Performative Societies Birth Grift
We’ve reached a very particular stage in the game.
There’s a certain big hospital, okay, in a certain big city, and that hospital requires visitors to either be “vaccinated” against Covid — so you can’t infect anyone, see? — or to present a negative Covid test completed within the last twenty-four hours. Lots of people are unvaccinated, and discover this fact at the lobby check-in desks, because you aren’t vaccinated if you haven’t been boosted to hell and back. Just two mRNA shots? Get the hell out, anti-vaxxer freak!
Because of that vaccine-or-test requirement, and because the hospital is one of those giant urban hospitals that has many hundreds of beds and takes a constant flood of urgent transfers from smaller hospitals, it’s swamped all day, every day with people who suddenly discover that they need a negative Covid test to visit a sick family member. Picture this clearly: You race into the hospital where your child is hovering near death, arriving just a few minutes behind the ambulance, or you hear that they just rolled dad into the OR, and the stern and unyielding person at the front desk tells you that no, you’re not getting in without this one particular document.
So the giant urban medical center is surrounded by places where you can buy a rapid antigen test that comes with a printout or text message of your test results to get you into the hospital. There are pharmacies with QUICK COVID TEST signs, and storefronts that used to be some other business but now hold nothing but a card table with some swabs and a laptop with a printer, and there are people with folding tables and plastic chairs set up on the sidewalks behind COVID TEST signs. The people sitting on the sidewalks behind the folding tables wear scrubs and lab coats, because they’re medical professionals.
When you go to one of these places, you either pay them with a credit card — which can run $75 a test, or $300 for a family of four — or use your smartphone to load your insurance card into a form on a testing company’s website, and then they “test” you:
They hand you a swab, and look away, and you touch your nostrils with it. Lightly. You can slide the thing inside a nostril a little, if you want to really play the whole scene like they taught you in drama class, but you don’t really have to. Then you hand the swab back. Then they give you your negative test results.
That’s it. The hospital, which won’t let you in without a “negative Covid test,” is surrounded by businesses that sell negative Covid tests. They are not testing sites; they are document sales facilities. They still pretend to test a little bit, but with a rapidly decreasing sense of theater. You touch your own nose with a swab, you get a “negative test,” next customer.
Someone I know — someone I’ve known my whole life — recently forgot to do the swab, standing in front of a folding table on a sidewalk, and therefore took no actual test, and received his negative test results five minutes later.
I feel like negative Covid test results should probably have a street name, at this point. Psst, hey buddy, you lookin’ to score some neggies? I can hook you up fast, bro. Somebody with more experience in organized crime can probably come up with a better street name, ‘cause I’m new at this.
What kind of society has this kind of sidewalk grift, street hustlers who sell you your official-looking documents so you can pretend to comply with the meaningless rules that institutions pretend to enforce?