OP-ED: I Tried to Get Tested at Willard Straight But Was Stopped by a Sphinx Requiring I Answer Three Riddles to Gain Entry Into the Testing Room

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’ve always liked getting COVID tested. I love the tickle I feel in the back of my sinus when I shove that obnoxiously long cotton swab up my nose, I love feeling the slippery snot exit my nostril when I pull out the cotton swab, and I love the sensation of the lubricated swab sliding its way up into my second nose hole. In fact, what I love more than anything about getting COVID tested is knowing I can confidently make my way into the testing room and out in no-time. However, that all changed today.

Today was a typical day like any other Friday. The weekend was near, campus was alive, and I had an hour between my only two classes of the day; plenty of time to get tested and pick up a tofu banh mi from Cafe Jennie.

I pushed my way through the double doors, noting the uncanny lack of queue forming in front of the testing room. YES! This was an excellent sign, a sign that I will be completing my nose swab in a pinch and enjoying my tofu banh mi to the fullest extent.

I waltzed confidently towards the testing room, but before I could enter, a large foot slammed on the ground so forcefully as to knock me to the ground. Or… was it a paw?

“HALT!!!”, erupted a mighty voice. I began coming to my senses when the creature before me let out another roar. “WHO DARES TO ENTER THY SACRED TESTING ROOM WITHOUT THE PERMISSION OF THE GREAT SPHINX OF WILLARD STRAIGHT?!” 

Fear struck my heart at the Sphinx’s reprimanding, and I felt myself crying and shaking uncontrollably as I struggled to produce my next words. “Oh p-p-please Great Sphinx of W-W-Willard Straight! I did not mean to d-disobey you!” I managed.

“You did not mean to disobey me, you say?,” the Sphinx questioned, inching his face closer to mine. “Do you see all of the trespassers piling up right there?” the Sphinx said, gesturing to the room that once served popcorn. “Do you think they meant to disobey me?!?” I peered over my shoulder to see dozens of students with varying degrees of physical injury. Suddenly, the lack of queue made sense to me.

“I beg of you, oh-mighty Sphinx of Willard Straight, please let me pass through to the testing room! I will do anything you ask!”, I cried out.

“Anything, you say?” said the Sphinx.

“Anything!” I cried out once again, tears welling up in my eyes. I began to grovel at the Sphinx’s feet.

“Well aren’t you a desperate little beggar,” mocked the Sphinx. “Since you say you will do anything to bypass me and enter my sacred testing room, I shall require that you answer all three of my riddles correctly. If you dare answer any of my riddles incorrectly, you will serve out the same punishment as your fellow trespassers and live out the rest of your days suffering in the Dungeon of The Great Sphinx of Willard Straight. Do I make myself clear, peasant?!?” I nodded my head yes, wiping away my tear streaks and pulling myself up to my feet.

“Now, riddle number one: What goes on four feet in the morning, two feet at noon, and three feet in the evening?”

“Oh, I know this one!” I exclaimed. “A human of course! As an infant, humans crawl on four feet, as adults, they walk on two feet, and when they are elderly they walk with a cane.”

“Very good,” crooned the Sphinx. “Now, riddle number two: Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came sweetness. What am I?”

I pondered for a few moments before realizing this was from none other than the Old Testament’s Book of Judges. “Bees forming a honeycomb inside the carcass of a lion!”

“That is indeed correct,” mused the Sphinx. “You’ve done very well to answer two out of three of my puzzles. However, I will advise you now to be very careful in answering my third and final riddle. You wouldn’t want to join your friends in the popcorn room now, would you?” I shook my head no and the Sphinx then let out a deep chuckle. “Finally, did you register your appointment for Willard Straight?”

My heart stopped. Then it began pumping blood dramatically. I could feel the adrenaline coursing through my veins, traveling a mile a minute. I began sweating profusely, the salty liquid running down my forehead into my eyes, burning them. The sweat formed everywhere, my armpits, the back of my neck, my nether regions! My cheeks reddened intensely as I began to stammer out my answer. “I-I-I’m sorry, did you say an appointment for W-Willard Straight? W-w-why wouldn’t I have an appointment f-for Willard Straight?”

“Do not fool me!” exclaimed the mighty Sphinx. “I asked if you had an appointment for Willard Straight, I do not take kindly to bypassers attempting to trick me!”

“Y-yes I believe I do, oh Great Sphinx! M-may I please pass through?” I giggled nervously.

“I sense that you are withholding the truth from me,” said the Sphinx, anger rising in his throat. “I will not be tricked by a fool such as yourself. Show me your confirmation email, immediately!”

I shakily pulled my phone out of my pocket, my fingers trembled as I pulled up the Mail app and searched for emails from “Cayuga Health System”. At the top of my inbox, is none other than yesterday’s booking confirmation. I held my breath as I read the subject line, my heart dropping into my stomach. Booking confirmed: West Campus.

“No,” I cried. “No no no this has to be a mistake!” The Sphinx began wrapping his paw around my waist. “Please Great Sphinx of Willard Straight! You are the mightiest of all the creatures that inhabit Willard Straight, perhaps the mightiest of all of campus! You don’t have to do this! Think about the COVID dashboard!” Tears streamed down my face as the Sphinx began lifting me in the air.

The Sphinx’s eyes began to glow a hot red, his voice amplified by what must have been a thousand voices, almost as if they were voices of his past life coming to life. “You will never trespass the Great Testing Room of Willard Straight again!” boomed the Sphinx, before launching me into his dungeon. “Prepare to suffer for eternity!”

The English language lacks the vocabulary to articulate the agony that I experienced that day. My body may recover from that vile Sphinx’s lashing, but my soul almost certainly cannot. My advice to all of you readers, whoever you are, that may hear my desperate plea: go to Bartels instead.

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