Saturday, February 13, 2010

When Pigs Fly

Now it's available! The H1N1 vaccine. For free even. At the Catholic church on Route 1 in my New England coastal village. I pull my silver Volvo wagon into a vacated parking spot and head through the crowded parking lot. Saturday morning residents chatter familiarly while waiting patiently, sipping coffee from styrofoam Dunkin Donuts cups. The columned portico abuzz as we await access through the large white panelled wooden doors to the clinic inside. Familiar memories from another Saturday morning nearly fifty years ago flood my mind's eye as I stood in queue for an innoculation from the next available SMMC nurse.

It was 1962, not sure of the season but it wasn't too hot or too cold outside. My three siblings and I piled into the family Ford Country Squire with the faux-wooden side panels for a routine morning of Saturday errands. Mom behind the wheel. I, the eldest, perched happily in the passenger seat. Our first stop? Saint Francis of Assisi, the century old parish on Bardstown Road in the Highlands where my best friend, Valerie, went to school. Odd. Very. We're Jewish.

Thought we were headed to the Winn Dixie at The Loop for our weekly grocery extravaganza. Not yet. Quiet eerily replaced our noisy bantering. All eyes riveted to the throng of families milling about on the sidewalk. Mom pulled into a space on the side street bordering the church, moved the shift poking out of the steering column into Park, grabbed her purse from the leatherette bench seat sans safety belts and got out of the car. Keys still in the ignition.

Maybe she had to pick up something on the way to the market and would be right back. Instead motioned for us to join her outside. Robin hesitated not quite understanding. Mom reached through the open window and gently cupped her hand around Robin's shoulder so she could join me on the sidewalk. Mary and Willy tumbled out. No explanation needed from this Howdy Doody raised brood. We followed politely.

Inside the granite stone rectory long tables were staffed by nurses in starched white uniforms with even stiffer caps perched on their over-sprayed hair-do's that Daddy often called "hair don'ts". Everything about these women was imposing. Trays held neat columns of hundreds of tiny pleated paper rinse cups from the dentist office. A small white cube rested inside each.

A newfangled vaccination awaited. No shots. No visit from needle-happy Harris, our house-calling pediatrician who scared the bejeezus out of us when he walked in our front door carrying the dreaded worn black leather bag hiding syringes, rectal thermometers and brown glass vials of antiseptics the color of rubies that caused more pain than the scrape it protected. The first of three doses of Sabin oral. Pink medicine on a lump of sugar. No hospital smells here. Candy dispensed drugs that would inspire Timothy Leary and entice my generation into a psychedelic haze. Blotter acid's precursor. But ah, I digress.

Back on point: The burning question of today. Where was the stockpile of this virulent flu vaccine when I really needed it?

Nowhere to be had in July when, arriving at the Beijing Capital International Airport jet-lagged and crumpled after a sixteen hour flight over the pole, a dozen of the tiniest USA-doubting men-children boarded our 767 to register the temperature of entire rows of passengers with an errant wave of a wand over our heads. The slightest deviation from a standard 98.6 Fahrenheit risked a two-week quarantine in some facility deep in the quagmire of the People's bureaucratic labyrinth.

And definitely not available a few months later to prevent three weeks of miseries I succumbed to just as my son arrived home for a relaxing, fun-filled Thanksgiving vacation. Had been inoculated for the seasonal flu in a very public traveler-crowded concourse at the Atlanta airport, my Delta flight home delayed. Had a mani, too. But noooo ... nothing worked. Over-zealous, I partook of every known precaution out there. Every single one. I incessantly wiped germs and the 'good' bacteria from grocery carts and door handles with an inordinate amount of Purell. My sandpaper dry hands flaked like the snow falling outdoors. Every one except the H1N1shot.

That little piggy went we-we-we right into my lungs. Hacking and limp for most of the holiday season. I hadn't been sick in nearly a decade. Proof? The expiration dates on the various cold and flu meds from Walmart's had expirations circa 2003.

Anyhoo. It is a moot point now. Anticlimatic. Useless, really. But hey, I'm card-carrying now. Vaccinated and ready to sit on the tarmac of any airport in China confident that the pigs are locked in their stys ...

... at least until tomorrow. Cheers!

1 comment:

  1. Hope you had a wonderful Valentine's Day. I'm glad you were brave enough to get your H1N1 shot. Your blog about the family trip to get the sugar cube brought back memories of my own families trip for our sweet treat!I have enjoyed keeping up with your trip to the big 60. It's an adventure many of us will be on,hopefully, in the next few years. Hugs and Kisses