10 months in virtual isolation, seeing almost no one, going to no concerts, no theater, no restaurants, no crowds. I’ve masked and gloved up wherever I have gone, which has been the grocery store, drug store, and some select doctor appointments that were inconsistent with video, such as podiatry. No gatherings with anyone but my Bubble Buddies ( a closed group of 4 of us who do everything together). I postponed holiday travel in spite of depression and loneliness from not seeing my son in 19 months, my sister in 16 months, and the rest of my family in 2 years, all in an effort to avoid contracting the deadliest disease to attack us in 100 years.
So how do I end up shoulder to shoulder for 9 hours with 300 people at a super spreader event? Well, I went to get vaccinated against COVID is what I did, like the responsible citizen I am.
1000 people showed up at a shopping center where a tiny health center that had been allotted 300 vaccine doses was located. My Bubble Buddy friend and I were among the last 30 before the supply of 300 registration papers was exhausted. We were told that as long as we had the numbered registration paper, we would receive the vaccine, and could leave the line and return later. Some did leave, but not enough to put a dent in the massive crowd. Three hours later, having moved up the line about 10 yards, I looked around and took stock of the situation.
The last time I was in a line of that magnitude, I was entering an outside arena to see a Rascal Flatts concert. Except for mask-wearing, every single preventive protocol was being violated. In this vaccination bound crowd, 6 inches and less replaced the accepted social distancing norm of 6 feet. Everyone was talking to one another, understandable, considering we have been cooped up and isolated for the better part of a year. It was a helpful group, everyone holding each other’s snack bags while helping to push their neighbors’ lawn chairs forward. With bare hands. As mentioned above, as far as I could determine, 99+% of the attendees were wearing masks. However, although some people can withstand 8 hours without food, most cannot go without hydration for that length of time, so the masks had to come off at regular intervals, for food and drink. Who knows how many COVID germs lurked in the atmosphere, waiting for those opportunities to fly through the air and grab onto our vulnerable lungs? Hand washing was of course impossible, but I did not observe anyone using hand sanitizer either.
It would be remiss of me to discount the kindness of strangers, even if those strangers were potentially spreading COVID like a child’s bubble-blowing event. Although I do walk up to 20 miles a week, as I have documented in a previous blog (https://talktimewithjoan.com/?s=THE+WALKING+QUEEN), I do so with a cane because my illnesses have left me somewhat wobbly. Thus, even though my legs are super strong from all the walking, no one else knew that, so every time I got up from a short respite in the chair my friend brought for us to share, I felt strangers’ arms and hands around me in an attempt to help me. I was touched by more people in 8 hours than I have been in the last 8 months.
The ridiculous irony of this situation was not lost on anyone, as I heard more than one person remark throughout the day that we were participating in a Super Spreader Event. One that rivaled the Spring Breakers who overran Fort Lauderdale Beaches last spring, I thought. Just not as pretty, toned, and tanned.
And so it went from the time we entered the line at 8 am until both my friend and I were vaccinated, observed for 15 minutes, and sent on our way at 5:15 pm. Talking, touching, bumping, and spreading germs of every variety, including, most probably COVID, all in an attempt to protect ourselves.