Thursday, March 4, 2021

Gradually then suddenly


     My approach toward getting the COVID vaccine seems unique, or at least unusual.  It's one that I haven't heard any pundits expressing, so maybe I should try. Here goes ... 
     I'm just waiting.
     Not clicking through various web sites, spending hours on hold and filling out forms, investigating the situation in Lake County, picking over my medical history to find some qualifying flaw. That seems ... desperate. At least if you're not 80 or a cashier at a grocery store or a paramedic or some other profession that puts you as heightened risk or in contact with the public regularly. 
     Not so necessary for a columnist who's home more than he's out.
     My days are fairly isolated, just my wife and I rattling around our big old house. I go for walks with the dog, whose leg is all better, thank you. I wear a mask, even when passing people on a windy trail on the Techny Prairie. The concern being that some smatter of COVID could blow my way. Why not? The mask doesn't hurt—I don't know what all those Texans are crying about, the big babies. When nobody is around, I slip the mask down.
     Don't get me wrong; I'd like the vaccine. I'm looking forward to it. But I'm 60 years old and in good health. I have no underlying conditions beyond a titanium spine and hip, and those don't seem to enter into the mix. I've been safe so far this past year, and I figure I can make it until April or May or whenever it's coming. Our union rep at the Newspaper Guild says they're working on getting the vaccine for the staff, and I'm content to let those wheels turn. They'll tell me when it's time.
   
Is that patience? Or passivity? I really like the idea of not pushing my precious self to the front of the line. I'm already ahead of the game, and trying to cut in front of others seems like gilding the lily. Blessed as I am, already, waiting my turn in relative safety seems the least I can do. My way of doing my part, by doing nothing. Certain loved ones suggested I sign up for a shot at a Walgreen's in Peoria, or try to pass myself off as a smoker for my occasional cigar, or some such oily strategy to snag an appointment. But Peoria is two and a half hours away, and it is probably a toss-up whether the five hours of round trip on the expressway is more perilous than laying low for another month or two. Besides, it would be wrong.
     My plan is to minimize risk and wait. I was swimming regularly at the Y, assuming it was safe. Then I got some kind of sinus infection one day after swimming—a month ago? Three months? It all kinda blends together at this point. But If figured, if I could get that, I could get COVID too, and put laps on hold until after I get the shots. I do go out on stories, though I try to do it safely. When I was interviewing the homeless last week at the CTA Blue Line Station in Forest Park, there were a few moments—unmasked homeless guys ranting four feet away from me, like the photo above—that I thought, "This is a bad idea." But a week passed, and I'm okay, so it was an acceptable risk, in that nothing bad happened. I didn't seek out the Night Ministry story, it found me, and I couldn't not go. As I used to tell myself when required to visit a public housing project at night, "If people can live here, I can visit."
    Sometimes when others are debating over what may happen, I sometimes interject: "We don't have to argue; we can just wait and find out." That's my approach to the vaccine. I'm cultivating serenity and waiting for it to come to me.  Those vaccines are on the way. People are getting them, and eventually my turn will come. This locked-down world seems like it has gone on forever, and it will be long weeks and months until it turns around. But the change will come
, to quote Hemingway's deathless line in "The Sun Also Rises" about how people go bankrupt, "gradually then suddenly." 

21 comments:

  1. Would you be so sanguine about waiting for a vaccine if you hadn't seen your kids less than three months ago? What if it had been close to a year (because though the same age they are not in school and thus not in our "household")? Would your attitude be "Well I'll get it when I get it and if its another year til I see the boys so be it?"

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    1. Your point being ... if I were an entirely different person, with a different life experience, I might think differently? Gosh Annie, I think you have a point there. I'm not criticizing those rushing to get the vaccine, in fact I explain there are whole classes who should. Which is why I'm waiting.

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    2. You wrote not just on your particular set of circumstances but that it would be ... "desperate" to work hard to get it now "At least if you're not 80 or a cashier at a grocery store or a paramedic or some other profession that puts you as heightened risk or in contact with the public regularly. "

      Not "or if you hadn't seen your children in over a year and it could be another six months or a year until you see them."

      My question is if you knew it would otherwise be a year til you saw your kids would you be less passive?

