The Crying of Lot EM9810

There are about a hundred of us lined up in a lackluster cavern. You know the type. It's constructed of cinderblocks painted gaily in drab grey. The floor is of sealed concrete in that distinctive brown color common to warehouses and loading docks the world over. Steel I-beams are distributed generously throughout the open concept floor plan in lieu of pillars. A dozen enormous HVAC vents hang far overhead from exposed ductwork. The ambience is fitting under the circumstances.

I have my camera with me, tucked away in my satchel, but it doesn't seem appropriate to take a photograph here. Granted, this is definitely history in the making, but I've found most people don't appreciate being taken for History's scenery. Lenscap securely in place, I stand patiently in line, doing my best to keep at a distance from everyone in all directions. I haven't been around so many people at one time in about a year. It's unsettling. Many of the folks around me are coughing now and again, but I'm not too worried about that. Asthma is how I got on the guestlist myself.

A woman screams and collapses to the floor with a thud that makes me wince from 20 yards away. This room is enormous. No acting academy on earth can teach a person to drop like that onto a hard concrete floor. Various medical staff abandon their stations and dash to render aid. Meanwhile, our procession slows a bit, but continues moving forward without pause. It is not the time or place for rubbernecking. I'm reasonably sure we'd politely step over you if it came to that, human beings as they are.

I make small talk and dumb jokes as I get my injection and then head off to the post-procedure waiting area. I walk by the fallen woman as she is assisted onto an ambulance stretcher and wheeled out through a side door. She looks okay to me. I’m guessing maybe she fainted in panic, but I'm no doctor. My doctor, who is, says stress can do a lot of strange and surprising things to a person.

I spend the next 15 minutes twiddling my thumbs in a sea of folding chairs, each spaced 10 feet from its nearest neighbor. Nothing happens. I feel fine. A woman with a digital clipboard schedules my next injection for a few weeks from now, after which I wander out of the cavern into the unseasonably cold but pleasantly sunny day.

On the walk home, I pass my local coffee shop on Pine Street. I haven't been to the coffee shop in at least a year. Spying only two or three customers in line, I chance it and go in. A few minutes in a near-empty cafe strikes me as a negligible risk compared to the 20 minutes just now spent in the vaccination center. The coffee is better than I remember it. I wonder how many things will be better than we remembered when this is all over?