Because this time, it was planned. This time, I was prepared. I wasn’t as emotionally overwhelmed.
For whatever reason, they called me and asked to change my appointment time from 3 pm to 9 am. Fine, I said. So off I went, convincing Chris to drive me. In fact, he expected that he would do so since it was a hassle for me last time—to find parking and do that whole thing. So at 8:45 am, he drove me to San Francisco General, dropped me off at the welcome circle. I hopped out and got into the appointment line. Everything was repeating as if I was there the first time. Someone would stop me at the line. “Are you here for…?”
“Yes, a vaccine,” I say and hold up my vaccine card.
They would look at the date and nod. Then they stuck a sticker on me that essentially said registered. They placed on the sleeve.
“Do I go?” I say motioning to the doors. I actually have never been inside the hospital beyond the ER and that first time. I see so many people walk in—maybe appointments for other things, maybe staff for other things. This is the local public hospital and I wonder how much funding they get. Probably not much.
They tell me to wait. Finally the line is filling up. Five, six or seven people now. I am first. Then they say, “Follow me.”
She holds this paper spinning windmill—the kind you might see for a Chinese tour or a child playing in the yard. Right at the end lobby, she motions ahead to another person. “Follow her.” So we follow and arrive at a set of elevators.
I understand immediately that the elevator can only hold four. At least for safety reasons. We all stand in the corner. There’s a couple that huddles in a corner, treating like they are one person. Fine.
We arrive to the fourth floor and it’s back again in the row. The nurse asks me for my card and I hold it out. “You got it laminated,” she says.
“No,” I say. “it’s just a plastic cover.”
“How did you get that?” she marvels.
I am a little surprised, but not really. I wonder if she’s saying that because she just wants to talk to people, wants to have small talk again. I wonder myself if I want small talk. I tell her that I have a lot of conference badges and this is just one of them. I know that Office Depot and Staples are offering free lamination.
And soon, I arrive at another registration. “My second,” I say.
They send me to another station, then another station. I remember that just three weeks ago, I was frantically looking down at my work phone and checking the time, wondering if I would make it back in time. It’s barely 9:12 am now and it didn’t take much time at all from when I arrived to now. Soon, I am sent to a station. This time, I am curious. I am waiting and wondering why I am waiting. Maybe paperwork? Maybe the nurse needs to check something. Finally, I am sent to sit.
The nurse has a needle ready. I have taken off my jacket and have my sleeve ready. “Non-dominant arm?” I say.
She nods. A quick sharp jab and it’s over.
I do the fifteen minute observation. I wonder if I should take the juice offered, but I don’t because it’s embarrassing. I do the windmill, but not much because I don’t see anybody else doing it. And soon, the time passes. I take selfies. Trying not to be rude and that person breaking HIPAA. Then I am done. I stand in front of the selfie station and take photos of myself, because well, because I should. But there isn’t many people here, taking photos. It’s all serious. I don’t know how people are feeling. Smiles? Doing their civic duty? It’s what I should do.
And I went outside and went…to work virtually. I had a mild headache that afternoon, but didn’t know whether I could attribute to the vaccine (because I had a similar headache the day before) or to the annoying work.
I took the next day off. A sick day. But I was fine. Maybe slow. Maybe more pain due to cramps. But I felt like myself. And felt like I was stronger. And the world was returning to normal, maybe?