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Mick Scott: It’s a long, long, long way there
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Mick Scott: It’s a long, long, long way there

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People wait in line for a COVID-19 test at a Novant Health testing center on Monday, Dec. 27, 2021, at 190 Hanes Mall Circle in Winston-Salem, N.C. (Allison Lee Isley, Journal) 122821-wsj-nws-covid

People wait in line for a COVID-19 test at a Novant Health testing center on Dec. 27 at 190 Hanes Mall Circle in Winston-Salem.

Lines of cars for drive-thru COVID-19 test on Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2021, stretched clear around Four Seasons Town Centre.

Here’s a story I hesitate to share for a number of reasons. But truth must out.

I had a COVID scare.

Shortly after I got to the office one day last week, I found myself with a pounding headache and a stuffy nose. I felt like I was right on the verge of shaking with chills.

I’ve been doing everything right — masking, social distancing, etc. — not only because it’s right, but because after urging others to do what’s right, how bad would it look for me to ignore the protocols? People might think I was California Gov. Gavin Newsom or something.

Still, fearing a breakthrough case, I got on the internet and started looking for a COVID test.

I thought it would be easy — but no. This isn’t 2019. Omicron, though less severe, is surging worse than previous incarnations and the response hasn’t quite caught up.

A health clinic’s website led me to a phone mailbox that was completely full. But what’s that? This clinic takes walk-ins? I drove across town.

The reception area wasn’t very crowded, but there were a few people standing before a plastic screen, behind which a receptionist was explaining that, no, they don’t take walk-ins, you must make an appointment, and the way you get that —

“So I have to go to the website that says you take walk-ins and make an appointment, using the phone number with the mailbox that’s full and then — then what?” I said, a little too loudly.

The receptionist said something else, but —

I may as well be honest with you.

First of all, I don’t hear very well, so I was having a little trouble catching everything she said. Second, I was scared. I don’t want to have COVID. And third, I was simply impatient.

Despite the hecticity I tend to think plagues my life, most things come pretty easily in this very livable town. I don’t often have to wait in line at the grocery store or the restaurant or anywhere. You might say I was … privileged.

I managed to rumble out a dark, half-hearted “thank you” to the receptionist, hoping it would convey my utter disappointment, before stomping out.

Later that day, a friend brought a home test for me to use. By that time, my symptoms had eased.

The test results were thankfully negative. It was just a bug, or worse, my imagination. I slept easily.

The next day, though, I had one essential task.

I drove back to the clinic and apologized to the receptionist to whom I’d been so short. With chocolates.

“I know that things are tough and I appreciate everything that you and your colleagues are doing to keep people well,” I told her. “Thank you for your patience.”

I could see her broad smile through her mask as she accepted my apology.

A colleague sitting with her told me that they’re on the receiving end of a lot of rude behavior these days. “They don’t usually apologize,” she said.

On the way over, I actually hesitated, wondering if I was setting myself up for embarrassment. I was afraid my gesture might not be appreciated. It might look goofy.

But in traffic, I sat behind a car with a license plate with the slogan “In God We Trust.” It also had a bumper sticker that read, “My rights don’t stop where your feelings begin.”

And I thought, don’t they? I mean, sometimes? If you go out of your way to put those four words on your vehicle, what do they really mean if not that you’re going to care about other people’s feelings?

Those mixed messages gave me the determination to continue.

It’s a small gesture, and it won’t halt all the unfair abuse that our healers have to endure. And it sure doesn’t absolve me of my impatient attitude. The world stops to serve me so often that I expect it.

We’re in a new phase of this pandemic, and it’s one that seems a little baffling to even the experts, who have offered confusing guidelines. The director of the CDC, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, says she’s going to take media training to help with her messaging. Good. A few days ago I listened to a doctor on NPR say something like, “What you’ve got to do if you’re exposed to omicron is sequester yourself for five days, then wear a mask for five. Then drink some fluids, eat a carrot, hop, skip and jump three city blocks, go see the new Spider-Man movie …”

I mean, that’s what it seemed like.

What we all need to do, I think, is continue to take every precaution we can. And maybe cool our jets a little. That’s my plan.

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