News: Scientists predict a bad flu season.
Oh. Really? One of these years we’re going to be told to expect a great flu season. Best ever! Unlike previous flus, this germ will tighten sagging jowls, brighten your teeth, restore hair where you want it and make it fall off where you don’t. An estimated 13% of the population will lose at least 5 pounds around the middle and experience sudden cartilage regeneration.
That’s a flu we could all get behind. Literally. People would be looking for others who had a slight cough and stand close to them with their nostrils flared. “That guy looks like he has the flu! Quick, grab that doorknob he just touched!” One hand washes the other, except we wouldn’t, because we want the good flu.
But no. We get the usual miserable fiend that’s been mutating in the guts of Chinese pigs for the past month, cooking up a way to lay us low. It’s like a house guest who shows up every year, and never gets the message: “Hey, you see how I’ve inoculated my house by boarding up the windows and locking the door? Anything you can infer from this?”
“Let me in! I want to fill your lungs with yellow cement.”
“No, you’re not getting it. If you helped out with groceries and maybe walked the dog and didn’t spend all your time on the sofa spilling Cheetos crumbs on the floor, we’d be good, but you show up every year and make everyone miserable.”
“Look, dude, I’ve come all the way from China, I just need a place to crash.”
“No! Why can’t you behave? Why do you have to make everyone so miserable? Can’t you just stay a few days, help out a little, then move on?”
“I’ve gotta be me, man. OK, I’m coming in the bathroom window.”
I have no idea how effective this year’s vaccine is supposed to be. Apparently last year’s wasn’t as good as advertised, but it worked for me for one simple reason: As soon as I get the shot, I know I will not get the flu. That’s it. I mean, instantly. They say it takes a while to work, but we all know we feel bulletproof the moment we’re jabbed.
So, where can you get this magical shot? The choices:
1. The big-box retailer’s Instantaneous Clinic, where you will sit with six children who are pretty sure someone in the room in back will stick them with a needle, but they’ll probably get a toy out of it if they don’t bite the doctor.
2. The drugstore, which makes money off selling flu remedies, so maybe they water down the vaccine a little?
3. The grocery store, which feels like going to the emergency room and asking if they have any lettuce. You wouldn’t be surprised to discover that they have a self-checkout now for flu shots, and that would work about as well as expected.
You insert your arm in tube. “Unexpected item in injection sleeve.” You remove your arm. “Item removed from injection sleeve. Please wait for assistance.” Someone comes by and punches in some numbers. You get the shot. Afterward you get a receipt 2 feet long with coupons for other vaccines.
4. The gas station. The clerk leans over the counter, swabs your arm, gives you the poke and asks if you got any gas, and you don’t know whether he’s talking about your car or your intestines.
I ended up going to the Instantaneous Clinic, which had a waiting time of 0 minutes. Great! But, there was a sign on the check-in monitor that said they were out of flu vaccine for people 1-18, and over 65. You know what this means, right?
I was carded for a flu vaccine.
I wondered why they were boycotting teens and elders. It turns out that the out-of-stock vaccines are weaker versions that cover four strains, and the one I got was a stronger version that covers only three strains. Apparently with the fourth strain, the little antibodies shrug: “Don’t look at me, man, not my job description.”
The nurse asked if I am allergic to eggs and formaldehyde — as if we were going to have brunch at a mortuary — and I said no. “Which arm do you want for the shot?” “Oh, left arm; it never gets to do anything important.”
Makes you remember when they said “it’s time for a shot” and you undid the buckle of your pants. If you came back from a checkup with a bandage on your arm, your dad gripped you by your shoulders and said, “Today you are a man.”
It was a quick, painless poke — really; the needles of my youth felt like you were getting a serrated turkey baster impaled in your flesh — and I was done. Inoculated. Did my part for herd immunity.
When I was young, I got a balloon after a shot. It said: “From My Doctor for Being Good.” Even if you’d bit him. If you bit really hard, they probably didn’t inflate it all the way. It would be great if adults got balloons; you could walk around the city seeing people with inoculation balloons bobbing along behind them. If they used a doorknob, you could touch it without fear. People without balloons would be reminded to get shots.
OK, done nagging. Get your shot. In 10 years, an Amazon drone will show up at your house and blow the vaccine up your nose, but we’re not there yet.
That’s ridiculous, you say. Probably so. Five years. Maybe four.