My full time non-writing job is replacing computers at a hospital in the San Francisco Bay Area. I have zero contact with patients as I go about my rounds to replace dust bunny infested computers that are years past being replaced. But, because this is a hospital, I had to get a flu shot to protect everyone else. If I haven’t, I would have to wear a mask during the flu season—or risk losing my job. Until this requirement was imposed on me, I thought peeing into a cup for a drug test was bad enough.
The first time I got a flu shot as an adult was at a company sponsored event in 2006, where we were herded into a big empty room to stand in line, fill out a form, and sit down for the shot. I made a huge scene as I became indecisive about getting a flu shot, going back and forth like a drama queen. Everyone was or laughing or smiling, telling me that it wasn’t a big deal.
Somehow I got the shot. Somehow I made it back to my cubicle without collapsing. Somehow I caught the shuttle bus, commuter train and light rail back home without puking. Somehow I allowed a needle to pierce my skin for the first time in years.
I was in the third grade when my back went out in the late 1970’s. For whatever reason, an ambulance wasn’t called. No school nurse available. My teacher drove me over to her family doctor. An old man who seemed to specialized in two forms of treatments: requesting blood tests from a lab and sticking his index finger up my fat ass. I sometimes caught him sniffing his finger. I was too young to know if this was right or wrong.
I threw a screaming fit every time I went to the lab. Two big guys dressed in white would hold me down on the examination table. Somehow I willed myself to stay still as my blood was drawn. Every. Single. Time. I’ve been skittish about needles ever since.
As for the doctor, he retired to Florida. Another family got wind of his preferred treatment for young children and threatened to call the police if he didn’t pay them off. He got out of town just before the district attorney’s office cracked down on paid referrals between doctors and labs.
I’ve been getting a flu shot every other year since 2006. Although I don’t throw a crying fit anymore, my legs still get rubbery and I’m on the verge of passing out. I usually end up with a sore arm and a slight fever after being inoculated.
The flu shot at the hospital didn’t hurt as much as the new needles are more smaller. I did experience a wider range of side effects—soreness, fever, chill and muscle ache—after I came home and went straight to bed. Unlike the $30 USD flu shots I got at CVS, I didn’t have to pay for this one.