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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?

Butterfly’s Echo

              Recently, we took Butterfly in for her six month echocardiogram. When we adopted her at the end of 2012, she was diagnosed with a heart problem that could, potentially, develop into congestive heart failure. I worry each time she coughs, because the original vet told me that coughing could be a sign of heart failure. And I worry about the lumps and bumps on her skin, because I don’t want to assume that something is benign and then find out that I left a tumor growing inside of my baby until it was too late. I just can’t believe that she is as healthy as she seems.

Butterfly's First Day Home

Butterfly’s First Day Home

The echocardiograms are subsidized by the shelter where we adopted her, and they also cover her wellness visits, so we scheduled both at the same time.

We took her for her 10:30 AM appointment and she was seen almost immediately by the cardiologist. He said, basically, that her prolapsed valve was a tiny bit worse, but she had no signs of congestive heart failure. I told him how much she had improved since November: she can run, and jump, and stand straight up on her back legs, to beg for food. He just smiled and patted her head, and the appointment was over.

When we asked at the front desk about Butterfly’s wellness visit, they said she was scheduled for 12:45 PM, in two hours, so not at the same time, as we’d been told. We were wondering if we should go home for lunch and come back, but the woman at the desk said there was only one dog ahead of us and it would be a short wait.

We sat on the wooden benches against the walls of the waiting room, which were comfortable for the first twenty minutes, and then not. Butterfly was stunned from her ordeal. She still had goop on her belly from the test, and she was almost dead weight in my arms again, the way she’d been way back when we first adopted her. I held her on my lap and gave her scratches and talked to her. We tried the dog cookies they had in a jar on the counter, but she wasn’t interested. I hadn’t thought to bring chicken treats with me.

I felt awful leaving Cricket home alone. Cricket found it shocking herself. But she didn’t need to sit in a waiting room swirling with various diseases. And, as we sat there waiting, I was relieved to have left her home, because she would have been barking her head off.

My poor lonely Cricket

My poor lonely Cricket

The waiting room was full. There were a lot of newly adopted puppies getting their shots or being treated for kennel cough. There was a Cocker Spaniel with a big, red growth on his ear and a cone on his head to keep him from biting it, again. And there was an Australian Cattle Dog mix, named Bandit, who jumped up and shed all over me and gave me kisses. He had epilepsy and was there to get more medication for his seizures. It was an odd coincidence, because I’d just been told that my abnormal EEG could mean that I was having partial seizures. I tried to ask Bandit what it felt like to have epilepsy, but he was too busy giving me kisses.

An hour along, Butterfly was back to full strength and up to visiting the other dogs, and peeing on the floor, but Mom was getting antsy. She went up to the front desk to ask when we’d be going in and they told her there had been twelve emergencies, and they all took precedence over a wellness visit. But, the woman at the desk told her, there was only one more dog ahead of us.

Our choices were to believe her and stay, or be circumspect, reschedule the appointment, and go home. I really wanted to take Butterfly to Cricket’s vet instead, but it was so much more expensive. The shelter’s medical care was subsidized, so instead of paying $350 for an echo, we paid $50 and there was no charge for her wellness visit. We decided to wait.

There was a pug in the waiting room with her dad, and she was there for an echo too. She already had congestive heart failure and took daily meds to help control it, but her dad said that if he saw her trying to run after a squirrel in the yard, he’d run screaming, “No!” because if she exerts herself too much, she faints.

I felt guilty, and lucky, that my Butterfly wasn’t in her situation, yet.

After the pug left, more puppies came in for their shots, including two white toy poodles, with their ears died pink and blue to identify which one was the boy and which one was the girl.

The long wait was starting to get to me, but I felt guilty for complaining when all of these other dogs were coming in with emergencies, and I wasn’t paying much for help. I do okay with feeling worthy of care when I’m alone, but when it feels like someone else might need things more than I do, I struggle. I almost lose track of myself, and disappear. I couldn’t force myself to go up to the front desk and ask about Butterfly’s appointment, even after two hours, and then three. I left it to Mom to be the assertive one.

It’s been a relief to see Butterfly finding her voice lately. She barks when her sister leaves the room, or when she thinks she’s missing something exciting. She demands attention and expresses frustration when it is not forthcoming. I wanted this for her, but I’m not the one who taught her, Cricket did. Maybe I can get Cricket to give me lessons too.

My assertive girls

My assertive girls

By the time we went in for the wellness visit, we’d been in the waiting room for four hours, and when the general veterinarian looked at Butterfly’s chart, she found out that she only needed one booster; the rest weren’t due until November.

Since we were there anyway, I took the opportunity to point out to the vet all of the various lumps and bumps on Butterfly’s skin. She did a needle aspiration on the largest lump and showed me how the pus came up through the needle. It was a sebaceous cyst, she said, and nothing to worry about.

We were done within minutes of stepping into the examining room. We were exhausted, and starving, but relieved.

When we finally got home, Cricket was crazed and jumping all over us as if we’d been gone for months. She sniffed Butterfly for signs of where she’d been and then carefully sniffed my pant leg for the smells of other dogs, of which there were many. My clothes, covered in dog hair, went straight into the laundry basket and I went into the shower. After we’d all calmed down and eaten a late lunch, we settled down for a nap. Butterfly fell asleep at my side right away, but Cricket ran back and forth from Mom’s room to mine every few minutes, to sniff her sister for signs of where she’d been, still shocked that Butterfly had dared to go on an exciting adventure without her mentor.

Butterfly and her suspicious mentor

Butterfly and her suspicious mentor