I’m sitting in a plastic chair at Station 1 in Santa Monica Family Physicians on 9th and Wilshire. Rosie is the Vaccinator. Ten minutes earlier than my actual appointment (!) she sticks me quickly in the left arm. A poke in my left because I tell her I pitch from the right side, “I’m a righty.” Lightens the mood in a serious conference room where nurses marker their names on a wall chart tracking shifts. Note to fellow squeamish Santa Monicans: NPR goes on about, “getting vaccines into arms.” A frightening visual, right? But its gentler than a CVS pharmacist’s flu shot. Because of thin needles: another modern medicine marvel!
“Hey Rosie!” I say to Rosie, rolling my sleeve back down. “They call me Rosie, too; do you spell yours with a ‘y’ or an ‘ie’?”
“R-o-s-e-e-h,” she replies. “Roseeh.”
That’s kind of odd. Am I woozy already and misheard her?
“Cool,” I say.
So many women help me. (Where are the men who went to nursing school?) I count a dozen calm guides, step-by-step making it so mellow. Roseeh hands me off to Bonnie, who hands me off to Sharon, who tells me to go to jail.
For a lousy little injection?
“Jade,” Bonnie tells me. “That’s Jade over there.”
You kids dig experiences? Get on the route to 66. In your 66th year on earth not only do you make up your own words when you don’t hear so good the ones they say to you, but you also meet women like Bonnie. Which is what every elder-ish person needs in this crazy world of ours: care. And Kurt Vonnegut’s, “Kindness.”
Jade has beautiful handwriting as she pens my name on the index card with the date of my follow-up in 28 days. I haven’t heard that word “Booster” since getting my booster shot for polio in 2nd grade. It was a big deal at school so we made a big deal of the word. So much more painful, though. Must’ve been the thick needle? (You kids have no idea.) Jade recommends taking a photo of my index card—good advice, since it won’t fit in a wallet which means I’m sure to misplace it on route to 66.
The website will instruct you to go to the 2nd floor. Over the phone they’ll say go to the 3rd Floor. Either way, be psyched. The light at the end of the tunnel! I stopped on the 2nd Floor to see my AARP Medicare physician. But apparently, Dr. Short moved to the 2nd Floor. Confusing. I thought they’ve got me right where they want me: confused. Luckily, Sharon gives you only three documents to fill out, review at a distance and wait in line to return. Make sure to circle all the “no” words you’ve already clicked in the box on the computer to make the appointment and repeated on the follow-up phone call. Notice those little pencil cups they’ve labeled “Unused Pens” and “Used Pens”? Here’s a tip: as long as you make sure to wash your hands, you can take home a lot of pens.
After the jab you sit and wait until 1:58 pm for the all-clear signal. Jenna’s the Observer for this stage. A woman also waiting keeps joking and laughing — distracting the Observer from keeping track of my time, that’s what I think. What kind of person risks the added droplets in this day and age? She tells Jenna that her knees have hurting since the vaccine, adding, “But they hurt before, so…!” Oh that’s original. I find a chair far away from her and call a friend. My friend is in Florida, “helping my mother in the bathroom.” I keep her on the line to chat about the news that folks are moving into tents all in Echo Park, because when they lost their job, they had huge debt from unpaid rent, and their friends said, sadly, they couldn’t take any more weeks of the future tent-dweller sleeping on the couch.
So, that happened. And yay! I got vaccined. That’s what they call it now. American caregivers don’t have time to say “vaccinated” – they need every syllable! People, it’s so tough out there. But I totally recommend going out there to get vaccined. And take a last look around the conference room after they poke you: you won’t see recovery cookies or juice – just water. You only get the milk and cookies after giving blood. Meet you at the Santa Monica Red Cross!
Hank Rosenfeld is an author in Ocean Park.