Feeling Human

Last week I went to a public vaccine clinic to get my first shot of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine. I had registered in advance so had a time and date, with no waiting in line hoping they still had some vaccine left.

It was all well-organized, with volunteers showing you where to line up, and making sure you had your health card and the QR code received when you first registered for your appointment. I was then pointed towards a row of people with computers, who scanned my health card and code and then gave me a sticker with my personal information on it to take to my vaccinator. Another volunteer directed me to the next line I had to stand in, and I waited a few minutes until I was sent to a specific vaccination station.

Pfizer vaccine (from here)

At the vaccination station, I realized it was my first time in months that I’d sat down to talk to someone who wasn’t the cashier at the grocery store checkout. I felt woefully short of things to say, being out of practice with small talk given the isolation of the pandemic. I sat as though mute, baring my left shoulder, relaxing the muscle so the needle could slide in, and wincing a bit at the slight pain of the liquid entering my arm.

Everyone was required to stay for 15 minutes after their shot so that we could be monitored for any side effects like anaphylaxis. I sat in my socially-distanced chair and wished I had brought my book, but instead had another experience I haven’t had since the pandemic started: people-watching.

When I go out I’m busy getting library books or groceries, and am not paying attention to other people except to make sure I’m giving them enough space and following the arrows on the floor properly. Sitting in the gymnasium, however, I realized it had been a long time since I’d really looked at people. The people coming in the door, signing up at the computer line, then lining up to wait for a vaccination station to be free…each was fascinating in their own way: how they dressed, the way they carried themselves, whether or not they stood in line looking at their phones or looking around or talking to the person next to them.

COVID floor signs (from here).

In case you didn’t realize it yet, I’m a major introvert. But watching everyone in all shapes and sizes and ethnicities, I realized that I’d missed seeing people – really seeing them, not just navigating around them in the grocery store.

I thought of the times I’d gone to the farmer’s market and sat on a bench, watching the people go by with their purchases and their kids and their dogs. Sometimes it’s overwhelming for me, but other times it’s just a way of being in the world without having to interact, to participate from the sidelines, as it were.

Farmer’s market (by Ruth Hartnup, CC-BY-2.0)

I enjoyed my 15 minutes waiting for any potential side effects (I didn’t have any, thank goodness). I felt like part of humanity again – something I didn’t realize I’d missed until I sat there, watching everyone swirl around me. I look forward to getting my second shot, which will give me the ability to go out and be part of the community on a more regular basis.

Note: Today’s featured image is Leonardo da Vinci’s Vetruvian Man by Luc Viatour.

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