I couldn’t help letting out a giant breath of air when I walked out of Sullivan County’s public health building last Monday.
The search for the H1N1 shot was over. My daughter had been immunized (or at least was halfway there), as had I.
But it wasn’t your usual sigh of relief. It was tinged with an annoyance that I’d been reining in in the spirit of community, friendliness and frankly to show my daughter what it means to be gracious.
Too bad a few other parents couldn’t take a page out of the books of the vast majority in the room. I’m talking about the line cutting, conniving, pushy parents. The parent who claimed his kid had to go to the bathroom only to jump ahead of more than 100 people (and according to the reports of several people well ahead of me on line never actually take said child to the bathroom, but slip in way ahead instead). Or the woman who made a show of joining a relative – again well ahead of her place on line.
I understand the fear.
The latest figures from the CDC show 138 pediatric deaths from the swine flu nationwide (although, to be fair, we’re in region four – where just four children have died in comparison to 48 in region 6).
Losing the elderly is scary. Losing children is terrifying. Every parent on that line carried the same fear in their heart. And yet 98 percent of them patiently waited with wriggling toddlers and squawking babies to submit their own arms or their tot’s to the vaccinators. We worried for our children, but we followed the rules not just of public health but of civility.
And I wondered – are those children more important than mine? Are those adults more important than the woman with cystic fibrosis who carted her oxygen into the building and waited patiently with the rest of us? The diabetics? The asthmatics?
There is always an excuse as to why someone needs the shot. But an excuse for not having to wait on line?
There’s an exceedingly simple way to be at the front of the line. Arrive first. But then you’d have to wait, you say? Well, yes, that’s the point. Because you are like the rest of us. You’re lining up for a free shot (an incredible service by the county, I might add). And you’re just a person.
Sort of like the rest of us. Who chatted calmly with our line mates. And held our wriggling impatient children. Who didn’t hassle the public health officials who were working as quickly as they could to process a huge onslaught of people. Who understood to everything there is a process.
Who didn’t want to get on the bad side of someone just about to stick a needle in their child’s arm. Who just wanted a little peace in a time of national fear.
Who breathed that same sigh of relief when they left.
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Image via Linda N./Flickr