Monday, March 15, 2021

Vaccine Wars

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published March 15, 2021] ©2021

It continues to amaze me that we can land the Perseverance rover on Mars but that San Diego, two-plus months after vaccine rollout, cannot sort out the horrific daily traffic jam of people trying to get into Petco Park for their first and second doses of Covid vaccine. 

For weeks, TV reporters have been interviewing massively-stressed senior citizens who have literally been sitting in their cars for hours without moving.   One recent interviewee said he had called the San Diego police multiple times while sitting in his car begging them to create some traffic control.

TV news on March 6 featured an elderly Poway couple with appointments who had spent 10.5 hours locked in gridlock traffic -  and never even got to the front gate.

What is truly puzzling is that people are trying to get into a lot designed to accommodate 30,000 cars on game days, yet cannot accommodate 5,000 vaccine patients who the city knows will be showing up daily. 

To add insult to injury, since it is really difficult for couples to get appointments together (don't get me started), many couples have to endure this travesty four times

I do know some people who have had a relatively easy vaccine experience.  But not many.  Scheduling has been the biggest hurdle, followed by chronic cancellations. Once you’ve got that first shot, you’re on the clock for the second one. 

But in true government fashion, when three million Americans couldn’t get their second shot in time (CBS News, February 26, 2021), all of a sudden, it’s not really all that important to get your second dose in the originally-specified efficacy timeline. 

Inquiring minds are suspicious.  

Since I could never manage to get an appointment on the Fall-of-Saigon website of my main health care provider, and my other "invitation-only" health care provider failed to ever invite me, I finally got, through sheer serendipity (and a hot tip) my first dose through a smaller venue.

But then they ran out of vaccine.  As my date for my second shot came near, they were clear it wasn't going to be on the date originally scheduled. Or possibly ever. I began looking elsewhere.

On Saturday, Feb. 27, vaccine appts were opened up for the next tier: teachers, fire fighters, child care workers, grocery workers: an estimated 500,000 San Diegans.  I was now competing with a younger group, more computer savvy, faster fingers.  My second shot was doomed.

Never mind that there seemed to be the Allocation Re-Allocation System Du Jour where x percent of the dosages would now be designated for a specific group. Unfortunately, it adds up to 160% and doesn’t include the current eligible tier.

I’ll confess that a chief motivation was the hope that proof of two doses would make friends we haven’t socialized with in a year willing to come to our house for a meal. Who cares about immunity? I just want dinner.

For weeks, the first thing I did every morning – and multiple times during the day - was to go to all the sites, even the dread evil Petco, to see if they had any appointments available.  Nope.

I was told by several people that one place did actually have appointments but every time I tried to sign up for one (specifying second Moderna dose, which was one of the options), it would say that there were no appointments in San Diego County.

Finally, someone in the Underground Vaccine Railroad tipped me off that this was a computer glitch.  You just had to say it was your first dose, then when you got it, cancel the second dose appointment they gave you.

How is it possible that IT people don’t catch this stuff?  No, don’t answer. This kind of idiocy has been rampant throughout the vaccine scheduling process on multiple appointment apps.  One of my fellow oldies said he tried to sign up on a site that instructed him to “enable Java script.”  Seriously? They might as well have said, “To use this site, you must speak Urdu.”

We oldies really hate perfidy and deception. But these are desperate times. I went ahead and booked an appointment for a first dose that was really a second.  But I lay awake nights worrying that when I arrived, they would cancel me (an already too-familiar experience), a Nurse Ratched-type perp-walking me out of the injection room announcing to all waiting, “Do not even think of pretending this is your first dose if it isn’t!”

I did want my second dose put on my first-dose card so when I showed up and the nurse confirmed that it was my first dose, I said, “Um, hypothetically speaking, if this were my second dose, would that be a problem?” 

“Nope,” she said. “Our website is a total mess.” 

30-plus hours (at least!) and the sheer stress of it, knowing that my health could well be depending on my least competent set of skills (computers). 

So, child care and grocery workers, welcome to the world of Refresh-related Carpal-tunnel-Syndrome. 

Meanwhile, my also-much-cancelled husband got his second dose appointment confirmed. Two hours later they cancelled him again. And so Vaccine Whack-a-mole continues.   


