It got me.
After almost two years of avoiding COVID-19 like the plague it is, two days ago, I got an inkling that my luck had run out. I'd been having sinus and allergy issues, but when I registered a 101.5 fever Wednesday night, I couldn't just blame the bipolar weather anymore.
So at 7:30 a.m. Thursday morning, I attempted to head out to the only rapid testing site I could think of. A call from our human resources manager, and my aunt's insistence on taking a bacon-and-egg taco for the road put me there right after it opened at 8 a.m.
I wasn't sure YesNoCovid.com at 5940 S Padre Island Dr. was still open, because I knew they'd been having trouble controlling long lines. But as I drove down Airline toward SPID, I could see cars in the lot.
The first time I took a test there, in September 2021, it was a Sunday and the lines weren't very long.
However, during peak COVID-19 waves, it was known to have lines that backed up onto the SPID frontage road, and the neighboring Wendy's restaurant also had traffic issues as a result. Corpus Christi Police Department officers were called out to intervene more than once.
"We dealt with the isolated issue and cleared (it) up," said CCPD public information officer Gena Peña.
So now, the only lines YesOrNoCOVID staff allow wrap around its very small parking lot. This makes actually getting into the lot a game of strategy and chance.
It kinda gave me flashbacks to my days of stalking parking spots at Del Mar.
So I pulled up as closely as I could to the curb to ask the man directing traffic what the procedure was. Pro tip: They are not fans of when you do this. It gives them minor heart attacks, because if you try to pull into the small area by the exit, it then requires you to have to reverse out.
"If you hit someone, that's it," he said. "We have to shut it down for the day and that's lost wages for everyone."
He quickly tells me that you basically just have to circle around until you see the cars inside the lot leaving.
So I tried a couple of strategies. I circled, like he said, but I then found an area between the testing site and the old Sunrise Mall parking lot to camp out. That is, until people started pulling up behind me. Because I'm anxiety-riddled, I'd leave and circle back around again, not wanting to block traffic.
I later saw the guy I spoke with earlier telling people they couldn't park there because they were blocking the Wendy's parking lot, so it turns out anxiety isn't a bad thing in this case.
I tried varying my circles out of boredom and strategy. I started small, pulling into the Wendy's parking lot, hanging a right into the driveway behind the testing site and then onto Airline and back around again.
When I realized people were just getting their forms at 8:20 and that it was gonna be a awhile, this evolved into turning into bigger circles: turning into the Sunrise parking lot off of SPID, hanging a right in front of the old Sears sign facing Airline and using that exit onto the street.
After an hour, I tell the staff member that I'd been circling, like he said, but that not a single car in the lot had moved.
"Yeah, I know," he said. "This is like a two or three hour process sometimes.
"We usually see about 300 people every day. That's just the people who get in. Who knows how many more try and give up and go somewhere else? But you're about to see call these cars take off."
Finally, a glimmer of hope.
"But I wouldn't rush over there just yet," he said.
"All those people are gonna be trying to get out," he said, "so if you try to line up, they can't get out. And then we're gonna move you along so that we can get them out. So just give it a minute."
Ah, got it.
So I let about five cars from each lane clear the lot, and when the cars behind them park, I make my move. Sure enough, I get in without a problem.
At 9:11 a.m., I text my manager, Monica, that I'm in. At 9:15, I have my paperwork. No pen, so you may wanna take your own, just in case. Though some tried to speed up the process by waving their forms out the window, it wasn't until 9:39, that one of the ladies in scrubs picks up mine.
By 9:54, my swab was done. And as anyone whose had a swab-based test can attest, it wasn't fun.
By 10:15 I was trying to drive off the lot with my positive test result in hand, trying to let the next contestants in.
As I was trying to leave, I realized the staffer was right. People were forming a line in front of me — and behind me — in the lane closest to me, and drivers in the next lane over were rushing through the green light and paying no attention to parking lot traffic.
So if you end up needing to get a rapid test at that location, know that there's a strategy to doing it successfully.
Note: I've had two doses of the Pfizer shot and a booster shot. I have a cousin who also has COVID-19 right now. He is unvaccinated, and just got out of the hospital. I'm working from home and writing playful stories about COVID-19 test line strategy. I got the better end of this deal.