Observations from V-Day

A year and two weeks after first sequestering at home to avoid the sinister Covid-19 virus, I found myself inside CVS, lining up for a vaccine that I didn’t want but couldn’t avoid. I followed the footprint signs on the floor ’round and ’round the store aisles, like a rat eagerly racing through a maze to get the treat. I stopped and looked longingly at the Cadbury eggs along the way, but was abruptly reminded by the herd of humans stampeding through that the final destination was the vaccine check-in table, not the goo in the middle. “Oh well,” I shrugged, “these are the knockoff USA versions anyway – not the British ones.” So I followed the stampede, all on our way to getting herd immunity.

Upon arrival at the pearly vaccine gates, I clicked the check-in link on my phone and the attendant shoved a forehead thermometer at me. “99.4,” she chirped loudly, ensuring those in the near vicinity heard I was running a mild fever. I could sense everyone in the six-foot separation circles behind me jumping back a distance exponentially larger than six feet. I looked at her with pleading eyes and explained that I’d been sitting in my hot car for a few minutes prior to entering the corral. The devil in me wanted to tell her I’d just been engaged in hot, steamy shenanigans in an RV in the parking lot, but I sensed I better not push my luck. From what I understand, these vaccines are a hot item. No pun intended. She must have seen a shred of honesty in my face, because she let me pass to the vaccine station where Chuck, donned in head-to-toe PPE like a wannabe hazmat worker, was eagerly awaiting me.

Good old, Chuck. He would be my friend for the next minute as he prepared the vaccine, swabbed my arm, and asked me lots of personal questions about myself, including if I’d been stuck recently and if I had allergies to anything, including latex. He already knew more about me than most of my friends. Chuck must have felt pretty comfortable with me because he announced loudly that “old folks” like us don’t have strong immune systems like the young people, so I probably wouldn’t have many side effects. This wouldn’t have bothered me as much except Chuck was at least 300 years older than me. Then he recited a script he’d obviously performed hundreds of times. I heard him say something about only taking Tylenol. Or was it Advil? Or was it codeine? Oh shit, I couldn’t remember, but it sounded important. And that’s when it happened. The impolite jab to the upper arm. Chuck was visibly impressed and said “you didn’t even flinch!” I held back telling him that I was flinching inside from the “old folks” comparison. In any event, this was the most social interaction I’d had in weeks, and I was reluctant to part ways. But it was obvious Chuck was done with our relationship when he waved me over to the anaphylactic shock waiting area.

Sitting amongst Chuck’s other short-term friends, I felt an unsettling anxiety creep through my veins. Was the last year of isolation and loneliness the alternate reality, or was this weird assemblage of unkempt humans wearing masks, flip flops, dirty sweat pants, waist-length beards, and greasy hair the alternate reality? Having done so much of my shopping online and seeing most people only through video chat, I had stopped noticing the world around me. But suddenly all I could do was notice. I saw the guy with the two-inch toenail that looked like a coke nail on his foot. And there was another guy leaning so far forward over his phone that all I could see was his ass crack. Coke and crack. That’s what I was witnessing. Suddenly, I was relieved that I had missed all this for months. I was also relieved that my mask was blocking the unpleasant odors I could only surmise were floating all around me.

I waited out my twenty-minute safety period texting silly messages to my friend Melissa and laughing out loud, probably drawing far too much attention to myself. And it suddenly dawned on me that for all the things I had happily avoided for a year, there was so much more good stuff that I was missing. Like laughing out loud with a good friend in the flesh. Speaking of which, it was finally time to go home and take care of my itty bitty flesh wound and sore arm. I stood up and said “happy weekend” to Chuck, just as he started his script for the next person. Walking away I heard him confirm that it was indeed only Tylenol that should be taken. I smiled widely beneath my mask and headed out into the bright sunlight.

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