Fear and loathing in Mandel Hall

vaccine-crowd.jpgI’m not one of those people who thinks that vaccines are somehow worse than the disease. I’m all for vaccines. Tetanus, yellow fever, bubonic plague, hoof and mouth disease—if there’s a vaccine for it, Doc, I’ll take it. So when the University announced free H1N1 (“swine flu”) vaccinations last Friday, I was ready to bare my shoulder and take it like a man.

1:30: My comrade Katie Muhlenkamp also wanted to take advantage of the vaccine scene, so we met in the foyer of the Reynolds Club. I had expected a mob, but there didn’t appear to be many people at the vaccination clinic—a few dozen at most. We walked back towards Mandel Hall to join the line.

1:31: Our initial impressions were deceiving: the line went back through the entrance to Mandel. Still, I’d seen worse at the office picnic. We walked into the hall toward the end of the line. Then we noticed the scores of people quietly sitting in the rows. A student helper told us the wait was two hours. Two hours!? Katie had to go to a lecture at Pick Hall at 3:30, and I had plenty of other work to do, but I had to weigh that against my desire to be H1N1-free for the winter. Maybe it was like a restaurant, where they said the wait was half an hour but seated you in 12 minutes? We opted to give it a shot.

1:41: The many students sitting in neat rows in Mandel had brought laptops or other reading; neither of us had thought that far ahead. I started regurgitating everything I learned from BioSci 15106 (Plagues: Past and Present) as a fourth-year about influenza, live vs. inactivated vaccines, Guillain–Barré syndrome, and the vaccine industry. Katie nodded politely the entire time.

2:00: An announcement is made—no more people can join the line, and anyone who leaves now will not be readmitted. I brace myself for the sudden rush for the doors, like steerage-class passengers desperate to get off the Titanic, but everyone seems to take it in stride.

2:04: The “line” where we were waiting was actually a row of seats in Mandel. Every few minutes, another row would stand up to form an actual line and slowly shuffle toward the vaccination tables. At some point, I had an epiphany: measuring the rate at which each row stood up would allow me to estimate how long we had to wait for our vaccine. I announced my plan to Katie, who laughed and said, “You’re weird.”

2:06: We see our coworker Carrie Golus well ahead of us in line. She's probably all smug for having the foresight to get here early. I make a mental note to friend her on Facebook, then unfriend her to hurt her feelings. That’ll teach her.

2:13: The gap between rows is just under five minutes, meaning that we would get to stand up by 2:50 and then wait who knows how long to get our vaccines. If only my boss had bought me an iPhone, I could remain in contact with her and be so much more productive! (Hint, hint.)

2:28: Nuts to this. I had work to do and felt guilty about being out of the office for so long. I bade farewell to Katie, who soldiered on without me. But now I’m aiming to go to the make-up flu session this Friday. I can picture the syringe going into my deltoid now. Oh, yeah, that’s the stuff.

Benjamin Recchie, AB'03

December 10, 2009