I made sure to take a PCR test within 24-hours of my flight’s departure from New York City to Amsterdam. It is a requirement for passengers travelling to the Netherlands to test within 24-hours. I wasn’t sure about passengers merely passing through the airport, but to be safe I took my test on Friday before flying out Saturday evening at 6:30 p.m.
My PCR appointment was initially scheduled for 4:00 p.m. on Friday, but it was moved to 6:00 p.m., and then to 8:00 p.m. Not a problem, the company assured me: I would still receive my result by 3:00 p.m. the next day — in time to print my results before heading to the airport. I spent Saturday morning packing and relaxing, and at around 1:00 p.m. went out to a delicious Italian lunch with my parents.
When I got back to the house, I had two missed calls on my phone from the testing company. They had left a voicemail: “‘Hi…we are unable to get in touch with the lab and don’t think we’ll have your result by 3:00 p.m. I am so sorry about this. We are going to reimburse you because we guaranteed that you would have the result by 3:00 p.m. Please call back when you get this message.'” A chill momentarily passed through my body. This wasn’t according to plan. “It’s OK,” I assured myself, “I’m sure you’ll have the result soon.'”
I called back to learn more about the situation. The man told me that the result should have been in at 10:00 a.m. that morning, but that the lab had alerted him at 12:30 p.m. that they hadn’t yet tested the samples they received last night. He wasn’t able to get a hold of the director, but was sending him messages through their secure system. I felt a wave of panic pass through my body. “Ok, but when do you expect to receive the results?” I asked, my frustration bubbling to the surface. “Uhm… we’re not sure. I don’t know if it will be 30 minutes or an hour or two hours because uhm… we don’t want to make another guarantee and uhm… I haven’t been able to get in touch with the lab.” It was 2:30.
He told me that the best idea was to get a rapid test at the airport just in case the results did not come in on time. But didn’t he understand that I had taken a PCR test to avoid getting tested at the airport facility, which was sure to have a long line? “Relax. Calm.” I soothed myself. “It will be fine.”
At 3:00 my parents and I hopped in the car and sped off to the airport — for about 7 minutes, until we hit stop-and-start traffic that was moving so slowly the Bronx River Parkway felt like a parking lot. To make matters worse, the quickest route to the airport — the Hutchinson River Parkway — was closed.
After numerous calls to the company and no lab results to be found, it began to dawn on me that I might not get the results in time to check in for my flight. “Look up other flights,” my dad barked from the driver’s seat. “If you have to wait for results at the airport, you are not going to make your flight in time with this traffic.” My heart began to race; this was turning into a disastrous start to my over 30-hour trip to Gulu. I was no longer in control…
Luckily, a quick Google search told me that KLM offered another flight an hour later to Amsterdam, which would still give me time to make my connecting flight to Uganda. After holding for 20 minutes on KLM’s customer service line, I finally reached a representative. She was able to change my flight with no additional charge. I instantly felt more relieved, but still had to book my testing appointment at the airport. The second time I refreshed the airporting testing website, I found an available appointment at 5:45 p.m. I would barely have enough time to get tested and make my flight, but I had no choice; I booked it. This was going to be tight.
When we arrived at the airport, I hurriedly said goodbye to my parents outside the terminal. I rushed to the bathroom, and then to the testing center. Two people in front of me, about 25 minutes to get results. Not bad. I would be able to test before my allotted appointment. After checking in and paying the $225 fee (!), I was ushered into a room where a nurse took down my information and swabbed my nose. “Can I check in while I wait for my result?” I asked, pressed for time. “No, you need your negative test result,” she told me, with a look of pity on her face. “Don’t worry, though, you have plenty of time,” she cooed soothingly. Relieved, I sat down in the waiting area with renewed hope.
About thirty minutes later my negative result finally came in. It was now 6:00 — just one hour and a half before my flight. I rushed upstairs to check in at Delta, only to find a huge line that snaked outside of the roped area. My jaw nearly dropped to the floor. There was no way I was going to check in on time. Instead of waiting in that long line, I went directly to the designated KLM area, but was turned away by a staff member. “You have to wait in that line,” she told me sternly. I returned dejectedly.
After about 20 minutes, the line had barely moved. “You are all going to miss your flight,” a blunt staff member told the desperate people in line. When someone complained that they had a 7:30 p.m. flight she simply said: “You should have gotten here earlier. You’re going to miss your flight.” There was no way that I was going to miss my flight after the ordeal that I had already been through. I left my bag in line and steamrolled directly to the KLM desk. “My flight is at 7:30, and I need to catch it because I have a connecting flight,” I desperately told the agent. Taking pity on me, he commanded me to hurry up; “if you don’t check in now you’re going to miss your flight” he practically yelled in alarm. I ran back to the line, grabbed the bag I had left behind, and sprinted directly to the desk. I was checked in in under 2 minutes.
Right before checking in, my negative PCR test came in. “What did that matter now” I thought to myself with a self-pitying laugh. I rushed through security and sprinted through the airport until I arrived at my gate. Ironically, there was a long line to check in; apparently I had made it with time to spare. When I finally got to the front of the line around 45 minutes later, I showed the Delta agent the negative test I received at the airport. “Where are you going?” he asked. “Uganda” I told him. After typing the destination into his computer to check the COVID requirements, he reported that I needed a negative PCR test to enter the country, and the test I had showed him was not a PCR test. Chills ran through my body. Forgetting that the 24-hour test was a PCR test, I replied, laughing nervously: “To be safe, I got another test.” I showed him the result from the other test, which had come in just an hour before. “Use that one; it’s better,” he instructed me. He signaled for me to pass through the jetway. Relief poured over me as I realized I had made it.
Posted By Anna Braverman
Posted Jun 8th, 2021