Columnist

Beth Dolinar has been writing her column about life, both hers and the rest of ours, for over 20 years. When not on the page, she produces Emmy-winning documentaries, teaches writing to university students, and enjoys her two growing children.

People talk about which COVID vaccine they received; they talk about where they received the jab and how they found the appointment. They talk about how they felt the next day.

But nobody’s been talking about those minutes they make you wait after the shot. My waiting period was probably longer than yours was; I rebelled, and was humbled.

My first shot last month took me to a small clinic in a rural town. I signed in at the desk, sat in the waiting room for exactly 12 seconds before a door opened. Across the hall a nurse held a syringe. I stepped up, pulled down my collar and turned my head as the needle went in. I didn’t even sit down.

“Fifteen minutes,” the nurse said as she jotted 1:15 on a sticky note and handed it to me: my release time. I took a seat in the tight hallway to serve out the waiting period. Feeling fine, I got up and left. My car clock read 1:14 as I drove away.

Last Friday found me back at the same place for my second shot.

“You have an iodine allergy,” the nurse said as she looked at my consent form, a detail not noticed before the first shot.

“You have to wait 30 minutes,” she said, handing me a sticky note on which she’d written 2:50.

And so I shuffled down the narrow hallway to join the meeting of masked waiters. The man to my left was bent forward, apparently sleeping. To my right were another seven or eight men and women sharing vaccine stories, their voices muffled behind masks.

“My sister couldn’t get out of bed for two days,” said one. “But her husband, nothing.”

“Now I can have my grandkids spend the night,” said another.

It was the chatter of people happy to be finally emerging from pandemic lockdown. One by one, their 15 minutes expired and they left.

People came and went and there I sat, my half-hour dragging on. The sleeping man roused, looked at his watch and walked out. I still had 20 minutes to go.

I thought about reading the book I’d stuffed into my bag, but I’d need reading glasses and there’s that whole foggy thing. I took a phone selfie of my masked face and immediately deleted it because the angle gave me nine chins. I read the “Healthy Eating” posters on the wall and resolved to add more legumes. I retied my shoe laces.

The clock on my phone said 2:46. If my body were going to react badly, wouldn’t it have done so by now? What’s four minutes. I jammed my sticky note into my bag and headed down the hallway.

“Good luck,” I said as I waved to those still waiting. It was my birthday, by the way, and I had candles to blow out. I would reclaim those four minutes as a gift of time.

I stopped at the reception desk to get my vaccine card.

“I’ll need your sticky note,” the worker said. I dug through my purse and unfurled the crumpled paper.

“You have four more minutes,” she said. Busted. “Please go back and sit down.”

And so I did the walk of shame, back to join the abiding ones, to wait out my term. Under my mask, my face was flushed red. I was foolish to try to outwit science. When I got in my car, the clock read 2:52.

The next day, I woke feeling like I’d stepped in front of a speeding bus – joint pain, body aches, fever, the works. It was awful. And I probably deserved it.

Beth Dolinar can be reached at cootiej@aol.com.

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