Monday, January 25, 2021

You Won't Believe What Happens Next!

Yeah, I know... but I swear that every word is true.

I was supposed to fly to Brazil on Friday the 8th. My mom has to go every year in January, for reasons of pension and Brazilian bureaucracy, and the last few years I've gone with her. Normally I enjoy visiting Brazil; it's a beautiful country and I've got family there. This year, I wasn't looking forward to the trip so much, but eventually I booked our flights...

...and found out, near the end of 2020, that we would in fact need to have negative COVID test results in order to enter Brazil. From tests taken within 72 hours of the flight. And because it seemed damned near impossible to take an RT-PCR test and be guaranteed results within 72 hours, I foolishly scheduled us for rapid (antigen) tests on Wednesday and Thursday. They came back negative (lucky me, I actually had a rapid and an RT-PCR test done at the clinic I visited, though the results of the latter took significantly longer than 72 hours to come back), but in the meantime I realized I'd made a mistake.

Frantically searching for somewhere that could guarantee PCR test results in time, I learned about XpresCheck, right in Newark International Airport, which had a rapid test that was molecular like the PCR test, and not an antigen test like the usual rapid tests. I was dubious, and so I called United Airlines for guidance, and was told that yes, negative results from this test would be acceptable for international travel. And so I scheduled us to get tested again, on Friday afternoon several hours before the flight, and these tests were neither covered by insurance nor inexpensive.

We got to the airport and headed to XpresCheck in Terminal B. Upon being informed that we were taking the test in order to travel to Brazil, the staff (to their credit) expressed skepticism that this test would be acceptable and urged me to confirm with United again. And so I did, with a 16-minute phone call during which I asked twice if I would be able to travel to Brazil with negative results from XpresCheck's NAAT molecular test, and was assured that I would because it was basically the same kind of test as the RT-PCR. So we paid and took our tests and got our negative results.

And were denied check-in by United, because the test results did not specifically state that we'd taken RT-PCR tests. I was angry and confused; the first round of tests were my fault, but this time I'd checked twice with the airline and was told twice that XpresCheck's test, performed right at the airport, would be fine. We had to leave EWR, and after more desperate searching online, I found a lab that would guarantee RT-PCR test results within 48 hours. Called 'em to make sure, then scheduled us to be tested on Saturday, and rescheduled the flight for Monday the 11th. (For those keeping score at home, this was now my fourth COVID test in four days.) We got the results in under 24 hours, in fact, and could've traveled Sunday night had I known, but at any rate, we set out for the airport again on Monday afternoon in a Lyft...

...which was totaled ten minutes later by a driver who most likely crossed over two or three lanes of traffic in a hurry and probably didn't even see us until it was too late. (Her car was totaled, too.) Our driver's airbag deployed, and she didn't seem to be injured. The right side of my mom's chest was hurt, probably because of the seatbelt, and she had trouble breathing in the minute or two after the accident. My own right side was sore, and I'm fairly certain I bumped my head, though not enough to leave a mark or bump; maybe ten minutes later, when I realized that my right forearm was also feeling some pain, I checked and found a shallow gash almost two inches long near the elbow.

The local police showed up quickly, and after a report was written up, the county sheriff's officers drove us (in the back, but sans handcuffs) a short distance away to a convenience store, so I could summon another Lyft (the accident happened under an overpass on a busy roadway). We did eventually make it to the airport, with plenty of time, and got through check-in and security with no further issues. And made it to Brazil.

We had fewer days there than we'd counted on, but then neither of us exactly intended to do a lot of sightseeing or travel, in light of the COVID-19 situation in Brazil being about as bad as it is in the US. One thing that surprised me, pleasantly, was how the vast majority of people I saw in Ponta Grossa were wearing masks, both indoors and out. We did get to spend some time with some family. My mom, still in pain from the accident, got an X-ray taken, which seemed to indicate that everything's fine. We didn't have any dramatic issues on the way back to the US this past Friday, fortunately, and even the Uber ride to the airport in Curitiba (Lyft hasn't made it to Brazil yet) was fine. We squeaked in just a few days before a negative RT-PCR test requirement goes into effect for entering the US (beginning tomorrow). We've both still got some leftover pain after the Lyftpocalypse, but mine is subsiding slowly, and mom will see her doctor if it's not better soon. After some quarantining, of course.

How was your January?


  1. Sad to see this happened to you!, thankfully you and your mom are back now.
    I pray that your pains will vanish soon!