For the last eighteen months or so (since the end of the 2020 Brier, more or less) life has been… complicated. (Last year’s Brier is a temporal landmark because it’s a national championship for a sport I play (albeit not well) and it was held just down the road — about two and a half kilometers from the front door of Doofus Manor.)
(You may have noticed. I mean, it’s been in the news.)
The local (ex — he recently got kicked upstairs) chief medical officer has been pretty darned competent: despite the fact that he sports a Beard of Evil we’ve done pretty well hereabouts. Province-wide, though it’s been a different matter — the provincial government’s pandemic response has been called… let’s just say ‘not the best.’ (Two extracts from recent columns in my morning paper: “XXXX’s inability to lead is unsurprising, given his mealy-mouthed meandering for months on end…” and “But then, coherence has never been this government’s strong suit when it come to pandemic strategy, such as it is.”) They got points early on for demonstrating empathy and seeking wide consultation but then lost them when it became obvious that the empathy was faked and the consultation was ‘wide’ in order to generate a cacaphony of conflicting opinions that would let them throw up their hands in mock frustration and do whatever the hell they damn well wanted. And apparently what they wanted was to make decisions by guessing — kind of like an eighth grader taking a test he hadn’t studied for. (Not really what I would have wanted, but hey, I don’t claim to understand politicians.)
On top of that, the rollout of vaccines in the province was, for a long time, ‘spotty’. They got vaccines into a decent number of arms but the process was anything but pretty — there was a publicized Plan, full of Criteria and Dates and Schedules and Phases and other things with capital letters and all of this was on a website that looked fairly authoritative and seemed fairly unambiguous but, well, wasn’t.
It (the website) left out stuff. Obvious stuff (amongst other things it didn’t actually tell you where you were in the Schedule). Also, while you could book vaccine appointments, the actual process of doing so was widely compared to competing in the Hunger Games. (I haven’t read any of the books or seen any of the movies but I’m told that’s not a good thing.)
But despite all that, in late March the Schedules and Phases and planetary alignments and (most importantly) vaccine shipments had advanced to the point where my particular demographic (lazy, pathetic old misanthropes) was about to become eligible to get stabbed.
Probably — the press releases said so but the (‘official’) website said nothing. So I was getting ready to channel my inner Katniss when two things happened:
- I realized that I don’t have an inner Katniss. If anything, I have an inner ‘un-named character that dies offscreen.’ I’m not sure that’s particularly useful.
- A local group of family doctors announced a mass vaccination clinic at the hockey arena where reality itself is distorted by strange, unknown forces.
So, while I was a little apprehensive about that reality distortion thing, I was ecstatic about being able to skip the death match. Even better, the website for the local clinic, while not perfect, didn’t actively encourage me to murder anyone. It told me to wear a short-sleeved shirt, fill out a really really important form and be at the arena at 2:05 but NOT A MINUTE EARLIER. All of those are/were things I figured I could do.
Complications, of course, started early. In my morning paper, for example, was the headline
That was a problem — I don’t wear skirts but even if I did I wouldn’t wear anything that grotesquely overpriced. Hmm. I asked myself “What is my version of ridiculous designer clothing?”
It took me a while but eventually I settled on a 1991 first printing Suicide Squid T-shirt because the subject seemed apropos, it’s at least as iconic as anything by Chanel and it has short sleeves.
I also printed out and filled in the really really important form. The three of us (the really really important form, squiddy and I) arrived at the reality-defying arena and joined the line at precisely 2:05.
At the start of the line there was a nice lady who looked exquisitely bored. She certainly sounded it when she asked when my appointment was (her body language said “I’m exquisitely bored and you’re late.” But how could I be late? It’s precisely 2:05 — ntp said so…) and a couple of questions that were on the really really important form that I had brought with me. (“Hey! I have a copy of the really really important form. Would you like to see it?” “Not really, no.”)
The line headed toward the building door. Outside the door was another nice lady with obvious boredom, temporally disapproving body language, and several questions that, again, were answered on the really really important form that she didn’t want to see.
After she didn’t look at the really really important form it was in the door, past the TV (turned off as it happens so technically it wasn’t actually wrong that day) and down a hallway to the zamboni garage where there was another nice lady who (for a change) didn’t look particularly bored but who never said a word longer than one syllable — when I arrived she just pointed at a spot on the floor and said “wait there”. When the stressed-looking lady with the laptop was free the nice-but-monosyllabic lady just said “go.”
