The Booster, Rambling, Confused Thoughts…

Yesterday I learned that the Mobile Covid Vaccine bus would be in my town. Colorado has invested in these as a vaccination outreach to remote rural areas. I had plans for this morning, and hoped to walk Bear this afternoon; it didn’t seem like a good day to get my shot, but…

When I took off for the store I saw the bus and a small cluster of old people gathered near a table. The table was familiar; the same set up as at the two vaccine “events” where I got my two shots. The difference was that with THOSE shots I stuck my arm out of the window of my car. This was different, a difference that didn’t hit me until much later, until just a few minutes ago. When you get your shot in your car, some nice person gives you a shot and you drive away, to wait in a parking lot to see if you stop breathing. When you go INTO something and wait around outside something for your turn, it’s a community.

The community was a group of elderly people. A sweet and friendly Hispanic woman with a walker talked to me as I approached. The morning was cold, my glasses fogged up, and between that and my mask I felt cut off from her, and I didn’t want to be. I liked her, I love that accent which has been an aspect of beautiful moments in ALL my life. Hearing it was comforting and warm. I wanted to return all of that, and it was impossible if I couldn’t at least make eye contact. I took off my glasses and hung them from the front of my fleece vest. She said, “The glasses fog up. It’s cold.”

I said, “The cold feels kind of good, a little of it, anyway.”

She said, “The wind won’t kill us.”

Good god, I thought. I live in a fucking poem. That’s the slogan of the San Luis Valley. The wind won’t kill us. ❤

Then it was time for me to fill out my paper work so I went to a bench to fill it out. I had my vaccine card, all was well.

A word about white people, a generalization based on a lifetime of observation and travel. We keep to ourselves. It seems that we are often little islands, and Hispanic people often are not. I’ve seen and felt this over and over throughout my life. The only two people in that group who sought contact with others were Hispanic women. One was a little woman in her 50s wearing Halloween leggings and an orange sweatshirt. The other was the old woman with the walker.

I realized all this later on today as I pondered the experience which, somehow, left me feeling depleted and very sad. I’ve lived in BOTH cultures most of my life and here, of all places, I am exiled to ONE. The ONLY friends I left behind in San Diego were from Mexico and we’re still in contact. We lived next door to each other in Descanso and over the course of the three years we lived in that proximity we became a kind of family. Most of the students I taught were from Mexico, beginning with my first student when I was a volunteer tutor. No one here speaks Spanish with me, and yesterday, when I was out with my next door neighbor, visiting the museum, she read some Spanish words from a display then asked me how to pronounce them. I spoke them, then apologized for pronouncing them right. Why would I do that? But I did. I said, “I’m sorry. I’ve just spoken Spanish since I was two.” What was there to apologize for? I heard my mom in my head putting me down once. “You’re no cowboy. You’re a Mexican.” (Cowboy = tough, hard-bitten, doesn’t show emotion; Mexican = soft, sensitive, emotional). Well it just so happens that my Mexican family in California IS cowboys so, mom? What would you make of THAT????

One isn’t better than the other, but there are distinct differences.

Once I had filled out my papers, I was sent to the bus. A kind black guy wearing a three piece black suit, white shirt and bow tie was there to help people up the stairs. He escorted me to the next person who checked my paper work then took me to the guy who would give me my shot. It was totally painless, but strange. Then he said, “Because of your reaction to aspirin (anaphylaxis) we want you to wait 30 minutes.”

“Do I have to?” I thought of my groceries waiting in Alamosa.

“The CDC says. It’s a good idea, even though you didn’t have a reaction to your other shots.”

“Cool. I’ll go to my car and listen to music.” Once I was outside, I was given a bottle of water.

I went to my car and finally got around to setting up my phone with my car, and I will never need to buy Sirius again.

The bus. It was beautiful. Perfectly designed for its purpose. Dark blue inside, softly lit, big seats installed for giving people shots and making them comfortable. Later, in my car, I noticed the signs on the back of the bus had been updated to display the latest CDC advice. There was an indefinable science fiction aspect to it, to the whole thing, to THIS whole thing.

