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Waiting for the Vaccine

            Last weekend, my boss sent out a text to all of the teachers in the synagogue school with a phone number to call in order to get on the waiting list for the Covid vaccine in our area. The peer pressure to call right away was enormous, with all of the dings on my phone as texts came in from other teachers who’d been on hold for fifty minutes, fifty-five minutes, seventy minutes…

“Can we go for our walk first?”

            I put it off for a little while, because I was busy doing something else, and because I hate making phone calls, and waiting on hold brings up all of my social anxiety because I’m afraid I’ll forget what I called to say by the time someone finally answers. But I finally did it. I sat on hold for eighty minutes, getting other work done that didn’t require too much attention, keeping a notebook close by to remind me what information I meant to convey and why I was even calling to begin with.


            I felt awkward when I finally got through, because I always feel awkward on the phone. I’m afraid I’m going to misunderstand the questions asked of me, or lie unintentionally, or get myself in trouble in some way. My biggest fear with this particular call was that, as an after school Hebrew teacher, I shouldn’t really be identifying myself as a teacher, because I’m not all that essential, even though I do teach kids in person once a week, just not every day.

            I ended up chatting with the operator, a mom from Florida with a seven year old son in virtual classes, for ten minutes. She told me about her son’s second grade teacher, who had also taught her two older kids, and usually decorated the classroom but this year she couldn’t, but she’d managed to adapt to teaching online and she is saving my life. I asked if she could put my mother on the waiting list too, because Mom is over seventy-five and therefore also in group 1B, and she asked if my mom has any pre-existing conditions, other than boredom. I told her that Mom is busier than I am, with all of her Zoom groups, and that my great aunt (105 years old) is keeping busy too, but she just got her appointment, and the operator said that once this is over we should all go on a cruise to celebrate, because it’s been such a trying time for the older people who haven’t been able to hang with their girls all year. Then she told me about a time she went to the store and suddenly felt naked, and realized she’d forgotten her mask in the car.

            Basically, I made a new friend. And I was proud of myself for having done the grown up thing, the responsible thing, and signed me and Mom up on the waiting list for the vaccine. I was so relieved and proud of myself that I actually felt like I deserved my three hour nap in the aftermath (usually I still take the nap, but I feel guilty about it).

“Naps are ALWAYS good.”

            By Monday, though, the teacher text chain was buzzing again. Individual teachers had found different websites where you could actually make appointments to get the vaccine. Try here! No, try here! But hurry! Hurry!

            But, what was my ninety minute ordeal for over the weekend? What about my big grown up accomplishment? Was I really supposed to sign up in a whole new location? Then someone texted that we’d need proof that we’re teachers, and would our paystubs be enough? I hadn’t even thought about that.

            The dings from the texts just kept coming, so I went to one of the websites, but when it asked if I was a teacher it specifically asked, are you a P-12 teacher or do you work in a school district, and I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to answer. There was no option for after school Hebrew school, and I knew I didn’t work in a school district, but did I qualify as a P-12 teacher? I had no idea.

            I was so afraid of getting into trouble that I didn’t finish the form, even though the website link had been sent by my boss, who certainly knows what kind of teachers we are. I was afraid of jumping ahead in line before it was really my turn. And I was afraid of getting an appointment at a distant vaccination site and finally getting there and handing over my pay stub and being told, in front of the real essential workers, that I was a fraud.

            But I also felt guilty for NOT pushing to get the vaccine appointment, because I was failing in my duty to be a responsible adult and get vaccinated as soon as possible, to protect my students and fellow teachers, and Mom, and everyone I come in contact with.

“Am I going to get sick too?”
“Don’t be silly.”

            Once Mom woke up from her nap, I told her about the website and the question that tripped me up and she said, Duh, of course you’re a P-12 teacher. Well, she probably didn’t say “Duh,” but I heard it anyway.

            A few hours later I got an email from the original waiting list, telling me where to go to make an appointment (a different website than either of the ones mentioned on the text thread), but all of the appointments were taken and I was told to keep checking in case new appointments were added.

            It’s not clear to me why this is being run as survival of the fittest (or most persistent), rather than genuinely being organized by the priorities already set in place. Why are there still health care workers who haven’t been vaccinated yet? Why was the age range lowered to sixty-five, rather than seventy-five, at the last minute, if we’re still so low on doses and appointments? Will the list of people who end up with appointments even resemble the original priorities stated by the CDC? Or will it prioritize the people with the right contacts or the most patience, and free time, to sit on hold?