Sunday, March 7, 2021

Inga's Ten Steps To A Closer Relationship

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published March 8, 2021] ©2021

Anyone who has been reading my column for a while knows that I’m a sucker for those internet articles about how to make yourself look 20 pounds thinner (Photoshop?) or what your car says about you (cheap?)  Recently I reviewed an internet article entitled “14 mistakes that will kill your home’s value.” I concluded that we probably wouldn’t be able to give our house away (although quite a few of those mistakes came with the house).

A recent Valentine’s Day-inspired listicle offered “10 Steps to a closer, more loving relationship.”  I mean, who’s not going to read that?

Well, my husband for one.  Olof is disturbingly sane but there is not a sentimental bone in his body. As of January 20, 2021, we have known each other for 56 years, having met as 17-year-old high school exchange students headed to Brazil for the Southern Hemisphere school year.  After a 23-year hiatus during which we went to college, married other people, and he spent 10 years as an Air Force pilot, we reconnected again. 

So, here’s how those 10 steps to a closer, more loving relationship would work for us:

1. Hang some photos of the two of you together. Go to Michael’s for some cute new frames. Aside from the fact that our house is already filled with pathological numbers of photos, I honestly, I think I could replace every piece of furniture in the house all at once never mind stucco the exterior, and Olof would merely look around for the briefest moment with a look of puzzlement and query, “Is there something different here?”

2. Send him lexts (love texts) such as “I love that you get me peanut M&Ms when I have PMS.” This text would find my husband racing to the nearest toilet so fast I’d be afraid he’d break a hip. 

3. In terms of relationships, positivity means those little fun, romantic gestures.  For us, “little fun romantic gestures” means both of us getting our second doses of vaccine (not yet achieved, by the way) or finally getting grab bars installed in the bathrooms. 

4. Let your partner know the real you.  Hell no.  We’re strict advocates of “Don’t ask, don’t tell.”  In 2006 we were in a devastating auto accident, hit at 85 mph by a drunk driver. Even after I recovered, I found driving very difficult and began seeing a therapist.  It’s not that Olof is against psychotherapy per se; he’s just puzzled why anyone would do it.  In his personal view, if one has a problem, one mulls.  One ponders.  One might even create a flow chart.  No, one especially creates a flow chart.   One certainly doesn’t pay after-tax dollars to some charlatan with a pseudo-degree in what he refers to as the “squishy” sciences to engage in sharing of Too Much Information.

I didn’t mention my therapeutic activity to Olof although if he had asked, I certainly would have been happy to discuss it.  Which, of course, is exactly what he was trying to avoid. I know he wouldn’t have begrudged me any help that the quacks could inexplicably provide although I am sure that he thought if I would just get in the damn car and drive, we could cut the witch doctor out of the equation.

5. Make a relationship bucket list.  I think after 56 years, that bucket is pretty much at the bottom of the well. But Olof is still hopeful that he will be able to go back to the Oshkosh AirVenture Air Show which has been cancelled for two years due to the pandemic. I wouldn’t mind being back in Sweden.  (Sorry, kids!)

 6. Don’t try to change him. OK, I don’t really expect to change him.  But I will never give up trying.  This whole thing of me turning on lights and him turning them off two seconds later has got to stop.

7. Schedule a double date night.  Believe me, we are desperate to socialize with another couple.  It’s been a year since we’ve been able to have anyone inside for dinner.  We are really social people.  Gotta get those vaccines! 

8. Dress up in something special just for him. French maid costume? Does it come in XL? Actually. we both pretty much became bag people when we retired but during the pandemic have descended in a look best described as “homeless.”

9. Let him know you’re committed.  No problem there.  Given that we’ve both been divorced, we’ve agreed that if the relationship doesn’t work out, we’ll pace off in the street with 45s and see who’s still standing.

10. Have gratitude.  This one’s easy. From time to time I try to imagine what my existence would have been without Olof. On every level, the kids’ and my lives have been utterly, totally, vastly improved by Olof being part of them.  I don’t know what I did right to get Olof, but whatever it is, I’m sure going to try to keep doing it.