One Down, One To Go

Image by Alexandra_Koch from Pixabay 

Yesterday was my first of two COVID-19 vaccinations. Who knew getting needle-stabbed would be so eagerly anticipated, a celebrated milestone of this ongoing pandemic reality show?

Connecting this surreal experience to anything similar in my past was challenging. Between the calm, purposefully distanced elders in line contrasted with the high-energy, helpful county health workers moving us through the lines, I couldn’t help think about this slice of American hope, one courtesy of socialism.

With too many Americans falsely considering any form of socialism as the devil’s work, yesterday was an excellent example of why our democratic socialism works: public county health department and public workers delivering publicly provided free COVID-19 vaccinations to a public regardless of race, creed, color, or economic status. Maybe doubters will finally realize our lives depend on democratic socialism in too many ways to count here, and it’s a welcomed benefit of American life.

As I sat in my chair at the back of an elementary school’s cafeteria, safety distanced from others to wait out my 15-minute “what if” moment, I had time to think about the significance of this experience.

In our now-lost former normal times, elementary kids would be in this room, either during an indoor activity, or since it was around noon eating lunch and learning essential social skills: coping with others, trading lunch food (really Mom, PB&J again??), or hanging out with goofy friends.

That sad thought morphed into a sad empathy, realizing in my six decades on this planet, unlike some, I’d never had to endure bread lines familiar to my parent’s generation, or waiting in lines for food stamp, or water bottles after a natural disaster. Yet here I sat, dutifully waiting, complying, and patiently distancing while the monkey mind wondered if I’d die in the next 8 minutes from shot side effects.

I’m no stranger to shots or needles, at least the modern version of me. But at the end of my 10th decade, my lack of any shot or needle injection experience would soon change. Raised in a household with a religious exemption to such things, the only previous shots were the first-born ones like smallpox.

Before my memorable summer #10 would begin, the Navy transferred my father to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The Navy didn’t allow our family’s religious exemption when transferred overseas, so I had some catching up to do. Every Saturday for eight weeks my Mom would drive me to the Navy clinic for shots: not just one, but one in EACH arm, for the next eight Saturdays. Yup, 16 shots in all.

Happy Navy family arriving…

As a boy raised not to cry but to “take it like a man,” those were testing Saturdays. Most, as I recall, weren’t that bad, but the Saturday I got the yellow fever shot (long needle) I recall seriously betraying my manly training. Despite the dread each week as Saturday approached, offset by Mom’s buying me an ice cream after (first life lesson that such rewards really don’t make up for the event), I survived and didn’t catch any nasty bugs during my two-years at Guantanamo.

Now my waiting clock resets, and the countdown begins toward shot #2. Its reward is the promise of ~90% risk-free, earned by my immune system kicked into learning-crazy mode from the pseudo invaders. It’s a science miracle this vaccine developed so quickly, but there’s still much work on it ahead. I’m in the camp that expects our future fall regimen will be a one-two protective punch from a flu, then a COVID shot for the foreseeable future.

I can now add yesterday to my short-list of “where were you…” events such as JFK’s assassination, the moon landing, and 9/11. But getting this vaccination, while brimming with hope, comes with a nagging fear that many will either refuse it, or worse, think they’re immune now and shed the masking/distancing.

I’ll keep the same personal protocols going, at least for now, and probably permanently adopt wearing a mask in high-density public situations. The shot gives me a new, glorious feeling that it will now significantly lower my risk against the worst. And that’s well worth a couple stabs in the arm.