Pad Life 14: The Joy of Jabbing
Pad Life having become, over the winter, Pad Numbed Existence, it was nice to have a bus ride to the car park at the Mega Tesco. It’s not a car park any more, though. It’s a Hub.
I have views about the fact that everything involving more than two people is now called a Hub. If you too are suffering from the existential darkness of lockdown, you could while away a smidgeon of eternity by following the link at the end of this piece, and finding out Why I Hate Hubs. No hard feelings if you don’t fancy it. I’ll get you next lockdown, when all meaning has gone and you’re admiring the beauty of your toenail clippings by dawn’s early light.
I thought it was a bit unimaginative calling it the Vaccination Hub. If you want to make a collection of grubby marquees a bit more inviting, you could call it the Vaccination Pavilion. Camp Vaccine. The Pinprick Circus. Except in this case the clowns are outside, cramming anti-vax theories into their craniums.
The lovely Volunteer lady at the gate informed me I was to follow the Red Arrow, definitely not the Black Arrow, don’t go that way.
‘What happens if I follow the Black Arrow?’
‘You’re Red Arrow. Do not diverge from your destined path.’
In a gap between tents, I caught sight of the Black Arrow queue. Ordinary people. They looked just like you and me. What cruel fate awaited them, or were they going to get tea and cake afterwards, the bastards?
Masked, sanitised, temperature taken, I declared myself symptom free, recited my name and date of birth, produced my text invitation and confirmation, and shuffled on to the next bit.
It’s so mundane, it’s hard to think you’re getting something that could genuinely be the difference between life and death. I have no time for conspiracy theories except, you know, the obvious ones: Shergar and Lord Lucan are lovers and now live in a condo in Atlantis; the real Melania Trump resides quietly in Bisbee, Arizona, making mittens for Bernie Sanders, while Elon Musk has placed his own consciousness inside the robot that took her place in the White House. (I mean, who could argue? It’s Elon Musk, for God’s sake.) But I do vaguely comprehend why some people insist there is no pandemic. If you are the sort of person for whom nothing exists unless you can touch it yourself (and not always then), only your own illness or the suffering of your loved ones will make you believe. Standing in a muddy marquee in Tesco’s car park, waiting to make the acquaintance of Ms Astra Zeneca or one of her friends, is just simply not pandemicky enough. Where are the zombies? Where are the black buboes oozing foul pus?
The conspiracy lot would have had a field day with the Red and Black arrows. One lot gets the Bill Gates tracker, the other the Jeff Bezos special barcode. With cake.
In the cubicle, I recited everything again and declared myself free of symptoms, acute allergies, involvement with vaccination trials, and any existing trackers or barcodes. My blood thinners are apparently good little blood thinners that won’t take up arms against the vaccine, and there’s nothing else to indicate that me and Astra won’t get on fine.
‘That’s you done, then.’
It took longer for me to wrap myself up again against the snow than it did to get the damn thing.
Intoxicated with the joy of jabbing, I popped in to the Mega Tesco for a pint of milk and a newspaper.
Fifteen minutes later, I tearfully asked a Tesco person, ‘Where are the newspapers, please?’
‘Just behind you, love.’
Fifteen minutes after that: ‘Where is the milk, please?’
‘Just behind you, love.’
I don’t do mega supermarkets at the best of times, and I haven’t been in anything bigger than our high street M&S food hall since last March. There’s something about acres of shelving holding tons of brightly packaged stuff that scrambles my brain. In normal times I poddle round a moderately sized Sainsbury’s that can’t be arsed to change its layout every couple of months, so I’m able to put my hand on a tin of beans or a banana with no problem. In the mega stores, the groceries take the piss, nipping round corners and sneaking along behind me until I ask someone for directions, when they jump on to the nearest shelf so that the shop person can say ‘Just behind you, love’ and contemplate informing someone I’m out on my own.
It’s at times like this I think my very bright red winter coat with the shiny buttons is maybe a bit too memorable. A friend of mine calls me The Wandering Traffic Light. ‘Why can’t you have a padded anorak like everyone else?’ ‘Because I’ll look like the Michelin man.’ ‘I love you, you know that,’ he avers, ‘but you are naturally Michelin anyway.’ ‘Maybe, but Michelin with panache.’
So that was my day out. I got jabbed in the arm with a needle and punked by vicious retail items. Also, I actually had a conversation with someone, from either end of the bench at the bus stop. Unfortunately it started out by the other end saying, ‘You had that jab? I wouldn’t have that jab. I wouldn’t trust it,’ but, you know, it was words unfiltered by technology that weren’t, ‘Do you need a bag?’ or ‘Do you want your receipt?’ When my bus came I paused with one foot on the step, turned to him and said, ‘You must have the vaccine, for only then can you choose the Red Arrow,’ before sweeping my bright red coat inside and presenting my bus pass with - of course - panache. From the window, I saw him looking at me with uncertainty in his eyes, before he turned to gaze at the entrance to Camp Vaccine.
My work here is done. Watch out for the Red Arrow conspiracy theory, on why having the vaccine is the only way to enlightenment, coming soon to an unregulated social media platform near you.
Ah well, back to Numbed Existence. Or maybe not, now I’ve got Astra and Bill and Jeff on my side. Whatever the vaccine brings, I hope it includes cake.
If you're interested, Hubs are here: Castle Pillock 10 | ABCtales