Kafka’s Joseph K did not know what his crime was. Dr and Prof K do. They had the audacity to travel to a foreign country for compassionate reasons.
Getting to said foreign country was easy enough. At check-in, Dr and Prof K presented their International Travel Declaration Forms to the agent, who glanced at them, and handed them back without reading their detailed explanation of their compassionate “excuse” for travel. He was more interested in their recent negative PCR test certificates, which were the requirement of their destination nation. And that was it. No more checks. Dr and Prof K spent an hour in the Lounge (no alcohol allowed anymore, as everybody knows that a glass of wine or two is a one of the major risk factors for the dreaded lurgy), then boarded the plane.
The slightly sickly smell of the plane, and fellow passengers that take an inordinate amount of time to arrange their belongings and get seated, both usually annoyed Dr and Prof K BC (before Corona), but did not matter at all this time because of the excitement of flying again. Even better, the said foreign country airline was clearly not aware of the previously mentioned detrimental effect of alcohol on Covid 19 transmission and served them enough alcohol to calm nerves and induce a pleasant doze….
On arrival, passport control quickly checked their PCR test certificates, then within minutes Dr and Prof K were free. Before they knew it, they were in a taxi, heading to their destination and chatting to the driver. “They are doing this to destroy middle class” he said. Dr and Prof K wondered how it is possible that a taxi driver got this, but the majority of their highly educated friends in UK are incapable of working it out. But that is a different story….
The week in the foreign country went fast and it was time for another PCR test, this time as required by the UK Government. The tests came back negative less than 24h after sampling. It is worth noting that said foreign country did not spend billions on Track and Trace.
Armed with negative PCR certificates, Passenger Locator Forms and pre-paid bookings for their 2nd and 8th day PCR test (costing close to £400 in total), Dr and Prof K were on our way back to 10 days of quarantine.
The plane landed back in the UK. There was a massive queue at the border. Impossible to calculate how many people, but it zig-zagged without social distancing for miles. Suffice to say that it took over 3 hours before Dr and Prof K were able to present their “papieren” to the over-worked, but impeccably polite, border officer. Less than 10 officers were on duty for a queue of thousands. Packed into this confined space, it is surprising that they all haven’t gone down with the dreaded Lurgy courtesy of the disorganisation at the border.
“Let the quarantine begin” Dr and Prof K thought once safely back home. They encouraged each other that it would go quickly. They will catch up on work, exercise and do house improvements. OK, maybe they will have to catch up on that stock of red wine too. All they needed to do was take a couple of swabs that will be competently delivered and processed for them as authorised by their capable and trustworthy Government. But this is when Dr and Prof K’s Kafkaesque experience started…..
Day 1. Unlike Dr K, who agreed to text messages only on the Passenger Locator Form, Professor K authorised the State to contact him by a telephone. Prof K received first of his daily phone calls from teenage Government agents to check that he was isolating. Dr K, however, received a visit from the police. Two perfectly polite officers came to their door on the behalf of Public Health England because “Dr K’s phone number was not transcribed correctly from the Passenger Locator Form”. Suspicious of that explanation, Dr and Prof K were gobsmacked that Government wastes taxpayer’s money and Police time to intimidate law obeying citizens simply because they had the audacity not to give consent to be contacted by phone. Dr and Prof K like to think that they saw slight embarrassment on the faces of those two young policeman as they were quietly questioning themselves as to whether this was the reason that they joined the force. Shouldn’t they be patrolling the streets ensuring the safety of young women, for example? But maybe this is just Dr and Prof K’s wishful thinking. They went in peace, satisfied that Prof and Dr K are not spreading the lurgy like rabid dogs.
Day 2. Dr and Prof K received their 2nd day PCR Sampling Kits, which were duly utilised and dispatched to the testing lab by Priority Post. Prof K missed his daily call from the Government agent. Will the police come back because of this? They had better behave and not drink too much…
Day 3 was uneventful. Working from home and house Spring cleaning as they awaited their Day 2 PCR result. Prof K asked the teenage Government agent whether he could withdraw consent for the now tedious daily telephone lectures. Yes, she replied, but that would result in an “investigation”. All rather sinister.
