I’m out RAT hunting.
I’ve been on the road for an hour checking for local infestations. My daughter’s at home on the Rat App and calls in a location, ‘They’re at the Suffolk servo!’
I hope I make it in time. Twenty minutes after the alert there’s a line-up to get in. There’s nowhere to park – except at the bowser. So I put in $5.50 and take my place in the queue. I’m not here for petrol. I’m here for protection. I can see everyone else is here for that too. We’re all a bit tetchy. Everyone here has been on the hunt. Today we get a RAT. But until it’s in your hand there’s no guarantee. I’m nervous.
I want one of those boxes on the counter.
At one per customer I should nab myself a RAT and have enough time to re-enter the shop in a wig to get a second one. You see, I have seven people in the house and there’s only five tests in the box. What can I do? It’s a wig, or I am going to have to get rid of two of the kids.
I look around. This doesn’t feel medical. It feels more Mad Max. Like we’re the last survivors in a society that’s about to collapse.
I’m in the middle of a global pandemic and I’m lining up at a servo for a DIY covid diagnosis. Only the fit can play this game. And the wealthy.
This does not reinforce my belief that the government is on top of this. It tells me quite the opposite. It’s Pythonesque capitalist anarchy.
We’re being told to test ourselves. But there aren’t any tests. Oh, and they’re really expensive. And hard to find.
In the UK these tests are free, but here they’re like gold. A box of five can sell for more than $70. Used to be that people bought a bottle of MOET to celebrate a momentous occasion. Now they splurge on a RAT.
I’m sussing the other RAT hunters; The chance that any of these people might have covid is pretty high.
There’s not much space. People are distanced, but it’s a small room.
I pay for my fuel and take my RAT.
I feel this little adrenalin surge. I did it!
I get home. We unpack the RAT… read the instructions… well, one of the kids does because I can’t follow instructions. I’m instinctual. I’m better at the hunt. Bloody hell, how does someone who’s not very literate do this? In this one there’s even a UV torch. It’s like a kit from NCIS. I have to stop the kids using it to see the urine splashes around the toilet. ‘Don’t wear out the battery!’.
Of course we’re two tests short so I’m back out on the road; we’ve heard there’s tests in Lennox. I get there as they’re putting up the SOLD OUT sign.
That doesn’t feel like a health message. It feels like the message you put up when you’re selling an electric mower.
I try the chemist. There’s a staff member who’s been assigned the job just to answer the phone and say ‘No we don’t have any’. It’s 10am and she’s taken 80 calls.
The app says there are RATs in Grafton, or in Tugun.
Do I get a border pass and hunt down a Queensland RAT? Or do I chance it on a trip to Grafton?
I check Facebook – everyone’s asking: ‘Have you got a RAT you can spare?’. So I head to Grafton. I guess something’s gotta make you go to Grafton. I’m halfway into the trip and my daughter calls. ‘They’ve sold out.’
The closest one now is in Western Sydney. I return home RATless. I can’t believe this is the best our affluent well-resourced country can do.
If you’re going to let the virus ‘rip’ (which, I should add, is the acronym for Rest In Peace – what we say when someone dies) then you need to give people access to diagnostic tools that might help them manage the fallout.
RATs should be free for everyone.
They should be everywhere.
Remember the story of the RATs that invaded a German village and some bloke with a silver flute was paid to pipe them out? We need that bloke, a reverse Pied Piper. Someone who can bring the RATs home.
Scotty can’t hold a hose.
And he definitely can’t play a flute.