A paramedic smiled at me through a window and waved. It was a nice gesture as he knew I was going for a coronavirus test.
Other NHS staff knew it, too – part of Aberdeen Royal Infirmary had been sealed off for safety reasons when they knew I was coming.
They gazed at me as I was escorted in a mask past their closed-off working areas, through strangely deserted corridors. Even although I was the centre of attention, I suddenly felt very lonely.
I was grateful to the friendly paramedic who smiled and waved in support. He didn’t have to do it. He could have stood there and remained expressionless like everyone else.
The anonymous ambulanceman cheered me up as I stepped into the unknown. I was getting a glimpse of NHS readiness in the battle ahead.
As I write, I am among hundreds of souls in Scotland who have been tested for coronavirus.
My mind drifted back to where it all began – I went down with a cold a few days before we returned from Thailand.
By the time we were flying back I was sliding into the runny nose, coughing and sneezing phase.
I noticed many fellow travellers seemed to have colds, but most were maskless. Do they really work? It depends on wearers using them properly, I suppose. I saw one woman in a busy airport wearing one over her mouth, but not her nose.
Another sitting next to me on a jet took hers off so she could ask me from six inches away if I thought she would make her onward connection – and then put it back on again.
On the final leg from Paris to Aberdeen I thought we had boarded a medi-vac flight by mistake. Everyone looked ill – including the crew, who were full of colds while leaning over us serving meals and drinks.
With three small grandchildren, my family thought it wise to ask my GP for advice. Within minutes the NHS containment operation swung into action with impressive speed.
It was late afternoon on a Thursday and, shortly after speaking by phone with my doctor, I took a call from NHS Grampian’s health protection unit.
I agreed to self-isolate in our spare room with its own loo and washing facilities, and avoid contact with my wife. For some reason, she seemed delighted.
Isolating a coronavirus suspect in a single room does seem an effective way to go about this, based on my experience.
No one was allowed to cross the threshold of our house and my meals were left on the stairs, but I wore an NHS mask when I left my the room to collect them.
I joked that a cell door with a rectangular opening for pushing food through might be better and, alarmingly, my wife agreed. It was going to be a long 48 hours.
Early on Friday the health protection people were in touch again and asked me to drive as soon as possible to a secret rendezvous with them, away from usual public areas at the hospital.
My car registration number was circulated in advance and a security guard opened a barrier to wave me through – without me having to wind down my window and pose a threat by breathing on him.
Within minutes a nurse was at my car door wearing a surgical gown, goggles and mask to protect herself. It would have been a scary sight had I not been warned in advance about this and urged not to be alarmed.
She handed me a mask through my car window. Maybe it was nerves, but I kept fumbling to put it on. I felt bad because it was cold and windy as she waited patiently.
She was my escort into the security vacuum which had been created for 20 minutes to deal with my tests. I wondered what would happen if 30 people turned up at a time in an epidemic, instead of one.
As our lift arrived at the allocated floor she stuck her head out to make sure the coast was clear. Melodramatic, but effective.
The tests were swift and only briefly uncomfortable as swabs went up my nose and down my throat.
We exited in similar fashion, except someone started to venture out along a corridor and was ordered: “Stay where you are, secure area!”
Back to spare-room solitary confinement, but I wasn’t totally cut off – I could contact an on-call doctor with the unit at any time for reassurance. And I did.
By the 48-hour mark on Saturday night, at around 7pm, the same doctor rang me with the all-clear. My laboratory tests in Edinburgh proved negative for coronavirus.
What a relief. I could now go back to normal and rejoin my wife downstairs to catch up with Love Island.
The calm, reassuring efficiency of the NHS contrasts markedly with relentless doom-laden panic among broadcasters.
My jaw dropped as one celebrity presenter asked Boris Johnson: “Can you promise you can still feed us?”
Another asked a health minister if we should wash before or after shaking hands. Chicken and egg springs to mind.
Bombarded by this nonsense you’d think we were about to be consumed by an incurable form of flesh-eating bug, instead of “mild to moderate flu”.