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SocietyAugust 18, 2021

Things to do while you’re in the Covid testing queue


Some handy tips for your long wait.

The wait times for a Covid test have increased from minutes to hours as New Zealand enters its second nationwide lockdown. Most testing centres around the country have extended their hours and will be open until 8pm this week (check your nearest centre’s location and hours here). While the centres are drive-in and therefore a lot more comfortable than standing out in the cold for hours, it’s still a ridiculously long wait at times.

Most of us getting tests will be older than 18 and therefore old enough to have waited in the car for hours as children while our parents went to the supermarket (or Briscoes or The Warehouse or Bunnings, or they stopped in to “just say hi real quick” to your aunty). And now it’s time to make use of that old, painfully acquired skill for the sake of our nation’s health. And remember, always wear a mask when encountering others.

Here are a few things you can do while you wait in the Covid testing queue.

Read a book

The worst part of waiting is the waiting. It’s not that you’re in a car or that you’re not doing other fun things or that you’re in pain. It’s that you’re doing nothing. Even as an adult, boredom will envelop you faster than you think. Take a book with you, the one you’ve had on your bedside table since Christmas and haven’t started. Most of the Covid queue time is spent in a stationary vehicle for lengthy periods. You’ll have plenty of reading time. As a kid, I never got into a car without a book. The one time I forgot, my dad stopped at Placemakers on the way home and I read the entire owner’s manual for a 1998 Nissan Sentra before he reemerged. When you drive to get your test, take a book that is better than the 1998 Nissan Sentra owner’s manual.

Watch a movie

Netflix allows you to download movies and episodes of TV to watch offline on your phone. Judging by today’s wait times in Auckland, you could download The Irishman and watch the whole thing on a four inch screen with heavy sun glare. Two thumbs up.

Take your charger

Outside of entertainment, phones are crucial in a level four lockdown so the last thing you need is no form of communication because you watched too many Instagram stories. Take your charger to keep your phone, and yourself, alive.

Take a speaker

Use a portable speaker (especially if you’re an old car) to listen to music from your phone. The radio will be good for news updates but bear in mind your car will be turned off a lot so monitor your radio use to keep your battery from dying.


Wind your windows up, put on your favourite sad song and have a little cry. Crying is good and cathartic and a car cry is one of the best cries. Let those tears fall.


I’m always shocked by how few people have car snacks. Always have a snack in your car in case of emergency! In this case, pack as though you’re going on a road trip (except your road trip is a few kilometres long and still takes hours). Chips are an easy option, despite the danger of crumbs throughout your car. They’re fun but also a carb, so you’re basically eating a meal. Chocolate is good but susceptible to melting in cars. Any food that’s not smelly will work, and I recommend a range (you’ll want a sweet and a salt for balance).

Most of the people in these cars did not have snacks (Image: Madeleine Chapman)


It’s always a good idea to drink water, especially on days like today when the sun is shining and cars can get stifling. But be warned, when wait times can be as long as four hours, drinking too much water will have inevitable consequences. If you need to drink lots, make sure you drink the whole bottle so you can then use it to piss in.

Call a loved one

We’re all busy and also all a bit useless and probably don’t call our loved ones as much as we should. With everyone in lockdown, we’ve got time. And never do you have more time than waiting alone in a car. Give someone a call! Could be your mum, another relative, or an old friend you haven’t spoken to in a while. You might have a lovely reconnecting moment or you might have an awkward and abrupt conversation. If it’s the former, congratulations. If it’s the latter, you’ll have plenty of alone time to overthink everything you said. Win win.

Do some overdue admin

As I write this, a friend is on hour three of her testing queue wait. She didn’t take snacks (rookie error) and needs to pee. But one thing she has done is complete a long overdue, but non-urgent, task. “On my phone and played with my Bluetooth so I can make and receive hands free calls which is great,” she told me. “Been meaning to do that for a while lol.” Lol indeed. How often are we in our cars and not driving them? Now’s the time to do all your pesky car admin. Firstly, clean it. Tidy up your glovebox. Carefully tune all your preset channels on the radio. Set up Bluetooth like my hungry friend did.

Rehearse the speech you’d like to say to your lifelong nemesis

Pretty self explanatory.


Waiting can be infuriating, even when it’s for a very good and noble reason. With all the food and distractions in the world, waiting in line is still waiting in line. Try to be patient and remember that you’re doing a good thing. If at all possible, enjoy the solitude and use the time to properly listen to your thoughts. Who knows what you might discover about yourself.


Or just scream. Who cares, we all want to do it.

Keep going!