I think I accidentally triggered her by what I said, just assuming she was a doctor so with the programme, I mean we were still just about at work.
The first time I gave her a lift she was out the gate about to walk, she put on a mask. I hadn’t car shared in Covid so it hadn’t immediately occurred to me, I put one on too and opened the windows.
The second time I’d offered in the morning, I’d said I might be late leaving but wasn’t, and waited for her, even searched her out. She had a sick child, one that had come in almost dead, from home. This time I put on my mask straight away, but said if she needed to take hers off to talk- she was handing over to the weekend doctor- I was ok with that. I’d been tested that morning, I said, her still seeming like a regular doctor.
‘They’re optional in America,’ she said. I said, ‘Oh yes, it’s crazy, what’s happening in Alberta,’ telling her something I’d seen on Instagram about a child at school, his parents sick at home with Covid, the teachers powerless to send him home, him at school potentially infecting everyone, no one wearing masks.
‘There’s no evidence of transmission if not symptomatic,’ she said. No warning bells yet. Me saying, ‘Oh is that why the doctors are not wearing masks?’ The locum doctor had stopped wearing a mask, following Boris’s advice to the public rather than the NHS and our employer’s rules.
‘How much medical knowledge do you have?’ she asked. There was a pause. ‘Well, I’ve done anatomy, physiology. Bones, muscles. A bit rusty…’
And then it began, ‘Research..’ ‘You can read it, I can show you.’ A big, pressured speech, no attention paid to me, to the fact that I’m driving or to what I may think.
I’m concentrating on driving, eyes on the road; as John always says, never look at the person who’s talking to you, it’s dangerous. We stop at the drop off point at the station, it’s busy, I want to go. Plus I want to go home, it’s Friday; I waited for her at work. She’s still talking. Eventually she starts to get out.
‘I don’t know what the company view is so don’t mention this,’ she said. ‘They promote getting the vaccine, that’s their view,’ I said. ‘It’s ok, I won’t say anything, I have friends with different views,’ I said, pacifying her, but giving her my word at the same time.
Although I was tempted several times, I haven’t told anyone at work. I briefly wondered, what if she’s Harold Shipman crazy, but I’m sure she’s alright, it’s a special confined madness, this Covid thing.
At last, as she exited the car, after blasting me from inches away, eyes staring, ranting and raving with no mask, she finally thought to ask- a little late, I thought- ‘Are you vaccinated?’ ‘Yes, I said.’ She looked, a little horrified, a little disgusted. ‘Well take care!’ she said loudly, as if I had just told her I had leprosy, and hit the roof of the car as she left.
Well that was weird, I thought to myself.
I mean I can be flexible according to who I’m with. But I choose consciously; friends, family. I’ve been to an illegal gig, I’ve visited during lockdown, I’ve hugged people before we were vaccinated, but it’s the thoughtlessness, like someone in a religious fervour espousing their religion without thought to check my religion first.
I mean not that it is a religion for me, but once you’re vaccinated you can’t do anything. That’s what people don’t get, why tell me now, I mean I don’t care; their horror-filled world of doom isn’t the world I inhabit, but nor do I want to be dragged down or involved.
She didn’t say anything specific or scary and seemed so crazy that it was that which took all my attention. The vibe was the opposite of calm.
Admittedly it did scare me when my friend told me, when John and I had both just had ours right at the start- we were early being health care workers- that it’s going to do x. John said, ‘Tell me what she said,’ I said, ‘No, it’s scary.’ He said, ‘Tell me, so that we can bear it together.’ That’s how much he loves me.
John has a friend who is always sending him stuff to read. Why would I want to read stuff like that when I’ve been vaccinated? John told him. It’s the same as when I was pregnant, I had a book about it but I didn’t read the chapter on complications.
John’s friend still eats animals because he likes the taste, and kids himself that they can be killed in their sleep without them even noticing. Not hurting animals is really important to us yet we never bombard him with vegan stuff.
We avoid going down cul de sacs, or if we go down them, we don’t stay there long. We keep moving. We hold it all, the BBC news, the hospitals, the friends and family with Covid, long Covid, the people who have died, the people scared of Covid, the people scared of vaccines, the conspiracy theories, all of it, and make our own calm course through it. That’s the work, for us, spirituality speaking. We got vaccinated because it felt okay to do so. We work in healthcare so it’s going with the flow. We like to travel so it’s aiding that. We work on intuition.
It’s like the fact that we don’t have a religion to fall back on, it would be comforting, I’m sure, to have a certainly held belief to hold fast to, but we don’t. We make up rituals, meditations, purification months. We oscillate between philosophies. It’s not about holding onto a position, it’s the seeing past it, observing it all, navigating our own made up course through it all.