Sometimes life requires us to ask ourselves a lot of “what if” questions, to think through several possible outcomes of an action, question or theory to safely arrive at the desired “what is.” 

An example of this could be “will the third double cheeseburger make me a mite overfull?” or “is a third double cheeseburger absolutely necessary?” Other examples of this could be “will this cause my wife to make me sleep on the couch?” or “how bad will the cat claw me if I try to bathe it?” The list is really endless, because every action cause something and we should try to figure out what those results might be before laying our clawed faces down upon the couch cushions.

Scientists do this all the time. They conduct experiments and play the what-if game before setting off shall we say energetic reactions between elements and chemicals or opening a random portal into another dimension where (gasp) bacon is actually poisonous. 

One such experiment, posed by Austrian Physicist Erwin Shrodinger in 1935 as one attempt to understand quantum physics, went well beyond his original intent and ascended to the realm of “memes.” Loosely (and briefly) put, Shrodinger postulated that if you were to seal a cat in a steel box with a lethal substance which had not — but eventually would — degrade and release a toxic substance, the cat could be considered both alive and dead until shown to be one state or another. Presumably, this all played out while said scientists ate theoretical popcorn and had drinks.

Thankfully, this was a “thought experiment,” and no living cat was sealed in an actual steel box. But over the years Shrodinger’s cat has come to represent merely something that could be one thing or another if it not examined too closely. 

As people around the globe attempt to endure and survive the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems as though we are all stuck in a far from humorous version of “Shrodinger’s cat.” We know the virus is out there and we are stuck out there with it. I say out there because in spite of all our research, we still don’t know everything about what the virus is and does, so we are “out there” even when we stay in. And because of this, we need to do everything in our power to learn. Knowledge, as they say, is power, and we need all the power we can get at this point.

Currently there are tests available in many areas that check for a positive or negative response on the person tested and will reveal whether that individual has COVID-19. There are also tests that check for antibodies and will reveal whether or not the person has contracted and overcome the virus by checking for certain antibodies. There has been a lot of discussion on individuals having COVID-19 and showing no symptoms (asymptomatic) during the illness, and people showing certain similar symptoms while not having contracted the virus at all. This would seem to show that we need more information in order to effectively pin down when people are sick and how to treat them. And the only way to get that information is to test as many people as possible.

I have considered for some time, since I first heard of the antibody test, in fact, being tested myself. Both my wife and I were sick in late January/early February, but it was relatively minor and it went away in a couple of days. But since I am 55 (not actually young), and am on the cusp of type 2 diabetes (not a committed relationship, but we are seeing one another), and in spite of the best advice from my wife, my doctor, and numerous others, I haven’t quite kicked the tobacco habit, you could say that I am in a higher risk category than some. So, I decided to get the antibody test … and now follows the inevitable wait.

Three to five days. Nearly a week while I am Shrodinger’s Reporter, a hypothetical “cat” sitting on the front porch with the actual cats and waiting to see what the results show. One even brought me a mouse last night, but I chose to pass. Still, it was thoughtful. And as I wait for the results, I of course play out various scenarios in my head. What I think is that I have managed to avoid COVID-19 — at least that’s the predominant thought. Second would be that I happened to pick it up from somewhere and just managed to fight if off. And third, though not the last possibility, is that I have it now and am asymptomatic. But given that I haven’t been out much lately, that one would be lowest on my expectations.

Still, until I know for sure, I am both sick and well. But fortunately, not for very much longer, even if the results are not in my favor. I say that because thought experiments are less to my liking than actual facts. I want to know, personally, one way or the other. And I have never been a fan of putting things in boxes, metaphorical or otherwise. And it makes it hard to have a positive effect on our lives if we don’t have all — or at least most — of the information.

I’ll let you know how it turns out once the cat is out of the bag — I mean, “box.”

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