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Got Vax? | James McAllen
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I’m a born skeptic. I don’t believe anything that I can’t see for myself. If my wife comes home, drenched like a rat and tells me it’s raining, I still get up and look at the window. That’s just my nature. 

In Jan of 2020, my two friends, whom I shall call Heckle and Jeckle, started talking about this new virus coming out of China. These two are always predicting the end of the world, so as usual, I pooh-poohed their warnings.

I may have been wrong.

This was before the virus had reached our shores; barely anyone had died at this point. “It’s gonna be nothing,” I said.

I may have been wrong.

When March rolled around and everything shut down, I was still a little skeptical, although less so. When another friend asked me how long I thought the shutdown would last, I responded, “About a month.”

I may have been wrong.

Soon after that, we were all blindsided by the virus, and the shutdowns, and the isolation, and all the hardships that came with it. The one good by-product was that everyone suddenly became experts on virology, and not a moment too soon. Everyone had a opinion on what to do and when to do it. For me, I was pretty lucky. My wife and I were both able to continue working, and to date, none of us have gotten sick. 

But in the back of my mind, a low-level of anxiety was building in my skull. I tried not to speak of it, lest I give it more power than it deserved. I was sure that if I caught the virus, I wouldn’t survive. Both of my parents died in respiratory units at the hospital. Both of them were intubated when they passed. Every time someone on CNN mentioned the number of intubations for that day, a chill ran up my spine. I couldn’t help but see my parents struggling for their last breaths, thinking that within a short period of time, I’d suffer the same fate. On top of that, I have what is called “exercise-induced asthma,” which means that the harder I exert myself, the harder it is to breathe. Couple that with sleep apnea and I’m basically a basket-case. I already sleep with a C-pap mask wrapped around my head every night, so I was primed to have endless nightmares about choking to death. I’ve had plenty of them.

Without mentioning anything to my family, I made up a will and stashed it away in a safe place. I put all the financial and insurance papers in one place. In short, I got my affairs in order and awaited the inevitable. For the most part, we did as we were told by the experts; we wore masks, we stayed away from people, we didn’t shake hands… and we survived.

But the weeks and the months rolled on. When the weather turned colder, Dr Fauci and his crew all said that a surge was coming, I shuddered at the thought. And then in November, Pfizer announced that they had a vaccine. My first thought was…

“I’m not getting it.”

“It was too quick. They cut corners. I don’t trust Big Phamra. I don’t trust the gov’t! I don’t trust anything!”

I sounded like one of those crackpots that I’m always making fun of. I kept going back and forth in my head over whether or not to get it, not that it mattered, I wasn’t really eligible for the first round, although I’m sure if I was a real scumbag, I could have used my asthma and family history to jump the line, but I wasn’t so inclined. I figured, better to use the rest of the population as guinea pigs before I get my shot. I even let my compromised wife get hers first — “No honey, you get it. I’m in better health.” What a noble gesture. 

But the best part is, whenever I saw an anti-vaxxer post something stupid on FB, I couldn’t help but think… “what a moron”. But then someone would post about getting their first shot and I’d think, “you put that poison in your arm?” 

Rather than listen to the uneducated masses, I went to an actual smart guy, the kind with capital letters after his name. My college roommate is one such person, a PHD in microbiology. I don’t even know what that is; all I know is he drank just as much as I did every single night and I scraped by with C-pluses and he got a PHD. He’s still an idiot, but I trust him. He laid it out pretty clearly:

“Everything has risks. Driving a car has risks. Eating a cheeseburger has risks. Yes, the vaccine has risks, but you need to weigh that into the equation. Are you more worried about the virus, or the vaccine?”

I knew he was right. 560K people are not going to die from the vaccine; maybe 11 will, maybe less. I decided to get the vaccine.

But I waited two more months before getting an appointment.

Today was the day.

I planned to make a day of it. I got an afternoon appointment in midtown, and I was going to head into the city early, maybe wander around the village for a while, have lunch at a cafe, drink apple juice out of a wine glass and pretend I was Hemingway in Paris. Maybe I’d stop into one of the gallery’s on West Broadway, or wander into the Strand bookstore if they were open.

But then it rained. Or more succinctly, it pissed. 

Dejected, I scrapped my plans and headed to the city for my shot. Unfortunately, I wore the wrong sneakers. I put on the pair with the hole in them. I had a puddle in my shoe by the time I got to the subway. I squished for the rest of the day.

The ride in was fine; the subway has never been cleaner, and the appointment was a breeze. They checked me in right away and within minutes the nurse was jabbing me in the arm. I waited the prescribed 15 minutes before leaving. I felt fine. Evidently the side effects don’t come until the 2nd shot. I told my wife that maybe I’ll only get the first shot. 
She told me I was an idiot.

When I left, I texted her right away. “I’m done.”
She hit me back with “Did you grow a tail yet?”
“God, I hope so.” I responded.
She’s always got jokes in times of worry.

I squished my way back to the subway with my “get out of jail” vaccination card firmly placed inside the pages of my book. The ride home was uneventful, the anxiety levels temporarily assuaged. I sat down to write this blog. It’s been a while. The words came easily, unlike this morning’s attempt to write fiction.

I eagerly wait the appearance of my new tail. 
Maybe after the 2nd shot. 
I’ll let you know in a few weeks. 


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