            I’m told that in other states, where they’re struggling to convince people to take the vaccine at all, you can just walk in at the last minute without an appointment. I’ve also heard that only five hundreds doses were sent to Long Island to begin with, which would explain why it’s so hard to get an appointment out here in the first place.

            Meanwhile, the reports on Covid cases and Covid deaths are now in horror movie range, with over four thousand deaths in one day, and hospitalizations continue to rise so that in a few weeks the four thousand a day number will seem miniscule.

            And people are still refusing to wear masks in crowded indoor spaces (Congress people?! Police officers?!) And there are new, more contagious Covid variants, and forget about the insurrection at the Capitol building, and constant threats of more violence there and at state capitols across the country.

            Why can’t I just hide in my room until it’s over? My fellow teachers keep ding ding dinging with new vaccine locations, and cancelled appointments, and my email and Facebook feed are full of the hurry hurry hurry, but I’m not up to fighting for my spot in line. Except, I’m worried that, the way things are going, we will all be infected with the latest Covid variant which will inevitably make us into zombies, all before we get enough doses of vaccine on the Island. But that’s crazy, right? I mean, we’ll all be fine. Right?

“Uh oh.”

If you haven’t had a chance yet, please check out my Young Adult novel, Yeshiva Girl, on Amazon. And if you feel called to write a review of the book, on Amazon, or anywhere else, I’d be honored.

            Yeshiva Girl is about a Jewish teenager on Long Island, named Isabel, though her father calls her Jezebel. Her father has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with one of his students, which he denies, but Izzy implicitly believes it’s true. As a result of his problems, her father sends her to a co-ed Orthodox yeshiva for tenth grade, out of the blue, and Izzy and her mother can’t figure out how to prevent it. At Yeshiva, though, Izzy finds that religious people are much more complicated than she had expected. Some, like her father, may use religion as a place to hide, but others search for and find comfort, and community, and even enlightenment. The question is, what will Izzy find?

About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

82 responses »

  1. Welcome to December 47, 2020. The year that will never end.

  2. Finally! So lloking forward to the return of normalcy, even if it’s not totally.

  3. You can lighten up on yourself. They don’t know yet whether you can still pass on the virus to others after completing the vaccination series. This hasn’t yet been tested. It will protect you, but they don’t know if it will protect others.

  4. I cannot and will not stay at the computer 24/7 just to get an appointment. They open slots and they are snapped up within an hour! That’s crazy. And now Florida has used up its allotted vaccines so no more until….when? I’ll just continue staying home with the cats.

  5. It is confusing, frustrating and stressful. We need to be patient and hope things will turn around before too many more die Such a sad, disturbing time in our country now.

  6. I understand the confusion! Nothing is as simple as what we think. It’s baffling why people refuse to wear a mask 😷 …is about their ego or rights? Happy weekend & good luck!!

  7. Fortunately, my experience was less traumatic. Waiting for my second shot.

  8. It will all work out. Keep your place in line… and let’s trust that the vaccination will do what it is designed to do. ❤ But first, we have to be willing to get the vaccine put into our arms. I'm on the list for the next 100 doses that come to our little town.

  9. LA County is still dealing with horrific numbers. Our county is hug of course. They just opened Dodger stadium with 4,000 vaccines given yesterday and supposed to be operating at 12,000 a day within a few days. I have no idea how to get on the list. Getting to the stadium is beyond my driving abilities. At least 5 freeways and an hour plus is not OK for my arthritis, nor my freeway anxiety. I am 10 minutes from San Bernadino County and 10 minutes from Orange County. I don’t think I am allowed to go to a close vaccination station. It is so worrisome for us all. Good luck getting in and getting it done.

  10. Except for not being a teacher, I feel like I could have written this post. I wish I understood more how the vaccines are being appropriated across the country, for starters. When my turn comes, I will get one, only because I want to be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem. My friend, I would be pulling my hair out trying to do what you’re trying to do to get on the list, and since I’m a homebody anyhow, I feel like I can wait until others who are more susceptible are taken care of first!

  11. Because my wife works in a Doctor’s practice, she is being vaccinated next Thursday, even though she is only 60. I checked on the government website, and my age group (68) is due to be called in late March.
    They are claiming here that everyone will be vaccinated ‘By late Autum’. So I suppose we can completely write off 2021.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  12. It is an odd system. I haven’t tried getting an appointment because I know I’ll be in the lowest priority group. I’ve also been reading that people allergic to sulfa drugs have been having more allergic reactions to the vaccine, and I am allergic to sulfa, so we’ll see what makes sense.
    One thing that is interesting is watching people who’d normally be at the front of the line deal with being in the back. I have a couple fellow Corporate America office co-workers joking about how they should get jobs in a warehouse or in food services for a few months so they can be considered essential. They were joking, but it was uncomfortable.

