I just got the coronavirus vaccine because of some weird national system that seems to give preference to people who are already half-dead. I don’t mean to be morbid or ungrateful, but at 69, statistically speaking, the vaccine will probably allow me to exist only through the first Kamala Harris administration. If they gave it to an infant, we are talking about 80 years. How does this make sense? It’s like one of those nonsensical ethical conundrums popular in thumb-sucking liberal-arts college philosophy classes: If given a choice, do you save the mother of 12 children, or the single doctor who is on the verge of curing cancer? YOU SAVE THE DOCTOR, MORON. The mom is an irresponsible idiot, anyway. Who has 12 children?
However. I am glad I got the shot. It was not easy. My girlfriend and I were doing a crossword puzzle online when I got an email alert that 1,500 shots were instantly available in the District of Columbia. Without any regard for my self-respect, she elbowed me off the computer — she is younger than I am and way faster at the keyboard — and completed the questionnaire requesting a shot without once consulting me, as though she were filling out a veterinary form for a dog. Exactly 40 seconds after hitting “Enter,” and learning I had an appointment, I got another email saying all spots were filled.
This is not a sane system, obviously. It filled me with joy, but also guilt. I was jonesing for the shot — like a lot of people, I had vaccine envy. It is not admirable. The Germans probably have a word for it. Call it shottennfreude.
A friend of mine, a pharmacist in a hospital, got the vaccine just four days after it became available, because she was, in essence, a first responder, a heroic person, a good person and extremely deserving of front-of-the-line placement, and I hated her, which filled me with self-loathing.
As a Jewish guy, I feel guilt all the time, even for things no sane person would feel guilty about, such as having nipples that I selfishly do not use for infant nutritional sustenance. Bogarting one of the scarce doses of the vaccine in a store filled with young people, who had to go about their business as yet unprotected, made me uneasy. The only guy older than me was getting the shot too. He was in his mid-70s, frail-looking and suicidal. I know that because he was talking quite openly about it with the guy who drove him there, who was the pastor of his church. I know this is not funny, but I am telling you this for two reasons: The first is, it was an act of extraordinary pastoral grace that brought tears to my eyes. As we sat together in the waiting room I was moved enough to interject. “Hang in there,” I said. “We only get one shot at life.”
The second was that as the guy left, and right before I was to get vaccinated, he and I shared a moment. Just a meeting of the eyes. The eyes said, SCORE. I’m pretty sure he learned something about the sanctity of life. I did.
The shot made me a little sick for a couple of days, and I still have to go back for a follow-up later in the month, and that fills me with a particular dread, because my job now is to stay healthy for another six weeks until full immunity kicks in. Huge pressure. Anxiety. I am afraid of choking, like a basketball player who’s made the first of two free throws but still needs to sink the second for the win.
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