SPEWING NONSENSE


I was “stuck” with the greeter role at the vaccination clinic, meaning I stood at the entrance, greeted people, told them they needed a second mask, unless they were wearing an N95 or a KN95, then sent them to the registration desk. Sometimes, I got to pick my job, otherwise, I go where assigned. But any volunteer job deserves to be done well.

I am best at looking at a VAR—Vaccine Administration Record—asking the patient to confirm date of birth with the record and their vaccination card, note the usual two prior vaccines dates (occasionally one, rarely none these days), check that with the VAR, make sure the VAR is legible, write in below the date of the booster or first/second shot, make sure the signature is present, with no comments about “duress,” which will require a new form to be filled out, the yes/no questions have been answered and the yes addressed, if I think they need addressing.  

I then say “Moderna-Moderna-Moderna” or “Pfizer-Pfizer-Pfizer” or whatever their three shots consisted of, and tell them they are ready to move to the vaccinator. It takes me less than a minute. I am a mis-matcher, meaning I tend to find what is out of place, what doesn’t fit, rather than what fits. I’ve probably dealt with upwards of three thousand people by now, and I occasionally rewrite the name, change a date, and very rarely make them a new card.  I am slow to grasp new concepts, but once I have them, I hang on to them and get good at doing them.

At the door, there isn’t nearly as much to do. The days of a crowd at the door with different appointment times, walk-ins, and other issues that had to be addressed are no more. But there are still other issues, like one guy’s saying, after I handed him a mask to put on, “the next thing they will require is to shrink wrap my body.”

I wanted to say, “No, only your head.”  As he walked in, I did reply that the omicron variant had an R almost as bad as measles, adding, “for those of us who have had measles and know what being real sick means.” I remember the dark room I was in back in 1956 when I was ill with it. 

In the early afternoon, a tall man accompanied his client, whatever that meant, who was getting his Moderna booster. The tall person, probably late 20s, looked at me and said, “Why are you spewing this nonsense?”

At first I thought he was kidding, but he wasn’t.  He repeated himself. I told him that a second mask was the rule, and he interrupted:

“So, are you in the medical field?”  Bad question.

“Why yes, I am a retired physician.”  Time for him to be taken aback.

“What specialty?”  The guy didn’t quit.

“Neurology.”  I then looked up at the next couple of people who were coming to the door.

“Why are you spewing such nonsense?” I let that one go. Ben Franklin said, “a fanatic is a person who won’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.” My father told me, “Don’t get into a pissing contest with a skunk.”

That encounter is why when my wife worked as greeter the next day, she had a radio for security. We are volunteers and work where we are told, but we shouldn’t have to put up with angry frustrated people who don’t like the pandemic, don’t like masks, shots, rules or regulations, without easy access to security, should we feel threatened. It is part of our job to try to help, but we are not there to get into arguments with those who don’t believe in Covid, masks, vaccines, or that the sun rises because the Earth is turning. I am there to help people get what they came for. My job additionally is to make the experience as good as possible by being friendly, helpful, efficient, and what I try to do every day, problem solve and make their vaccination happen if it is at all possible and legal. I am very pleased that I have discovered several who needed a full shot of Moderna rather than the half shot booster, because they were immunosuppressed and it hadn’t been noticed before they came to me.  If one asks me what booster they should have, I tell them it is their choice, not mine. The mRNA vaccines are really supposed to be a three shot regimen.  If, however, I say to one who is getting their third Moderna that I had three Moderna shots, they often ask me what the third was like. I tell them. The second knocked me flat 24 hours later, and after the third, I waited for the shoe to drop, and it never did. They appreciate hearing that.

Maybe three or four times, I get into a conversation with someone, should I have time. One man brought his bicycle wheel into the clinic, and we talked about cycling. A car from Colorado with USMC on the plates turned out to be a delightful couple who met in the service. There are usually one or two people I see a day whom I think I would enjoy knowing them outside the clinic. I’ve seen a state representative, the son of a prominent person in town, three members of the Crew, a wife of another, three neighbors, and a few members of the Club.  A county supervisor came by, profusely thanking us.

I told one of the vaccinators about my experience as the purported spewer of nonsense. He told me that in one place in the country, someone came in and started throwing punches, sending a person to the hospital. I told him I have worried about other things much worse, and everybody knows what I am talking about. This is America, after all. I try not to think about those other things.

The week after next, Oregon Health Authority takes over, and the public health group will be doing testing. I’m not sure if I will stay for that.  There is a significant risk with a highly infectious virus even with double masking, for those who come to test are far more likely to be infected. I said I would stay for “the duration,” and nearly a year and 74 clinics later, the duration appears to have arrived.

One Response to “SPEWING NONSENSE”

  1. Sally Wilson Says:

    Well done Mike

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