To him, it feels like it’s been ages. But, really, it’s hardly been any time at all.
The young Greek-Australian man sitting on a plastic chair, in 15-degree temperature, in a car park, outside a medical facility in the Oakleigh area, waiting for his COVID-19 jab last Monday, is probably just as tense as I am.
He can’t show it in front of his female companion. She doesn’t say a word. I’m quiet, too: I’m nervous.
All this waiting, he says, he could have easily had time for a smoke. “Ήθελα να κάνω τσιγάρο, ” he says “This is taking ages.”
But there’s nothing to worry about, he assures his two friends who walk up to him. It’s just like the flu vaccination, he says. We will all be alright.
The nurse calls out their names. He and his female companion get off their plastic chairs and walk into the portable to get their coronavirus vaccination.
I cross my legs to give the clipboard a stable surface. I read the information sheet. I fill out the consent form. I note my Pfizer vaccine details: “Expiry: 31/10/2021. Batch FE8163.”
The man and his companion have their vaccine, leave the vaccination room and wait on the other side. He sits with his companion next to the canopy where the vaccinated wait for about 20 minutes or so after their injection.
“Anyone ever had a reaction here?” he asks the female staffer. She is in charge of booking second doses.
Not with Pfizer, she tells him. There were two reactions with AstraZeneca, though, she adds.
An elderly Greek woman comes out of the vaccination room and goes to the female staffer to book her second dose.
“Από που είσαστε, κορίτσι μου;” she asks.
They are both from the Peloponnese, they discover, situated in southern Greece. They are from neighbouring areas. They both know Georgios.
“Ο Γιώργιος πέθανε,” the female staffer informs her.
“Πέθανε ο Γιώργος;” the elderly Greek woman asks, and wonders when Georgios died.
“Helen,” the nurse calls out. She’s next into the vaccination room.
“Poppy,” the other nurse calls out.
“Yes, that’s me,” I say.
I walk into the portable and the nurse starts explaining my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine.
I will have a sore arm afterwards, she says, and maybe have a headache. She asks what arm I sleep on. I say I sleep on my back, but then I alternate and sleep on my right arm. She says I will wake up in the middle of the night with pain in the arm she administers the vaccination. She says the side effects lessen with the second dose. I say I understand.
Then she puts the needle into my left arm.
“F**k,” I say.
Welcome to vaccination reality. “The jab”, as it’s colloquially referred to, hurts. But, of course it’s going to hurt, I tell myself. It’s an injection with a hypodermic needle.
I know the nurse is smiling behind her mask. If she is offended by my swearing she doesn’t say it. She gives me the Australian Government’s fact sheet on the vaccine and what to expect after vaccination.
“Today you have received the Comirnaty (Pfizer Australia Pty Ltd) vaccine,” the sheet states straight off.
I walk to the canopy, take a lollipop from a plastic tub at the entrance and I sit down.
The elderly Greek woman sits with me. Her daughter and granddaughter have just come to pick her up. But, she will be a little longer.
“Five more minutes,” she tells her daughter.
Her granddaughter sits on a plastic chair in front of her, 1.5 metres apart.
All three of us suck on our lollipops.
“Κοιτα, γιαγιά,” the granddaughter says and sticks out her tongue.
Her tongue is dark red. She quickly puts her tongue into her mouth, smiles at her playfulness and turns away. She grabs another lollipop.
“Kοιτα, γιαγιά,” she says again. This time her tongue is almost black.
Her grandmother smiles behind her mask and I chuckle. Our tension disappears.
“Θα σε πάω σπίτι,” her daughter says as she wants to take her mother home to rest.
“Για να ξεκουραστης”
I’m the only one left under the canopy. There is no-one in the car park: There is no staff in the portable rooms. There is just me.
Then, within five minutes, the next round of people come and the car park fills up.
It’s a mix of young people – all much less than 60 years old. There’s the couple walking hand-in-hand. There’s the woman in her early 20s, her ponytail swinging in the wind, dressed in elastane workout leggings with her puffer jacket tied around her waist. She has her car keys in her hand, earphones in her ears and is texting on her mobile. None of the women wear handbags: None of the men pull out their wallets.
Everyone in the new group use their mobile phones to find the information they need to fill in the pre-vaccination form.
“The clipboard keeps slipping,” the young woman says.
“We are cleaning them all the time, that’s why,” a medical staffer replies.
The new group wait outside for their turn to be vaccinated as the rest of the medical practice continues as normal. An elderly Greek man with wavy hair walks into the practice holding his mobile phone. An elderly Greek woman dressed all in black comes out with a referral in her hand. A young man pushes a pram in the car park.
My goodness, the stories this car park could tell if it could talk. I’ll think of what those stories might be when I come back for my second Pfizer vaccine, on 22 October. I’ll think of that little girl and her lollipop, too.
Did you get the jab? Share your experience with us. Email photos and text to firstname.lastname@example.org