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    3. Annie I have shared the heartbreak of separation . im the child and my mom is 82. the time we've spent in proximity over the last year is a tiny fraction of our usual and it involved me sitting on the deck , masked of course and her inside the patio door, masked of course . it involved regular testing on my part , that lead to the discovery of my infection and over a month of not seeing her at all . she got both jabs without any drama or confusion.

      I am only 62 so dont yet qualify for a jab. I could probably claim essential worker, but have decided to wait to let truly at risk folk get theirs first. looking forward to getting mine and hugging my kids for the first time. maybe in June? things are getting better but I still have to distance from my mom

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    4. I am a healthy person in her mid-40s. I have not seen any of my family since November 2019 as we live in the EU (and they live in the US). I am patiently waiting my turn for a vaccine after those older and at more risk have their shots first. I will get a vaccine eventually. If it is another year before I see my family then that is the cost I am willing to pay to live in the best possible world for all.

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  2. My. Sentiments. Exactly. Thank you, Neil.

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  3. My sentiments exactly, Neil. We've waited this long & I can do another couple of months standing on my head. I have a friend who called me & explained his approach, how the system can be gamed by doing XYZ. He got angry with me when I told him that until my mother in law got her shot, I ain't going nowhere. We'll all get there in due time. We've been conditioned to be patient throughout this whole awful process. I can wait.

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  4. We areabout 94 million Americans have immunity through past infection; that’s over one-quarter of the population. You need to add that to the immunity numbers to see the whole picture. There’s some overlap—I personally think those previously infected should wait to get the vaccine—but not that much.

    The point is that to get back to normal, you can combine that one-quarter with the roughly 50 percent of the county who we know is going to get the vaccine when offered. Together that’s in the ballpark of 75 percent, the low end of immunity needed for normality. All “I am not a demographer” caveats apply, but I don’t think you need to convince that many people to take the vaccine, and an actual campaign aimed at convincing, combined with a healthier country with fewer infections and no lasting side effects, should do the trick actually doing pretty good here. From this article https://prospect.org/first100/most-important-decision-biden-presidency-vaccines-patents/ Part of a series of articles looking at the first 100 days at the Biden administration. The bigger worry is getting the rest of the world vaccinated

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  5. far too reasonable and sensible Neil . vacsmania is all the rage. I feel exactly how you do about all this except that you do not want to get this thing. long hauler here. stay safe . you dont want to be the guy that gets shot on the last day of the war. keep your head down.

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  6. This really resonated with me because your situation and attitude matches my own almost exactly. The only major difference is that I'll be turning 65 this summer and will presumably be able to get the shot then. It'll be one of the only advantages of turning 65 -- retirement sure won't be one.

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  7. I feel the same way. I would also add that the longer I wait, the more people get vaccinated ahead of me anyway, the closer we get to herd immunity. It's a collective thing, like recycling or using efficient light bulbs. I have been doing a little vaccine hunting for my 85 year old mother in law, however, and it's been like trying to get Springsteen tickets in the early eighties. MIL doesn't seem to be in a hurry either, as she doesn't get out much anyway.

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    1. Update: got the MIL a vaccine appt at the United Center, end of March. Which is where I last saw Springsteen, incidentally.

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  8. I don't mind waiting my turn. It doesn't bother me that some have been able to jump the line a little. But I don't like wondering if I've been purposely left behind. I've registered with the VA in Florida for the vaccine while away from my primary provider, James Lovell VA in North Chicago. In FT. Myers they are not yet vaccinating under 75's, I've been told. Anyone who has served in the military knows a universal truth about the experience. Whether the Greatest Generation or the Vietnam era, American servicemen don't like the "new guy". It's not just having to prove yourself, it's a prejudice, an anger of sorts towards the newcomer. Nobody ever told me to "Have a nice day" in the Navy. But I am not in the Navy now, I am a 71 year old vet trying to get a simple shot. When I registered here, I got an attitude like I was a new recruit who had to to be put in his place. That my place in line hasn't come up makes me wonder if a Florida cracker hasn't lost my paperwork because I'm from Chicago. Worse yet, Lovell called me to get vaccinated two weeks ago. The bright side is my general health puts me in a low risk situation should I get sick, and this AM I got a negative result on a Covid test. All in good time, I guess.

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  9. 6 months ago I was tense - is this gonna go on forever? Now there’s light at the end of the tunnel. I drove around one day with a mask on because I came out of a store and had forgotten that I still had it on. Cry me a river, cowboys.

