Rapid test shortage on campus leads to rise of mafia

Humor by Cassidy Dalva
Jan. 23, 2022, 9:23 p.m.

“DAHA rapid test?!?!” freshman Eileen Smith shouted into the void of Cedro’s GroupMe. How many times had that been now? Five times left on read? Smith had flown in from Baltimore early in the morning on Jan. 15. In light of rising COVID-19 cases and the spread of omicron, she was meant to be greeted upon arrival with rapid tests and PCR test kits dropped off at her door. Nevertheless, Smith could not find a testing kit in either her room or the dorm’s common spaces. Things were looking desperate when, suddenly, her phone pinged.

“Come to the Lake Lag Barbecue Pit at 9 p.m. We will find you. Cash only.”

Smith was not alone. Droves of students who delayed their travel to campus due to classes being remote found that their promised rapid tests were nowhere to be found. The culprit? A kit-swabbing clan unofficially known as the Rapid Test Mafia, abbreviated as RTM, has dominated the on-campus black market for rapid COVID-19 tests. Although similar mobs exist, including the PPE Posse and the Asymptomatic Syndicate, RTM wields the most power.

Smith arrived by 8:58 p.m. at the pit. After several minutes of waiting, cash in hand, she wondered if her mysterious contact would actually appear. Just as she was about to leave, a dark figure emerged from the shadows. Without speaking, the figure whisked away her hundred-dollar bill and in its place left the coveted kit. “Who are you?” Smith managed to squeak out. The figure hushed her and slithered back into the shadows.

The inner workings of the Rapid Test Mafia are shrouded in mystery, but one representative agreed to speak with our reporters on the condition of anonymity.

“Our soldiers and associates scout out the hallways of student dorms late at night and early in the morning,” explained the representative. “With their frazzled hair and oversized pajamas, they roam the halls at 4 a.m., indistinguishable from any other student that just pulled an all-nighter on their PWR paper.”

Although the identity of the group’s capo dei capi remains a secret, the Mafia’s underlings follow strict commands and rules. Members adhere to a code of silence. All meetings are held in private locations, so if you want to eavesdrop on their business, you can fuggedaboutit. And, most importantly, high-profile clients are relentlessly prioritized–  PSET partners of the Mafia’s top-ranking members routinely cut in line past symptomatic students whose only rationale for wanting a rapid test is to give their roommates the courtesy of a prompt notification of possible exposure.

“These are more than just devious licks,” said the representative. “Our interning consiglieres employ high-level data science to strategically map out the terrain of tests and the black market of buyers.”

The Rapid Test Mafia has stolen and resold at least 500 rapid test kits thus far, but our source would not specify precise profit margins. Students claim to have dished out everything from cash to extra laundry detergent pods to exotic reptilian pets, and a growing fraction of the student body is expressing their frustration toward the actions of the Mafia.

“It’s time for us to stand up against RTM,” an impassioned Smith posted on Instagram. “We’re educated college students at one of the most prestigious institutions in America– we’d never agree to something as silly as paying exorbitant costs for what should just be free and accessible.”

Editor’s Note: This article is purely satirical and fictitious. All attributions in this article are not genuine and this story should be read in the context of pure entertainment only.

Cassidy Dalva '25 is a News Managing Editor at The Stanford Daily. A prospective economics major from Los Angeles, California, Cassidy enjoys baking, playing pickleball, and spending time outdoors in her free time. Contact her at [email protected].

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