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January 21, 2021
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A Poke in the Arm

By David Haldane

Jan. 28, 2021


The long line of cars snaked through the landscape like an angry serpent.

At each of several intervals stood a security guard holding a clipboard and pen. “I need to see confirmation of your appointment and an ID,” the first one said. “Ever had any symptoms?” asked the second. “Fever, nausea, loss of taste or smell?” And then came number three: “Ever been told you have Covid? Vaccinated in the last ten days? Had an allergic reaction? OK, now move on to station number seven.”

That’s where it finally happened. A cheerful young man speaking through the car window asked me to roll up my sleeve as he pulled out a shiny long needle. And so I joined the club.

Until recently its members consisted mostly of medical and other front liners, as well as elderly residents of nursing homes. Then the federal government urged states to allow anyone over 65 to join and, whoosh, the race took on a whole new dimension.

“So far I’ve been unable to get an appointment,” a disgruntled friend declared on Facebook. “The county online appointment site says to check back daily, but this is more of a challenge than it should be.”

Someone in an entirely different region of the country quickly chimed in. “A lot of places here have some vaccine,” she wrote, “but they’re completely booked through March and not taking any more appointments. The phones are jammed, and no one can get through.”

Finally, a former colleague wrote an Op-Ed for the Los Angeles Times recounting how she received a hot tip regarding just where the coveted vaccine was flowing. “I didn’t wait to ask questions,” she reported.

My own experience largely paralleled hers. Frustrated after days of unsuccessfully trying to score an appointment in my home county of San Bernardino, I suddenly got a message from my former wife. “Check out the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center,” she said, “and you probably can get an appointment.”

And so I did. Bottom line: It was well worth the 2.5-hour drive from the desert to the city and, no, they never even asked for the phony utility bill I’d forged “proving” my residency in their serum-oozing county.

“Wait 15 minutes in the parking lot before leaving,” the friendly needle man instructed. “If you feel lightheaded, just honk your horn.”

But now the mania is spreading. A young friend, still several decades away from that magic Maginot Line of 65, recently caught the vaccine fever. “Is it all right to lie?” she wondered, “if getting the vaccine could save my life?”

The consensus among her friends was that, yes, even lying is excusable in certain life-threatening situations. But she was way too young to pass for old, so had to concoct a different story.

“What if I just tell them I’m caring for a vulnerable child?” she wondered, evoking yet another category eligible for early vaccination. “There’s no way they could prove otherwise, and in a few months no one will care.”

And that’s why, after scoring one of those rare appointments, she mouthed a creative little fib. I don’t know the details of how and where she got poked, or whether she stayed in her car. What I do know is that my young friend now enjoys a status which we hope good fortune and planning will soon bestow on us all.

I leave it to others to debate the ethics of how she got there. For now I have but one thing to say: welcome, my friend, to the world’s most exclusive club.

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David Haldane’s latest book is a short-story collection called “Jenny on the Street.” A former Los Angeles Times staff writer, he is an award-winning author, journalist and radio broadcaster currently dividing his time between homes in Joshua Tree, California, and Northern Mindanao, Philippines. His 2015 memoir, “Nazis & Nudists,” explains how that happened. https://davidshaldane.com/



Originally Published in Mindanao Gold Star Daily

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