Testing, Testing

Even as I went through it, I recognized the photo op, but still missed my calling as a reputable photojournalist. So this is once again from the internet — someplace called Snowdonia.

Yesterday I went for a covid test that turned out to be more adventurous than expected.

The day before yesterday, I was reclaiming screens with one of my several friends named Mark (the only one willing to reclaim screens, which is a LOT more fun than everyone thinks, no matter what people who might have done this would tell you). On my return to the shop — because we do this reclaiming at a car wash, which is part of, or maybe all of, the fun — I saw one of the city’s portable electronic signs advertising a community covid testing event for Friday.

The message took up two alternating screens, and if you aren’t from around here, the line break probably made little sense: the first screen ran something like “Covid Testing Fred,” a personal invitation, or perhaps an announcement, although most of the Freds I know here in Gunnison probably think this entire thing is a Democrat plot to bring down local businesses, to what end I’m not sure.

The second screen was something like “Field 8/20 7 am – noon,” which would be hard to interpret if you didn’t know that many large-scale events, including most things covid, take place at our rodeo grounds, where a large building that has some formal name like the Fred R. Field Western Heritage Center is generally referred to as the Fred Fieldhouse.

It was still a bad line break, but I knew what they meant. Since Lynn was not that long ago in proximity to someone who tested positive, I told her she needed to go, and I would too. I encouraged my co-workers to go, offering paid company time, and I texted my sister to see if the school district knew about this testing, because had I not been reclaiming screens I would have known nothing about it.

But by the time I got there around 10:30, I was only about the 30th person to be tested. The director of the testing, an employee of Colorado’s public health department who had driven over Kenosha Pass in rain so hard he had to pull off the road, said they’d only had five total the last time they were in town, so I suppose a sixfold increase was nothing to sneeze at, so to speak.

But someone went to a huge amount of trouble for what was likely nominal turnout, and I’ve come up with a mild conspiracy theory of my own to explain it. Lynn, who went through early in the process, texted that it was a drive-through, but she left out all the convolutions to start the process.

The normal access for all events at the rodeo grounds is through the north gate, right next to Safeway. As I drove past Safeway I could see people in blue protective gowns and tables right in front of me. But before them was one of the city’s portable electronic signs, and it said (all on one screen): “Covid Testing” with an arrow pointing toward the east.

I was very confused, because the testing was clearly right in front of me, due south, and I wondered if someone had programmed the sign wrong. But because I am programmed to generally follow instructions, I dutifully turned my car left, to the east.

Two blocks later, just past the fire station, I came to another of the city’s portable electronic signs: “Covid Testing” and this time the arrow pointed south.

I turned right and encountered three blocks worth of orange traffic cones down the middle of Wisconsin Street. We must have run out of portable electronic signs, because all I got at the end was a tiny arrow pointing to the right (west) into the rodeo grounds just below the pasture used by the local team roping club to pen its steers.

I followed the cones — so many cones — and the tiny arrows onto the racetrack that encircles the rodeo arena, then off the track at the south end of the grounds (right next to the southeast gate that seems like it would have been easier to use than the circuitous route along the racetrack), around the giant curve past the barns, finally turning north past the grandstand, the restrooms, the 4-H building and the bleachers to at last arrive within sight of the north gate and the people in their blue gowns.

I did pretty much all of this on my own, although there was one car ahead of me as I reached the point where the cones split into two lanes and no longer any directional arrows. I have no idea why this circuitous route was necessary — I did see an open trailer with even more cones available for deployment, so I suppose we could have made the route even longer, although I’m not sure how (maybe a loop around the entire racetrack) — and that’s where my conspiracy theory kicks in.

I think this was the county’s idea, this route, to show people how much space is there at the rodeo grounds. Most people just go through the north gate for their events at the nearby Fred Fieldhouse, or maybe they go to the rodeo, but they don’t know about the steer pasturage, or the block-long vacant lot south of there, or really have any sense of how long the race track is and how big the barns are.

I think the county did this because in the midst of our affordable housing crisis the commissioners have started to look at the vacant block or two just west of the rodeo grounds, where the carnival sits when it comes to town for an entire five days each year.

The carnival used to sit somewhere else (when I was a kid it sat in the middle of Iowa and Virginia Streets downtown), but that somewhere else got built out, so it moved to its current location, which previously had been used for rodeo parking. Now I don’t know where people park for the rodeo, although they must manage, and for five days out of the year this space is needed. Otherwise, this weedy county-owned patch sits vacant.

But of course you can’t suggest a change without people objecting, and there were two misconstrued letters to the editor two Thursday ago screaming about how dare the county get rid of the rodeo grounds.

So first, literacy is always good, and folks should go back and read that this is about land OUTSIDE the rodeo grounds, and second, as I drove between steer pasturage and yet another vacant lot I’d never really noticed until directed on an otherwise completely unnecessary circumambulation of the rodeo grounds (it was fun to drive on the dirt racetrack), I did think, “Now, why couldn’t the carnival go there?” Just like the county wanted me to, in my conspiracy-fevered mind.

I don’t know yet if it’s covid fevering my mind. The test, kind of anti-climatic after the journey to get to it, goes off to some lab, and if the state never calls me, it means I didn’t have covid yesterday. I shouldn’t have to wait more than four days (not clear if that’s business days) for them to not call me before I can decide I was in the clear. If I am positive, they’ll positively call me, but I think it would be nice to notify people definitively one way or the other, especially since they took my name, phone number (twice), address and e-mail. It’s not like they don’t know how to get hold of me.

In the meantime I got a tour of the rodeo grounds, which seems big enough to host all the goings-on of Cattlemen’s Days even with affordable housing located nearby — just like the county wanted.

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