Second Covid Vaccine

My second Covid vaccination was off to a bad start. The day before my appointment I received a voicemail that my appointment had to be changed. While I had been told to appear at 8:30 am, the facility doesn’t open until 9:00! Worried about postponement or cancelation, I kept my phone by my side for the rest of the day, waiting for Kaiser to phone me back. They did, at 6:30 that evening.

“Sorry, but we have to cancel your appointment for tomorrow morning,” a voice announced.

“No, you can’t, “ I screamed.

“Don’t worry, we’re rescheduling you for 9:15 the same day,” the voice reassured. “And you’re not the only person who had screamed,” the voice continued. “Most people do. Everybody’s excited about the second shot.”

Relieved, I went about my evening, looking forward to the following morning. I don’t know how much in my life will actually change in the next few weeks, but receiving the second vaccine is certainly a milestone, especially since Dr. Fauci has said that we will probably achieve herd immunity earlier than we thought.

The next morning, I left quite early for my appointment, but when I arrived at Kaiser, the entire parking lot was already full, and I had to search for a parking place on the street. After finding one quite a few blocks away, I scurried over to the site—I didn’t want to miss my slot—made my way through the crowd to more of a bulge than a line, found a spot, and asked the person ahead of me, “What time is your appointment?”

“Nine twenty,” he replied.

“Mine’s at 9:30,” the woman behind spoke up.

I looked about for organizers, but didn’t see any. Then I scanned the area for Kaiser representatives. I didn’t see any of them either. Just a bulge of a line of people, some slumped, others standing erect and looking hopeful. When I looked at my watch, it was 9:17.

“Ladies and gentleman,” called a voice floating over the area, “I have to admit that things are chaotic here.” I discovered that the voice belonged to a man who had climbed onto a structural support to address the crowd. “It’s because we had to reschedule so many exams. All I can do is apologize, and ask you to be patient.”

Vague grumbling from the crowd, along with a few clear expressions of disapproval. “Guess we have no choice,” the man ahead of me said, to no one in particular.

“Guess we don’t,” I seconded.

The crowd quieted down again and we recommenced our waiting. I was near the end of the bulge, and decided to inquire about the appointment times of a few new people in line around of me. Their appointments ranged from 9:10 to 9:45. What was the line about anyway, I wondered, except that we are all waiting?

A few minutes later, the same man who had spoken earlier, made an announcement: “We’re going to abandon appointment times. Everybody in this line should have an appointment between nine and ten o’clock. If your appointment is from ten o’clock on, please move away.”

A moan rose from the crowd, but quickly subsided. After all, there was nothing we could do! As I surveyed the scene, I figured I had at least an hour to wait and would have to cancel my 11:00 appointment. Which I did. Then grumpily I settled in to wait.

For some reason, I cannot remember how, the man ahead of me and I began a conversation. He was a nice-looking man of around 60 at most, slim, with a shock of black hair tinged with gray. I noticed the worn moccasins on his feet, and thought for a moment about my father, who always wore moccasins on his boat.

The man and I–I never learned his name—began talking about cooking. It turned out we both love to cook. Within minutes we were exchanging recipes. I told him about my cast- iron roasted chicken recipe, and he shared his no-knead foccia, as well as his sour-dough waffle recipes. After a bit, we shifted to our favorite East Bay restaurants, discovering we had many in common. Imagine talking about restaurants when neither of us had eaten in one in over 11 months! At some point, Indian cuisine came up, and it turned out to be a shared favorite. We went so far as to discuss our favorite dishes. Imagine, standing in line for my second Covid vaccine, the stranger in line ahead of me and I bonded over Indian cuisine!

As we spoke, the line began moving. And as we continued sharing our stories, the line moved more and more quickly. Until at least the two of us were at the head, where he was directed to one vaccination room, while I was directed to another.

We quickly slipped into our respective rooms, and that was the last I saw of him, the handsome stranger who loved to cook, and who shared my passion for Indian cuisine. A stranger still, whose name remains unknown, but whose favorite recipes are now mine. All because of Covid.

Berkeley Sidewalk


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