label. It was not there. For edukashun I should probably have done: can count on fingers (and toes in the summer.)
Later I realised that the unused label matched the titchy label on the outside of the original package as received THROUGH THE POST AND NOT BY COURIER. And is probably the one that identifies me as me.
So someone in a lab somewhere is wondering just who the stupid swabber is.
Not bright enough to stick a stick up my nose and a sticker in another place which may have been depicted in War and Peace, but if it was I missed it..
See? Stupidity in the Older Woman (localised.) QED.
(If you are now saying: Qed? What does she mean, Qed? What’s Qed when it’s at home? I am with you, right there with you, sister, get your socks off, let’s do maths.)
The worst of it is, they asked permission to follow me for twenty years and I said yes.