I am coming to the end of my tenure as a lateral flow test volunteer at a secondary school. I got the gig by stressing how well qualified I was at public-facing endeavours.
This turned out not to be true. It went OK when the kids were off school and we were just testing the teachers, but then all these adolescents swarmed in. They are quite self-conscious, aren’t they? I feel sure there has been literature about this. They absolutely hate to be recognised. If I see the son of a friend, I’ll halloo him mightily: “Hi, Johnny, it’s ME! Under my mask, I’m your mum’s friend!” as if it’s the world’s greatest coincidence, as if I have just fetched up at a petrol station at the end of the universe and, look, there is my cousin drinking a Frappuccino.
If I see anyone who is the brother of any of my children’s friends, I have to remark on it; if I see a total stranger, but notice that they are in one of the kids’ classes, I am possessed by the urge to say: “You’re in H’s class; she’s great, isn’t she? Don’t you think she’s great?”
We have a little script, which ends with: “Now, if you can wipe down everything you’ve touched, you’re good to go.” One girl stood there for a good couple of minutes before she countered: “But I haven’t touched anything.” I love teenagers, but I haven’t thought the word “gormless” so often in years.
I don’t have a universal maternal instinct – I am not at all calming to be around – but I am incredibly invasive. Yesterday, performing the nostril element of the test, a kid got the swab so far up his nose that he almost lost it. “Isn’t that amazing?” I said. “Maybe you haven’t got a brain.” The right thing to do, said everyone else’s faces, would have been to pretend not to notice.
I have now been demoted – sorry, reassigned as a processor – which doesn’t involve any interfacing. From next week, we will be doing them at home, so I will remain exactly this annoying, to fewer people, more of the time.