6/02/2021
Half-triumphant

I had a long essay planned about yesterday.

It was going to start with events from a few days before, from Saturday morning, when I had some blood work done, and more attempts at small talk with the lab technicians who was getting my samples. It would weave through conversations I've had with people over the past few weeks, and of course, it would include a lot of my thoughts (not that you need more of them) on the matter. And then, on to yesterday morning, from the bleachers to the queues, to even more small talk, and then, perhaps, a half-triumphant ending.

Instead, I'll only talk about breakfast with Shalla yesterday morning.

I was dropping her off work. She's returning to the office for the first time in fifteen months. We were going to go to the drive-thru, but can she bring outside food in? You don't know with these regulations. We ate at the one open place that offers breakfast - a Dunkin', because all but one Tim Hortons open from seven in the morning now, rather than being, in some cases, open all day and all night.

The plan was, once I drop her off, I go straight home - not to the flat, but to the place I've called home all my life. From there, my mother would bring me to this sports arena just a few minutes away. I would drive there myself, but we all figured there's no parking. From there, I'll get on the queue for my first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Inevitably, Shalla and I talked about the vaccine, but I was getting animated, and she asked me to lower my voice. Well, that reason, and another.

"Others might overhear," she said. "You never know if they know someone who died from COVID."

I did. I knew two people. They're not people I knew directly, granted. One's the husband of a colleague. The other's the father of an old friend. I also know, directly, a lot of people who were found positive. I'm sure I've lost count of either statistic.

She does have a point, that said. A good one. As our social media feeds are filled with people showing off their having been vaccinated, we never really think of what those for whom a vaccine came too late are thinking, or feeling. To be fair, most of us can't really imagine it. But then again, some of us got sick even as we tried our hardest to keep distance, to comply with ridiculous regulations, to embrace this so-called "new normal". I don't know. All this is confusing.

One thing I do get is that, almost sixteen months in, we just don't really think about other people anymore. We can claim to do so, but the pandemic has given us an excuse to just really think of ourselves. That is the vibe I get from all these posts about getting vaccinated. Look, I'm free, and you're not! And I got a western vaccine too, because the Chinese ones are bad! Sure, you getting vaccinated protects you from the disease, for the most part, but it still doesn't mean you can get out of this rut we all are in. You still have to keep distance, to comply with ridiculous regulations, to embrace this so-called "new normal". You're not out of the woods. All you did is to make yourself look good, and for what? For the chance to be able to fly back to the United States?

This will sound like government-driven bullshit, but I genuinely believe this: the goal of being inoculated is not to protect you, but to protect all of us. This is why it is important to make sure that we address genuine issues surrounding the rollout of the vaccine. We have to address the logistics, to make sure that everyone in the country - especially those in far-flung towns - can get them as soon as possible. We have to address vaccine hesitancy, by grounding our decisions on the science, and also by letting go of our frankly racist preconceptions. (You know what I'm talking about.) We have to address disinformation by being more critical of anything and everything we read, and by not being ruled by our feelings and biases.

Ultimately, it doesn't matter if you have been vaccinated. If everyone else isn't, your protections are of no use. You can't resume living the life you missed having. Tim Hortons will still open at seven in the morning, rather than all day. Cathay Pacific will still send you useless emails about flights. You'll still have to do events online. You'll still wonder if you'll have a job tomorrow. You'll still wear a fucking face shield. That doesn't make you better than everyone else.

So, nope, you're not getting a long essay about yesterday - although, yes, I know this is already long by most standards. Let me restate that. You're not getting a blow-by-blow account of what happened yesterday. Me talking about getting my first dose does not change the fact that we have a long way to go. Nothing will be changed by you seeing photos of me getting that jab in the arm. (Yes, I do have those photos, and no, I didn't exactly plan to have them. Let's just say the health workers where I lived just instinctively know.) This is merely a half-triumphant ending until everyone gets vaccinated - a reminder that the best vaccine is what's available - and we make sure that the mistakes made during the past almost sixteen months are addressed definitively.

And then remember, even after all this is over - and especially after all this is over - that not everyone made it to the finish line.

And your responses...

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