Covid test edge

Because of the Neti pot, I’m thinking I may have an edge with the self-administered Covid-19 test. The Covid-19 test consists of a Q-tip you stick up each nostril as far as it will go for at least ten seconds, and spin it around in your nasal passages. If tears flow, you’re doing it right. If you’re not too freaked out by the feeling of something deep in your sinuses, you’ll get a good sampling of goo, after which you put the Q-tip into a little tube and it goes to a lab. At this writing, it’s a five-day wait, on average. 

When I watched the instructional video at home, I recalled someone giving me a Neti pot when I was working at a preschool. I’d gotten a cold, because a preschool is a veritable petri dish of bacteria, viruses, and on occasion, lice. But apparently, those microbial inconveniences help jumpstart little immune systems, even as they make teachers and kids sick.

Anyway, when I mentioned to a very healthy-looking mom I was getting over a cold, and it had affected my singing voice – I could barely croak out any sound – she brought me a new Neti pot.


“The Neti changed my life,” she said. “I do it every day and I never get sick.”

A Neti pot looks like a little ceramic genie lamp. You fill it with warm saline water (distilled water only) and insert the nozzle into your nostril. You then tip your head over the sink, pour the solution into your nose so it fills your sinuses and comes out the other nostril. It will make you sneeze, remind you of swimming (maybe drowning), and definitely clear your sinuses.

At first you must fight primal impulses to stop drowning yourself. But I got the hang of it pretty quick. When my son’s eyes went wide at the sight of me pouring water through my skull, I was motivated to continue. Plus, it really cleared me out and helped my voice.  

Unfortunately, an item went around the Internet about brain-eating microbes in Neti pots, and users dying horrible deaths. Maybe I shouldn’t have paid attention, but I did, and the Neti pot now sits lonely in a cabinet.

I was thinking of Neti, however, as I drove on a sweltering July afternoon through a dystopian-looking section of Poughkeepsie, en route to the local Rite Aid for my Covid-19 test. (I have no symptoms, nor exposure I know of. Just want to know.)

I’d passed through this urban neighborhood years ago. I didn’t recall so many boarded up storefronts, despair, graffiti, homeless folks, people hanging out, hanging on, a sense of waiting. Some of these Poughkeepsians actually wore masks.

The Rite Aid drive-thru exterior was dingy and awful, but the woman who talked to me through the glass was nice. She sent the little kit through and reiterated the instructions.

Within a minute I was jamming that Q-tip up towards my brain, to those cavities I used to hit with the Neti pot. To get a good sampling, you must be somewhat invasive. So I went to town. Finally, she said through the speaker, “Okay. That’s enough.”

I needed to make a couple of phone calls before the hour-long drive home. While doing so in my car with the window rolled down, a maskless woman asked me for a dollar, and stepped back. No one had panhandled me in a while. I gave her two, told her to stay safe, sanitized my hands with Rite Aid hand sanitizer, and headed back home to wait my turn.