Thursday, December 3, 2009

The War against Swine Flu Begins in Coney Island

Remember a few weeks ago, when I was all gung-ho about the H1N1 vaccine, a veritable cheerleader?? Go Vax! Ra Ra Ra! and all that? That was before I actually tried to do it. I mean, I stand by my position, I just understand now that it is easier said than done, at least if you live in New York, and if you have a kid who’s too little for public school.

In my ongoing effort to avoid complaining and to accentuate the positive (thanks, David for giving me a complex) I would like to offer an alternative title for this post, and that is

How spending all day at the flu clinic allowed me to watch the sunset over Coney

Here’s how it went down:

After a few weeks of calling our pediatrician asking whether they’d procured the swine flu shot, I finally resigned myself to the fact that they were not getting it, at least not before swine flu season was over. I started calling clinics and wellness centers and every other phone number that the website gave me. A lot of the places didn’t have the injection version, which Seconda needs, a lot of the places didn’t have any appointments for a few weeks, and a lot of the places didn’t know what they had or when they could give it to us. Then someone on ParkSlopeParents posted about how they’d had a good experience at a clinic in Coney Island, no appointment necessary, no long waits. Sounded perfect.

I told my Dad friend, Ethan, about the place and he said he’d like to join with his two year-old Lily and offered to give us a ride in his capacious mini-van. Sold!

We walked into the place a few minutes after 1, when the flu clinic was supposed to open, and there was already a crowd. There was no sign-in sheet or any numbers to take and when I inquired how we were keeping track of the order, a little old lady who was the first in line explained, “We’re doing it the honor code way/”

Hmmmmmnn. Honor code way always makes me nervous. I certainly don’t feel deterred from dishonesty simply because of the honor code; I need an incentive, like public disgrace or a fine or threat of an angry mob to keep my honest, and I know there are many less honest than I. But hey, who am I to barge in and question everyone’s honor? I sat down and waited.

Thirty minutes later, the door to the flu clinic room was still closed. Apparently, the nurse who was supposed to man the clinic was running later. Not long after that, it was clear that she wasn’t showing up at all.

We waited. I had brought plenty of provisions for the kids, who were playing more or less happily, if not quietly, in a corner of the room. When they tired of drawing pictures and playing with trains, they found unending delight in rolling around on the filthy, germ-infested clinic floors, literally lying on their bellies and dragging their bodies from one side of the room to the other. It occurred to me that if Sec didn’t get the shot soon, she’d probably pick up something significantly worse form the swine flu from this waiting room.

People started to get restless, but eventually the clinic shuffled things around to get people to cover for the absent nurse and soon someone was registering people in the computer. Then a woman announced that they only had a few shots left for children and they didn’t have enough pediatric nurses so only the three kids who were already here were getting shots, and anybody who came later would be out of luck.

Not long after that, it was our turn for the shot. On our way to the exam room, I saw my Mommy friend Grace, who I’d invited to come along, and who had just arrived from the Slope. I told her about the shot shortage but said I’d put in a good word with the nurse. You know, pull some strings.

Sec, for her part, was in marvelous spirits, simply thrilled to get a shot. That kid just loves attention, no matter how she can get it. I am worried for the adolescent years.

“Can she give ME the shot now?” she begged.

The nurse was impressed. I exploited this by poking around a bit, asking if they had enough shots, if she’d be there awhile and she said she could give a shot to the kids who were here now, waiting. So I called my friend Grace on my cell and told her as much.

“Yeah, they totally have enough shots. The nurse just told me so.”

In retrospect, I should have leaked this info in a more clandestine manner, say a text message. But since I am secretly an octogenarian, it takes me an hour to type two words on my phone.

The nurse got piiiiissed at me: She actually made the tsk tsk sound, like my grandmother. She was covering and wanted to get back to her regular duties. I get it. But she gave Sec the shot and Lily too, and she even relented and gave Grace’s kids the shot, though none too happily. What can I say? One for all and all for one!

The whole shebang took about four hours. When we walked out of the clinic, the sky was already darkening. And we all figured since it was dinnertime, we might as well get a Nathan’s hot dog. Can’t come all the way to Surf Avenue and not eat a dog. And really, for that matter, you can’t come all the way to Nathan’s and not make it onto the boardwalk. And once you’re on the boardwalk, well, it’s be a damn travesty not to let the kids run on the sand and watch the sun descend into a sky striated with fuchsia and lavender. Just a travesty.

And that’s how we merry band ended up watching this spectacular sunset over the Parachute Drop on a perfectly lovely November evening.