Well, it's time for the annual flu shot. This year's strain, HBN6-3.14, probably started the same way as the rest, with some sick goose in China coughing all over everyone and touching doorknobs. Thanks to the miracle of Nature it's going to make someone in Maine sweat the sheets for three nights. Thank you, Nature. Love you, too.
News articles always say the flu "leaps" from birds to a human host, making you think of tiny germs crouched down, waiting for the right moment to jump. It would be novel if they tightrope-walked this year, or even ambled, but no, they're always leaping. It would be nice if someone in a Chinese goose-human virus-mingling center heard a tiny "Geronimo!" and ducked, sparing millions of people that moment when they realize they will be drinking blue fluid from a plastic bottle that does nothing but hasten the bliss of unconsciousness, where you can have fever dreams about juggling wet cats on stage in your underwear.
Anyway. Everyone needs to get the shot this year, because the nasal spray version, to use the medical terminology, is squattus nonaccomplishmus, or "doesn't do anything." I don't care. They don't offer the spray to people my age, because apparently the insides of our noses are paved with titanium and nothing sinks in. My daughter used to get it, and proclaimed the experience to be utterly unpleasant.
The shots are less unpleasant, because modern needles are virtually painless. There's always that moment where you anticipate the jab, and you feel like you're 6 again and ask if it's going to hurt. "Of course it's going to hurt. It's 1964 and needles are like getting stabbed with a Number 2 pencil."
It's odd how those memories come back so quickly. I remember I would get a balloon after a shot. There were words on the balloon. "From my doctor for being good." You could have climbed up on a cabinet and screeched like a monkey and still you'd get the balloon.
Ah, but where should we get the shot this year? Everyone gives shots. The drugstores, of course. The grocery stores will inoculate you in a special room, so you don't feel weird about getting medical attention in a place where you buy Cheetos. In the future the cashier will give you the shot, I'm sure.
"Would you like to be guilted into rounding up your payment to support a charity?"
"No, that's OK. I'm a bad person."
"Would you like a flu shot?"
"Why, yes, I would."
And then the people behind you roll their eyes and think, "I had to get in the line with the guy who wants a flu shot. I'll bet he writes a check for it." The clerk jabs your arm with a gun that goes right through your shirt, and that's that. If you're in a hurry, there's the Self-Shot lane, where you can check out your groceries and inoculate yourself, except the machine will probably screw up and a bored employee will have to walk over and type 9348238545 and say "You're good."
Sounds convenient, but wait until we get our shots by Amazon Drones. That is the future, you know: standing on the porch, tapping your foot impatiently because you ordered the shot 10 minutes ago and it's not here yet. "I thought it was called Prime Now, but obviously it's Prime Later."
Then the drone will say, in a melodic female voice best described as "playful school administrator," that "Customers who shopped for the flu vaccine also shopped for Tetanus Shots, 3M Microfilter Face Masks and NaturalLifeSourcen∏ Zinc Suppositories," and you shoo it away. But then you think those might be good ideas, and so it comes to pass that your neighbors see you running down the street shouting "Save to cart! Save to cart!"
Then you get an e-mail: "James Lileks, how would you rate your Amazon Prime Now Drone Flu HomeHealth Visit?" You can't say, because it takes weeks for the vaccine to be effective. Right? We know that, but we don't believe it. You get your shot, you feel invincible. You shake people's hands and rub your fingers in your eyes. Ha ha! Had my shot.
I eventually chose an oil-change place to get my shot, because I needed my oil changed. Had to fill out a form, of course: "Medical history; None." "Do you currently have a temperature? Yes, 97.1." "Are you allergic to eggshells? Glass? Aquarium decorations? Corded phones?" "No. No. No. No." Then they put me up on the rack and did some tests. The manager said my kidneys were still good for the mileage but they recommended a replacement. Did I want to go with new kidneys today? I demurred; No, just here for the shot.
They put a sticker on my arm to remind me to get a new shot in a year. They even topped off my fluids! OK, it was just bad coffee from the waiting room hot plate, but was something.