  13. I’m glad you and your mom are signed up! I had my first dose (should have my second next week) and I’m anxiously looking forward to when my parents can get theirs.

  14. Still waiting is right. Still not sure I’m going to get it though. Heard to many things about Pfizer and Moderna Vaccines.

  15. This is a complicated world. You are undoubtedly coping as well as anyone can. ❤

  16. For some reason this didn’t come into my reader Rachel so I don’t know if I’m following you or not! I should be!!!
    We have to wait for an official invite from the NHS for our vaccine jabs. At the moment it looks like Hubby and I will be at different times as he’s already 65 and I won’t be until May. That is of course IF they remember to send us the paperwork in the first pace. Keep safe.

  17. ” there still health care workers who haven’t been vaccinated yet?”
    One of several excellent questions you pose.
    I’d like to hide in my room, too, so don’t feel bad.
    Shavuah Tov,

  18. I feel your pain on this. I was supposed to be early even though I am only 62 because I have underlying health issues. Now they have bumped me back to the next group with no real explanation. I have to wait for all essential workers and all group home settings, including prisons & jails in Illinois. Luckily, I am able to stay at home so the only hardship is I want my vaccine so I can go see my grandkids. Stay safe & be calm. Someday we will get back to a “new” normal.

  19. I still haven’t gotten mine and I am a nurse. I probably won’t. I fit into the sceptical category as I am not sure I trust it. Thanks for sharing about your social phobia. I have it too. I have been fighting it all my life. I think most of us do, it is just that most of us don’t talk about it so openly like you. Thanks for sharing.

  20. Hopefully this “survival of the fittest” nonsense will change in a few days! As someone who is on an immunosuppressant, I’m very eager for the vaccine myself.

  21. That resonated with me, I hate making phone calls. I know plenty of people who will come home, see a letter has arrived that requires action and they are on the phone before they have even taken their coat off. While I will just write ‘phone about electrics / plumbing / vaccination…’ on my list of things to do.

  22. Well, I don’t know. I don’t have practical wisdom to offer (or impose). Five hundred doses for Long Island sounds impossible. It sounds impossible for Harrisburg, near where I live. I get the CDC newsletter, where I’ve read about receiving notification from the state. The state has sent general notices that don’t include how to get vaccines unless I’m of such-and-such an age or have such-and-such a condition. Until we have extraordinary amounts and numbers of vaccine available, our governments should make it possible for us to hide under our beds.

  23. First, you girls look so pretty with your lovely grooms. Just had to say that.
    Rachel, you’re doing the right thing. Sounds to me like you’re the calm, sane one in the group!

  24. Sounds frustrating! I also hate making phone calls! That’s not because I’m afraid of talking to people. I think it’s a weird product of spending so many years in customer service talking to people?

  25. This sounds so frustrating particularly when you have been told to book an appointment. It’s a numbers thing as we all don’t really appreciate the scale of the process that’s being undertaken. We’ve had text messages from our health centre saying, you’ll be told when to book an appointment, don’t call us. You can imagine the frustration for the staff there too. Your girls are looking particularly fine at the moment. I hope Cricket is well too after her episode! Good luck with the appointment and do let us know if you’re successful.

  26. Glad you have your cute pups to cuddle with while you wait! ❤️

  27. We do not have the vaccine here in Australia yet – well we do but it is not being administered until mid February sometime. I never took the flui vaccine and I am a tar wary about this one but I suspect I’ll be talked round and get the jab.

  28. This helped Also, I deleted my Facebook account and haven’t looked back ^_^

  29. Nice job on getting the appointments made!!! I too felt so happy that I was able to get my mom signed up when I called for myself…such a great feeling. Perhaps we’ll treat ourselves to going to an actual, in-person movie (masked, socially distanced, of course) a week or two after the second dose! 😄

  30. No, I don’t think it is crazy, and “fine” might have a new definition, just like “normal” does. 🙂

  31. thank you so much, cute dog, lovely,

  32. I get so uncomfortable on the phone, too! It’s so stressful.

  33. Oh Rachel, I had no idea things were so chaotic. You are a star for holding on that phone so long. Your bladder is better than mine!

  34. Maybe if you envision your strategy for finding a way to get the vaccine s similar to your intuitive knack to write, you might have better success in accomplishing the former matter.


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