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Yup, got myself vaccinated, but won’t say how — oh, OK, I will

Given the confused hodgepodge of locations and guidelines and websites, should getting a vaccine be this easy?

People line up outside the United Center COVID-19 vaccination site last month.
There was a line outside the United Center when a mass vaccination site opened up there on March 9. But there was no line at the Walgreens in Springfield where Neil Steinberg got his shot earlier this week.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Yes, I got my first COVID vaccination on Monday. And no, I’m not going to tell you how it happened. In a manner embarrassing enough that I decided to never share the specifics. I didn’t lie. I didn’t body-check anybody out of line. Let’s leave it at that.

The moment I made this uncharacteristic decision — discreet silence not being my forte — my immediate qualm was, “So what do I say if people ask?”

And the fully formed thought instantly flashing into mind was:

“I’ll just say I got vaccinated at the synagogue with everybody else, in late 2019, just before the virus was released.”

That’s a joke. I make jokes. It’s a twitch, a reflex, to cover unease at getting the life-saving shot that 88% of Illinoisans haven’t gotten yet. Is it a good joke? Well, it plays on the psycho conspiracy theories that millions of Americans lap up like kittens around a dish of cream. Certainly not as wild as Secret Jewish Space Lasers.

Is it a bad joke? Hateful? Anti-Semitic? Something that will lodge in the head of a nut? My gut says the Jews-to-the-front-of-the-line joke is not one whose unacceptability will only become clear to me after I’m flayed alive on social media. Yes, claiming that prejudice is mere humor is the traditional way haters dive for cover when called out on their bigotry. But jokes also have value, as a way for the targets of prejudice to process the contempt directed at them, making bigotry easier to live with, since it’s obviously never going away. Someone designed a “Secret Jewish Space Laser Corps” pin, and I thought of buying one, then decided people might think it was real, and that could be awkward.

OK, OK. The vaccine. I have to tell you. So I volunteered to chauffeur a couple to Springfield to get their shots, because the woman can’t drive and the man shouldn’t, and I’m the nicest person ever. To Springfield, because many folks down there are numbed to the COVID peril by the barge of BS delivered nightly on Fox News, and so are uninterested in getting vaccinated. “It’s a gubment plot!”

And it was pointed out to me that I actually qualify for the shot, as a periodic smoker of cigars. That seems a stretch — maybe one cigar a month, in nice weather. So I checked the vaccine qualifications, and realized — to my horror — that I qualify on a second metric: I’m obese, technically, according to the highly debatable CDC chart. The result of not getting to the Y often enough over the past year. Not much over. A pound. But enough.

I was driving there anyway. So I signed up last Friday, and was presented with a range of open times for Monday. Did I mention that Donald Trump took Sangamon County by 4.4% in 2020? He did. In the valley of the blind, the one-eyed man is king....

So we get to Springfield — and this is the reason I must share this story, despite fat-shaming myself in the process — after a three-and-a-half hour drive. We burst into the Walgreens on 6th Street, and it’s ... empty. Not a soul. I had expected crowds. Heck, I expected that last scene from “The Year of Living Dangerously,” with Mel Gibson clawing his way through the Jakarta airport, waving his passport.

We walked amazed through empty aisles. Presented ourselves at the COVID window. Were quickly ushered into a little room. Brandon stuck the needle in so deftly I didn’t even know he did it.

I didn’t take a selfie, didn’t post to Facebook, because I sincerely wasn’t going to tell anybody. But now that I have, I’m glad. Because as the state of Illinois pivots from allowing only left-handed octogenarian EMS workers to get the shot, to urging everybody and his uncle to do so, you’re going to have to get one yourself, unless you’re among the solid third of Republicans who’d rather die, literally. If I can waddle into getting vaccinated, reluctant, conflicted, and drive all the way to Springfield and back, twice — we got the Pfizer vaccine, so we have to return — I bet you can manage to get one around here, eventually. If not, well, there’s a “more for us” joke waving its hand, but I’m going to let that one go.