I never expected to hear back from the government after I registered on their vaccine site. I mean, this is the government, right? They only reach out when they want our money, blind trust or vote.
Then, astonishingly, I got an SMS to say I had an appointment at the Ocean View civic centre in three days’ time. I went into a panic and reached for the tequila. I was no longer sure if I even wanted it. What if the lunatic fringe was right and my body turned into a radioactive hotspot setting off car alarms and broadcasting Radio Moscow from my ass?
Ocean View is a two-minute drive from where I stay. Close enough to hear the gunshots on Friday nights but not so close that property prices are affected. The gangs are more violent than those from Masiphumelele down the road but the shebeens are better stocked. Murderous pit bulls, feral children and scraggy addicts roam the streets. An ideal vaccination site, in the eyes of our magnificent health department.
The appointment was for 10am. At 9.45am I was still in bed doing research and becoming increasingly confused. The vaccine won’t stop you from getting Covid or passing it on but it might save you from dying although it might also hack into your genetic code and implant microfiche and chips and turn you into a mutant.
I drained the last of the Jose Cuervo and seven minutes later, hopelessly lost, pulled up outside what looked like a crack house. I asked a man with a goat’s head tattooed on his neck for directions.
“Gettin’ jabbed, yo,” I said, putting on my gangsta face. He had on his unimpressed face and made some kind of hand sign that was either directions or a death threat.
With steel mesh bolted across the windows and iron doors at the entrance, the site looked more like a prison than a civic centre. I joined the line of eight people outside. It looked promising. I’d be out in no time.
I might have known the real queue was inside, perched anxiously on three rows of plastic chairs. Everyone was white. Judging by the size of their eyes and the way the women were clutching their handbags, this was their first time in a township. An official was addressing them in a deep Cape Flats accent made even more incomprehensible by her mask.
She said something about the time and that if people didn’t have cellphones there was a clock on the wall. She pointed at the clock. People turned to look at it. The clock had quite clearly stopped working at 12.10, possibly in 1968. It worried me that nobody pointed this out. Did they really think that was the time? Perhaps they were past caring.
The strip lighting had been flickering since I walked in. Nobody seemed to care about this either. I turned to the moth-eaten woman next to me and said, “Nice for the epileptics.” She snorted behind her mask, then held up the pamphlet we’d been handed. “Have you read this?” she said. “Is it too late to flee?”
The pamphlet thanked us for getting vaccinated and warned that mild side effects were common. The symptoms sounded identical to those of a common hangover and I, consequently, was unafraid. We were also informed that up to four in a million might suffer a “severe allergic reaction”. Fighting odds, but still. Nobody wants to go into anaphylactic shock with a syringe hanging out of their arm while geriatrics burble bad advice and prod you with their Zimmer frames.
The queue was moving quickly. Go in, get poked, come out speaking Mandarin with bits of metal stuck to your face. Standing up and moving to the next chair was accompanied by the sound of knees going off like gunshots. Suddenly I was second in line. It wouldn’t have been my first time to cut and run at the last minute. “Next!” Damn. Too late.
A nurse with eyes that begged me not to make conversation stuck a needle in my arm and told me to hang around for 15 minutes. It’s possible there is an old codger still sitting there staring at that broken clock. The reason for waiting is presumably to see if the vaccine makes your head explode or your genitalia fall off. I got bored after thirty seconds and drove home.
Later, I googled, “What is in the Pfizer vaccine?” This is a classic case of irresponsible drug use. Always find out what you’re taking before you take it.
In case you’re interested, it contains lipids, which are like tiny greasy tadpoles. Generally well-behaved unless provoked. Then there is salt, which I love, and sugar which “helps the molecules maintain their shape”. More than it does for my shape. Then comes the magic bullet. The mRNA. These devilishly cunning infiltrators come bearing a message. From Bill Gates? Probably not. But if it was, it would be him denying ever having been mates with Jeffrey Epstein. Or maybe some advice about signing a prenup before getting married.