Day 4. No Day 2 PCR result. To avoid being “investigated”, Prof K continues his daily conversations with teenage Government agents who strictly remind him obey the public health dictat to stay at home.
Day 5. Still no result. Prof K and Dr K both contact the PCR company (recommended and certified by our beloved Government to provide 2nd/8th day service) to chase the result. No response by email. They found a phone number, but it turns out that they are nothing more than a communication service for the company and can’t help apart from forwarding messages. The daily teenage Government agent can’t help either and advises them to call the 119 NHS Track and Trace helpline.
Day 6. Still no result, nor a response from the PCR company. 119 agent says that they can’t help because, unfortunately, Prof and Dr K do not have lurgy symptoms and do not qualify for an NHS Covid test. Shall they lie and invent lack of taste or smell, as every job skiver in the country did over the last year or so? No, they are decent people who can’t do that. Dr K writes complaint to Department of Health and Social Care customer feedback. They can’t help because the tests were ordered from a private company. They ignore the fact that it was a Government-authorised PCR test provider. No one knows what to do, and nobody takes responsibility. Will they need to hire a Government approved lawyer to get out of this mess, just like Joseph K did?
Day 7. Still no 2nd Day result, no sign of the 8th Day sampling kit, which should arrive by Priority Post, and no response from test company. Are they fraudsters? Prof K discovered that the Government-authorised PCR test provider is just rent-seeking intermediary, who wouldn’t know a Ct value or PCR primer if it hit them in the face. Turns out that the tests are carried out by a Biotech company. Prof K called said company and eventually was able to speak with the duty manager of the Covid PCR lab. This helpful lady with a real job was able to trace their samples, that were collecting dust in a corner of the lab because the Government-authorised rent-seeking intermediary had not linked the sample barcode with their identities. The helpful manager promised to run the test straight away, and to forward the result to the Government-authorised rent-seeking intermediary. Wine stocks are looking worryingly low though, so more is ordered.
Day 8. No result. No Day 8 Sampling Kit, but wine arrived. Back in the PCR world, Prof K spoke with the messaging service who promised to pass on their concerns to the Government-authorised intermediary. No response. Should Prof K suggest that they speak to earlier mentioned wine company to learn how to get their produce to customers in a timely manner? Even the teenage Government agent has given up on Prof K. Maybe she has gone to a socially distanced Young Pioneer outdoor gathering with the rest of her comrades, as approved by the ruling Public Health Party. Dr K splashes another two hundred quid for a “get out of jail PCR test” with another company to enable her to return to work. Prof K, being a cheapskate who quite likes festering at home, decides to wait. Late in the evening, Dr K sent angry frustrated email to Government-approved rent-seeking fraudsters, but only for the record.
Day 9. No results, no sampling kits, no responses to emails. Messaging service for Government-authorised intermediary is now unreachable. Government agents also gave up. Prof K caves in and orders his “get out of jail PCR test” with another company. They both file transaction disputes with their respective credit card companies in a vague hope that they will be able to get their money back from the Government protégé. Dr and Prof K make a state-permitted stroll to a testing centre and pray that results will not be falsely positive… Sunshine is lovely…
Day 10. Dr K is negative. Happy days. She can come out of jail soon or more precisely has the permission to walk out of the solitary confinement to the jail yard… Prof K awaits his result….
Day 11. Prof K is negative too… As Prof and Dr K finalise their “Kafkaesque quarantine” diary, they wonder how to publish it anonymously. After all, there is still few years of mortgage to pay off and children to support through University, so they cannot risk committing the crime of speaking freely and telling the truth to warn unassuming wannabe travellers who are about to hit airports this summer courtesy of our capable, organised and above all caring Government. On a positive side, unlike Joseph K, Prof and Dr K are STILL not broken by Government agents who are “just doing their job”… As they look forward to freezing drinks in their friends’ garden, Prof and Dr K wonder what other “jobs” those Government officials will be capable of when the orders arrive from above.
© Prof and Dr K 2021
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file