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After a second COVID shot, a taste of freedom

It’s 10 degrees in Kansas City, and snowing. It’s 17 degrees in Memphis, and snowing. Traffic is snarled all over the countries midsection and there are accidents because of icy roads and poor vision, but here in New York where we usually get the snow and ice, it is 45 degrees and partly sunny. This is what I woke up to to this morning. It’s a sign! I normally don’t believe in signs, but this is a sign. I’m very excited. At 1 p.m. this afternoon Llewellyn and I will get into my car and drive to The Atrium, In the Montifiore Health complex in the Bronx, to get our second shot of the Pfizer COVID vaccine and then, the way I see it, I may have to wait another week to be sure of my 95 percent security blanket, but as George Costanzia’s father says “I’M BACK, BABY.”

I’ve been waiting for this day since March 2020, when I stopped working, as did so many others, and went into a modified hibernation. I haven’t hugged my kids or grandkids in almost a year. Nor have I been to a restaurant, a movie theater, a Broadway play. All this inactivity crept up on me slowly starting last March and then one day it was as though life as I knew it was over. For how long, it was anybody’s guess. But now, for Llewellyn and me, the hard times will be coming to an end. I think I’ll even go back to work. There’s a lot of lox out there for me to slice. It’ll be great to see all the guys behind the counter. Will I remember how the scales work?

12 p.m. arrived. We got into the car for our short trip to the vaccination site. I drove kind of slowly so as to prolong the whole episode. I thrived on getting closer and closer to the site. I pulled in to the parking area and someone was pulling out. Last month, when we took our first shot, parking spots were hard to find.

We exited the car and entered the Atrium, approached the reception desk and showed our credentials. No one was there but us. A month ago, when we arrived for our first shot it was quite crowded. “Second floor,” he said. We proceeded to the elevator, got off on the second floor, and stepped out into a long and empty corridor. Last month, same spot there was a long and slow moving line. It took nearly an hour to arrive at the entrance to the rooms where the vaccinations were being given. Today there was no one in sight. We just walked down the long corridor, turned the corner and saw the official waiting at the entrance to the vaccination room. We entered the almost-empty room and were ushered to a small semi-enclosed area where the person who was to administer the shot was seated. She was very friendly. She requested a fan from someone in the section in front of us to help with her hot flashes. She turned on the fan, sat back, and gave a sigh of relief as the cool air enveloped her area

“Second Shot?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said. and proceeded with a long tirade about how excited I was. When I finished, she looked at me and remarked that she knew why I was so excited, removed the needle from its housing and inserted it into my forearm, pushed the plunger, removed the needle and it was over. Then she administered Llewellyn’s shot. We said our goodbyes and were off to the observation room where we sat for about 10 minutes to wait for a possible reaction to the vaccine, which did not occur, so we got up and retraced our steps back to the car and drove home. Music from “Fiddler on the Roof” was playing on the car radio and it seemed to fit the occasion. “Sunrise, Sunset,” “To Life.” Yeah life, that’s the thing, that’s what it’s all about.

At home we had some lunch, got back into the car and drove to Orchard Beach. We parked the car and proceeded to walk the path leading to the beach promenade, where we take our daily walk, weather permitting. We were both still on a kind of high, still tasting the flavor of just having completed our second COVID shot, and what that meant in terms of a return to a more normal life. There were some other beach walkers there and others sitting on the benches scattered over the promenade. We decided to walk to the east end of the promenade to liaison with the ducks and sea gulls in and above the water.
This spot brings us much closer to nature and we stand there and take in all the natural sights and sounds of the moment. On the way back we passed a couple sitting on a bench absorbing the sun’s warmth. A need came over me and I walked over to the two complete strangers and abruptly said. “We just got our second COVID shot about an hour ago and I’m very excited about the new life that awaits us.”

The couple stood up. The woman applauded; the man raised his arms toward the heavens and said “God bless you.” I have had many occasions when I entered an interesting and sometimes personal conversation with a total stranger. Sometimes you can say things to a stranger that you would not say to one close to you. C’est La Vie.

On the final stretch of our walk we encountered another couple walking toward us and I repeated the cry of having had the second COVID shot and they too responded with big smiles, positive comments and good wishes. They seemed genuinely happy for us. We returned to the car and drove home, renewed by the sights, sounds and invigorating environment of Orchard Beach and its inhabitants.

Len Berk worked for 26 years behind the lox counter at Zabar’s. He is the Forward’s lox columnist.

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