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  10. The governor of Tx decided that mask thing. Certainly not 'all Texans'. Please don't lump the entire state into one derogatory bucket. I would think you know better.

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  11. Some bardolator is probably going to point out that it's "to gild refined gold, to paint the lily" (King John: IV, ii).

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  12. It's interesting to me to note the lineup of metaphorical nodding heads greeting this post. Obviously, it's a small sample, but it doesn't surprise me that the reasonable approach to the current situation outlined above is shared by many of the reasonable folks who are EGD fans and commenters.

    I, too, am in the "my sentiments exactly" contingent. Though, to Annie's point, I don't have children, there are certainly plenty of other people who I'd prefer to see sooner rather than later. I'm just not going to try to game the system to put myself in front of anybody more deserving -- and there are plenty who are more deserving, including Annie, I imagine.

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  13. wE must live in a parallel universe. As this Covid 19 progressed and the concern began to show in the huddled masses and panic also showed some sparks, I only said to my friends that I was in no hurry and I was sure my day would come. It did. I got in my doctor's office last week. I'm no healthier (or sicker) than I was last summer.

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  14. Mister S, I had the same outlook as you had. My wife and I signed up at a pharmacy in January. Never heard a peep put of them. So we waited. I figured on waiting for weeks, or months. Then the Cleveland Department of Health signed us up for February 13th. Great! How did THAT happen? Simple. They robo-called all the seventysomethings in town. A snap...and a relief.

    And then...a week before our appointments, the Plague clocked both of us. I had it worse than she did. Believe me, it's something you do not want to experience. A month later, and we are just starting to feel human again. But we still got our first shots last Saturday, from the city, and we'll get the second ones on the 27th. A heads-up: They make you feel lousy the next day, so don't make any plans.

    You wrote: "I've been safe so far this past year, and I figure I can make it until April or May or whenever it's coming." In these dark times, you can't assume anything, make plans that far ahead, or figure you'll dodge the bullet with your name on it until the war ends. Hell, no. Not in this war.

    I worked at Habitat for eight straight months, after they re-opened last June. Nobody got sick there, all summer and fall. Then my boss got whacked in November, and was out for a month, and came back looking like hell. I shrugged it off. Then I came home sick on February 6th. Others got sick as well, and Habitat had to close down again. Ironically, we just got our e-mails from the pharmacy this week...AFTER we'd been sick and AFTER we'd received our shots. Go figure, huh?

    During my several weeks of illness, I was still able to re-read a couple of non-fiction books (by Stephen Ambrose) about the combat infantrymen who fought their way across Europe in the final year of WWII. It was a lot more horrible than most people realize. The books and movies have sanitized most of the blood and the nature of combat deaths.

    What does any of that have to do with the Plague, you ask? Well, I read about tough veterans who survived winter cold and incredible misery and even hand-to-hand combat, only to be knocked off in the closing days and weeks of the war by some fanatical teen-aged Hitler Youth sniper who refused to lay down his weapon.

    That's what Covid is, Mister S. It's the sniper who will get you, just when you think you've survived this war. It's not over by any means, shot or no shot, mask or no mask. Stay vigilant and stay safe. Don't let your guard down, and don't figure on anything. You can still get very sick..or even die...before April or May. Especially at sixty.

    This wheezing survivor thinks we have at least six more months of combat left. Especially now that the goddam Texans are acting like idiots again. Zei gesunt, Mister S...live and be well.

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    1. Whoa! Grizz. Sorry to hear all that. I got it in August. My cop friend next door had it in may. He's part of a serology study at northwestern. His antibodies dissapeared this month. Hope I still have mine. Don't want it again. Specially since I haven't regained my strength yet. Arms and legs have no endurance. Worked to get strength back but only short bursts are available. In the morning. Then I'm shot for the day. Brain works better. But not well. Lungs are fine thankfully. But now there are new strains. Such a slog. Make my money with my back. Out in the sewer every day. Not the plan I had for my dotage.

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  15. I cannot endure running the multiple sign up for a vax appointment sites on a non stop basis. I want the vax. I need the vax. (71, a porcine heart valve. My gadabout hubby, lol). But, geez. Better chance of winning the lottery than landing an appointment. Only folks I know who managed to get the jab were called by somebody who knew somebody who found out there was a set up giving shots "over there" for one or two days. Folks driving like mad to get there....so. My fingers crossed. My dr calls someday and asks do I want the vax.

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