The stressed-looking lady with the laptop was almost as monosyllabic. “Name?” she said. I told her. She typed on her laptop and frowned. Clearly I didn’t exist. “Doctor’s name?” I told her. She typed more stuff on her laptop and frowned again. Clearly he didn’t exist either. She picked up a printout of some sort, stared at it and frowned again. I have no idea what that frown meant but her body language didn’t say “I’m bored” but rather “I think you’re delusional.” Eventually, though, she turned around, looked at which stabbing line was free and pointed at a table full of pointy things labelled “1”. Off I went, inexplicably worried.
The stabbing was actually anticlimactic — line #1 had two people in scrubs who didn’t look bored, didn’t frown, used words longer than one syllable AND looked like they knew what they were doing. (There was also an uncomfortable chair facing the wrong direction of course. That goes without saying.) Two minutes later the nurse (or nurse-analogue — I couldn’t tell) put a band-aid on my shoulder and told me to go to the waiting-to-see-if-I-won-the-anaphylaxis-sweepstakes area.
I didn’t win. Or since nothing happened, maybe I did. I dunno. So I sat there and mused about what actually constitutes winning and what constitutes losing (and, I realized, who I would find to take the really really important form that I had been Commanded multiple times to fill out and bring). And while I was sitting there deep in thought there was a noise.
I ignored the noise and wondered if the fact that my arm didn’t hurt influenced the winning/losing dichotomy? What else might? What if it started hurting later?
And what if I had a side effect like a fever? That would probably mean an immune response — which sounds like a win. But it’d be no fun and THAT that sounds like a lose. Ish. Hmmm…
Huh? What? I looked up and there was a pleasant-looking lady with a tablet standing there. Oddly enough, unlike everyone else I’d spoken to, she looked neither stressed nor bored. Exasperated with oblivious old men perhaps, but not (at least not visibly) stressed or bored.
“I’m here to help you book a appointment for your second dose.”
Not monosyllabic either. Huh. But as long as she had an inner Katniss I was sure things would work out. But she was still talking: “If you have a phone, scan this QR code; it should take you to a website where you can book an appointment.”
AIEEEE! The dreaded website! DOOM! I hauled out my phone and scanned the code (it’s a hockey arena — of course it has WiFi). A browser started. A website appeared. I scrolled around, looking for anything booking-an-appointment related. I didn’t find anything. The nice lady said
“Problems? Let me look” she said. I handed her my phone. She looked at it. Scrolled around. Frowned. “This is the wrong website.”
Wait, what? How could it possibly be the wrong website? The QR code contains a URL. The browser opened the URL. There’s absolutely no place in there that an error could have crept in. Unless… the arena is bending reality again. But that’s really weird. What do I do now? I looked up and she was poking at her tablet. “How’s 11:40 on July 29th sound?” I nodded dumbly, in awe of her obvious uberosity. She gave her tablet one last poke. “Done. You should get a confirmation email shortly.” At that precise moment my phone made its ‘you have new mail’ sound. I gave it a quick scan: ‘You have booked your appointment for a COVID-19 vaccination as a Highest Risk Health Care Worker…’
Huh. I didn’t know that about me. I turned to thank the nice lady but she had moved on to the next person waiting for
Godot anaphylaxis. Then I read the confirmation email more thoroughly: it said my appointment was on July 29th at 11:40, which I had already noticed. What I hadn’t_noticed is that the booking was at two different arenas (separated by about ten kilometers) at the same time. I wasn’t entirely sure I could be in two different places at the same time but that was weeks away and I’d cross that bridge when I came to it.
So. In the end I learned a few things.
- Really really important things sometimes aren’t.
- You don’t need to be Jennifer Lawrence to have an inner Katniss.
- I still don’t know if I’m Vladimir or Estragon.
- Sometimes I ignore the Rule of Three.
- For reasons that aren’t worth explaining, I had to cancel the July 29 appointment. When I did so, I kinda hoped that I might learn which of the two arenas it was actually supposed to be at. Turns out neither: “This is a confirmation that you have cancelled COVID-19 2nd Dose Vaccination – Portsmouth Olympic Harbour at 2021-07-29.” I’m not sure what the takeaway is beyond “things can always get more surreal.”
- A highest risk health care worker that I know (a nice nurse almost named after a Star Trek villain) was entertained that I, too, am a ‘Highest Risk Health Care Worker.’
And more of a worry than a lesson, the reality bending thing might not be the arena.
It might be me.