A Boost for an Old Lady
I went to get my COVID-19 booster the day before Thanksgiving. I had an appointment at a chain drugstore in a strip mall located in the dope-shooting heart of the fairly bad neighborhood where I was born.
I checked in and sat down on a plastic chair, waiting with several others of my kind.
I'd been panhandled on my way into the drugstore, and I'd given half-a-dollar and a cigarette to a skinny, bearded guy in a parka with a fur-lined hood. He assured me that he was a homeless Marine Corps veteran and not a junky, though I didn't much care. I'm a guy who gives away change and cigarettes, not an addiction counselor.
"God bless you," he said.
The neighborhood I was in is not much inclined toward fear. You could shove the crowd that stormed the Capitol into one end of the neighborhood and they'd be lucky to come out the other end with their wallets and jewelry.
I don't wear any jewelry except a plain gold wedding ring. I had $7 in my pocket, and the person who steals my credit card and tries to make fraudulent purchases is in for a surprise.
Waiting for my booster, I had the company of two young girls, one of whom had come along just to give the other some emotional support. They spent their time using a hand mirror to look at the roots of the younger girl's hair, trying to decide if she needed a touch-up on her night-black dye job. Across from me sat an elderly Asian man who checked in just ahead of me. His English was very poor.
I figured her at about 70. She was maybe 50 pounds overweight, and tired-looking, and I wondered if she'd taken a cab or a bus to get to the drugstore. She shouldn't have been there by herself. My late mother was still driving and working when she was 70, but I wouldn't have let her come get a booster shot by herself.
She had curly white hair, and I don't know where she got her brown wool coat, but it was very close to the "everyday" coat my mother had in 1965. This is a very good neighborhood for old things still in use and old women alone and old houses that are, by some miracle, still occupied, despite the missing shingles, the street door that's always open and the plastic grocery-store bag taped over a broken second-floor window.
And she had an oxygen tube up her nose, and she asked me how long I'd been waiting, and I said, "Not long," and she said, "Oh, good" and sat back to wait, holding her brown leather pocketbook on her lap.
No matter what kind of neighborhood they're in, the insides of these chain drugstores are very clean, and I was surprised to see a cigarette butt on the carpet in front of my chair. It was a long butt, maybe half a cigarette, and I figured someone had smoked the first half outside and then pinched the fire out of the end with his fingers and kept the rest to smoke when he left. This is a very good neighborhood for half-cigarettes.
The Asian guy came out, and I went in, took off my jacket, rolled up my sleeve, took the shot, rolled my sleeve down, put my jacket on and walked out. As I left, I nodded and smiled at the woman with the oxygen tube up her nose. She smiled.
I got the booster shot for a lot of reasons, none of which is political. One reason is that a good blast of COVID-19 is gonna knock that old lady right off the fence.
To find out more about Marc Munroe Dion, and read features by Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com. Dion's latest book, a collection of his best columns, is called "Devil's Elbow: Dancing in the Ashes of America." It is available in paperback from Amazon.com, and for Nook, Kindle, and iBooks.