Jagged

The appointment for my vaccination is too early. Too early for me, that is: being a man of leisure, I’m seldom up before eleven. However, there’s no avoiding this particular rendez-vous, so I get up and make my way to the bathroom, where I see in the mirror that the whites of my eyes are actually a light pink colour.

Breakfast is liquid: an espresso and a thimble of orange juice. (I’m keeping the volumes small since I don’t relish the prospect of having to use the virus-laden toilets at the vaccination centre.)

Driving through town, traffic seems lighter than usual — lots of people must be either working from home or not working at all, which suits me just fine this sunny spring morning. Eventually I locate the sports centre where the vaccination is taking place and discover to my surprise that the huge car park is almost full. This, it suddenly strikes me, really is a population-scale operation.

An official inspects my dog-eared appointment letter and directs me towards the entrance. I pretend not to notice the array of hand sanitiser bottles sitting outside. Once inside the building however, a larger bottle presents itself, with an accompanying notice instructing me to use it. So I do.

The floor in here is composed of some sort of high-tech plastic interlocking tile I’ve never seen before. It feels slightly springy underfoot. New developments in flooring technology have been happening all along and I have been oblivious.

This sports hall is massive: the total area could usefully be measured in acres. I reason that the huge volume of air it contains should help dilute the virus, if any should be present. This feels reassuring to the hypochondriac in me.

I follow some taped arrows on the floor until I reach the injection station, where a business-like woman wearing a face mask measures the temperature of my forehead. Her pistol-style digital thermometer emits a beep, telling her I don’t have a fever, so I step forward to the next masked woman. This one asks questions about allergies and tells me what to expect after the jag. I try to listen to her spiel but I’m distracted by trying to decide on the the correct amount of eye contact to make with this masked stranger.

A third masked woman looms into view. She instructs me to sit down and bare my preferred shoulder. As she (I was going to call her a nurse but she may well not have been a nurse) raises the syringe, I think I know what to expect, having been jabbed quite a lot recently. What I experience as the needle goes into my left deltoid is a little unexpected however: it feels as if someone has grabbed a little portion of deep muscle and twisted it quite hard. Being the trooper that I am though, I don’t wince.

I rearrange my clothing, thank the injector and leave. The whole process, from parking the car to exiting the building, has taken less than ten minutes. The efficiency is impressive and somewhat unexpected — the government doesn’t usually do things this well.

Back in the car, I decide not to wait the precautionary 15 minutes. About 10 minutes should be enough, I think to myself. A video call to my brother helps pass the time but he soon has to hang up, so I start the engine and try to find the way out. A young attendant sees me trundling along looking gormless in my daft little car and helpfully directs me to a vacant parking spot. I lower the window and ask where the exit is. She apologises and points me in the right direction. I belatedly realise I didn’t say ‘Please’ when I asked her for directions, which makes me feel slightly bad.

On the way back into town, a middle-aged man in a German prestige car refuses to let me merge. I decide that Andy, for that is his name according to his private number plate, is not going to heaven. I make myself stop thinking about Andy though, and turn instead to the fact that I’ll soon be able to stop worrying about catching this nasty disease.

Back home, I throw the documents the injection woman handed me onto the kitchen table and wash the sanitiser off my hands. All things considered, it hasn’t been a bad morning.