After much hand-wringing, I decided to take Beans to the mass flu clinic at the Church of Rock Creek this morning for an H1N1 flu vaccination.
I expected crowds. I exxpected some level of chaos. I didn’t expect, though, the seeming lack of humanity I encountered in the brief time I stuck around.
Cars were pulling into the church parking lot from two directions when we arrived, about half an hour before the clinic was set to begin. There was a lone police officer directing traffic so that cars from both sides would have a chance to move ahead, but he wasn’t letting anyone know that there was really only supposed to be one line. (There was ample room for two.) I followed the cars in front of me down what I thought was the second lane of traffic, which bottle-necked where I guess volunteers were parked along a curb. There was a man standing in the parking lot and I don’t really know what his purpose was but he looked puzzled when he asked me if I was a volunteer. I almost said yes, but I caught myself and explained that I was where I was because I hadn’t known I wasn’t supposed to be there.
I had turned on my blinker as soon as I realized I needed to move over and — this is my only point in telling you all that boring stuff about traffic lanes — I was passed by countless drivers who had their jaws clenched, their hands gripping their steering wheels. I get how annoying it is to see cars whiz by stalled traffic only to ask to be let in front of you. I had no right to break line. I (and the people I had followed and the ones who had followed me…) was at their mercy.
But these people looked desperate. They looked like they truly believed if they let me take a spot in front of them I very well might take the last vaccine on Earth and cost them their very lives. They looked panicked!
These people, by the way? They weren’t even in the groups the Health Department person I called yesterday told me would be allowed to get the H1N1 vaccine today. I remember a distinguished gentleman in a shiny SUV and a grey-haired lady with an infant car seat strapped in the back of her luxury sedan – but no baby – and many more. (Maybe they were there to get the seasonal flu vaccine, but wouldn’t it have been easier for them to go to their doctors’ offices or to one of the many drugstores offering shots?)
I don’t know who I’m upset with, really. The federal government for falling through on its promises to make sure there was enough vaccine for the people who want it? The state Health Department or the vaccination site for being unprepared for the throngs of people who showed up? The people who have taken on a “me vs. them” attitude when it comes to protection from a flu that, by most accounts and for most people, presents about the same level of threat as the seasonal flu, which most people decline vaccinations for every year?
Maybe I’m most angry with myself for almost falling in step with them, for almost resigning myself to standing in a long line, in the rain, in hopes that I could score one of the precious, limited vaccines for my sweet Beans. He does, after all, deserve the protection it would offer just as much as anyone else who showed up.
My blinker stayed on for … well, forever. It stayed on as car after car moved past me, drivers making sure their bumpers almost touched the ones in front of them as they stared straight ahead, their faces lined with anger and determination, until finally the man I mentioned above stopped the flow of traffic so some of us could get in the moving line. (I’m guessing he might have done that because we were blocking the path of his volunteer workers, but maybe I should just give him the benefit of the doubt. Thanks, man.)
I did not stop in the parking lot and drag Beans out of the car and into one of the loooonnngg lines to wait for a vaccination with the rest of the town.
I hope we can get vaccinated soon. But that won’t happen today.
Of course, if he or baby Tallulah get sick in the meantime I’ll be mad at myself for not being more dogged.
Swine flu, please just stay away …
How did the rest of you who went fare?
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