My Corona: Matinee — the latest entry in a Darien man’s journal of his coronavirus
Darien resident Daniel Coonan, father of three, has given The Darien Times to reprint his journal entries going forward as he battles with the symptoms of COVID-19. To read the full journal, go here.
Tuesday, April 14 — Matinee
I should have packed a lunch. At first I thought I’d be too early but that is no longer a concern. The line of cars is down the street and around the corner. People are mostly driving their own cars, and they are all wearing masks and surgical gloves. All of these people are sick.
Doing my own preparation earlier in the day, I gathered my license, insurance card, car keys, mask and gloves. My wife gave me a red bandana so I folded it properly and secured it on my face. I put on the gloves one by one and then walk down the stairs…for the first time in 18 days.
I remember driving to the shore as a child and coming back a week later to a house that remained untouched. I remember the surreal feeling of time having stood still. We opened the front door and everything was in the same place. But it was different this morning. It was the same house but it felt like I missed a change of season. Life had been lived here.
I tied my shoes while wearing surgical gloves as I listened to my breathing beneath the bandana. I walked out the front door to a crisp blue sky and sunshine that forced me to shield my eyes. It was as if I had walked out of a matinee and my eyes were reminded it was still day.
Sitting in the driver’s seat, I plugged in my phone and clicked on the address of the testing site which was estimated to be ten minutes away. The traffic was virtually non-existent as I passed closed shops, social distance lines in the supermarket parking lot and literal signs of hope in windows both business and residential. My quarantine started some time before my isolation so this was the first I’d seen of the outside world in the pandemic.
The GPS took me to the wrong part of the hospital but I quickly found the snaking line of cars and got into position. Over the next two and a half hours I inched forward behind a blue car occupied only by the driver — an elderly man with thick and wavy white hair. Intermittently, he moves forward a car length, signaling me to take my car out of park and shift forward.
Getting closer to the first tentTwo women and one man are going car to car, one at each, marking the last processed car with a single, small sticky to denote the last car they touched — a crude yet efficient process. As one of the women approaches my car I have my license and insurance card in hand. She is wearing what looks like half a hazmat suit — the back is tied like a hospital gown but partially open head to toe.
She says something muffled through the closed window which I don’t understand but I’ve gathered enough through observation to know that I need to put both cards against the window. She photographs them, front and back, and then asks me to crack the window to verify my identify with a few questions: full name, date of birth, address. She hands me a confirmation form and some information about the virus and what to do when I get home.
Signs lined the parking lotI go through one more checkpoint and then I’m directed to another tent across the hospital parking lot. This whole experience feels like lining up for an incredibly busy carwash with airport style security. I pull under the testing tent which takes only two cars at at time. A police officer at sufficient distance asks both cars to roll down our driver-side windows.
Two women emerge from the tent, fully covered and protected relative to the crew with the sticky note. One of the women comes to my window and asks me to confirm my identity — the third person to do so. This level of scrutiny is welcome. She asks me to pull my mask below my nose but keep my mouth covered. Each nostril is swabbed and it feels like the virus is being jammed down my nose and into my throat. It is uncomfortable but quick and the woman tells me, “You are all set. Get better. Bye.” I’m officially a statistic.
I return home and climb the stairs back to the spare bedroom on the top floor of the house to wait for the results. I’m exhausted and peel the covers back so I can lay down and curl up. In 36 hours, give or take, I will hopefully walk back down the stairs and continue my recovery among my family.
Or I could be up here longer.