There was ONE young person there for a shot, a young man whose job mandated the vaccine. He wasn’t wearing a mask (the rest of us were) and clearly wasn’t happy about having to get the jab. He was getting the J&J so he didn’t have to come back. It was strange to me that he could be open and visibly insensitive about this in our small group of elderly — some very elderly — some CLEARLY vulnerable — people. The kind people on that bus have been going all over the state doing this just to save peoples’ lives. I thought that young guy was a jerk.

The people on the bus will be spending the week here in the San Luis Valley going to some very small towns here in the IMMENSE Empty to do this work, one town so small it really only has a population on Sunday — so the bus is going there on Sunday to park near the church that is the oldest parish in Colorado in the town of Conejos which isn’t even incorporated and has a fixed population of 156 people. Another day it’s going to park at a church in Alamosa that’s having a memorial vigil for the families who’ve lost relatives to Covid-19.

Before I went this morning, I called my county’s Public Health, and they said, “We only have one nurse, and we’re focused on flu shots.” (I got mine last week.) “You can go here, here, or here.”

I felt sad that our County Health has only one nurse, but then I thought, “Where are they all?” and it hit me where they might be. The nurse who gave me my flu shot last week had been working in a Covid ward since last year. “I had to come home,” she said. “I was tired of the city and just plain tired. I have a place up in South Fork.” I understood her. Even though I’m restless, would like to travel, I also don’t want to go anywhere. It’s a bizarre paradox, one I’ve never felt before.

Here’s the bus, not parked in Monte Vista but in some other little town. One side is printed in English; the other in Spanish and the two sides do NOT say the same thing exactly, but each side speaks perfectly — and in a friendly “voice” — to the audience it’s addressed to. The Spanish side said something about hope and the future. Language and culture are inextricably related. I was given this sticker, “Ya tengo mi vacuna. Crea el futuro.” “I already have my vaccine. Create the future.” I have no idea what the English one says. 🙂

15 thoughts on “The Booster, Rambling, Confused Thoughts…

  1. You are preaching to the choir here, Martha. I agree with you completely about the warmth of Mexican people. I’ve lived here for 20 years now and never want to live anyplace else. I only have to get to the waiting room in whatever airport is taking me back to Mexico and I feel at home among all the other passengers already.

    • One reason I moved here was that the dominant culture and the oldest culture is one I grew up with/around. But I did not appreciate the power of white racism over a period of 150 years in this agricultural area where competition for resources has always been extreme, and I never expected to be judged by my appearance. It happened when I was looking for a house. The real estate agent my agent (who has depths of racism I didn’t know about) assumed I’d want to live on the “good” end of town. “Good” is incredibly subjective. In San Diego I lived in “mixed” neighborhoods. It was perfect for me. Every Hispanic I meet sees me for who I am. The white people don’t. It’s so weird. I feel like an outsider even more than I am already an outsider. OH well. I probably should have retired in Mexico. 🙂 Jodido, pero contento, mostly…

  2. this was a really beautiful post for so many reasons, martha. the people on this bus are doing such good work and are amazing souls. i have a dear friend from mexico who told me that when she moved to the states she was so surprised that people just don’t drop in to see in each other without ‘making an appointment.’ she told me in her culture, people just come over, you pull out some food and drinks and enjoy a good visit. we must seem so uptight and isolated to other cultures, and we are.

    • Thank you! Yeah, I guess us white people came from so many different cultures in Europe with so many different customs, maybe we just learned to stay back a little. We didn’t treat each other all that well, either. I don’t know but I think it’s too bad.

  3. It doesn’t seem very busy, Martha. One of the less flattering aspects of my city is that you are defined by the suburb in which you you live. My suburb used to be for losers. Not any more, but the change is not an improvement.

  4. I always love your words, Martha. My ex worked with Bonnie Plants. There are farms in every state. And I’m sure you know which group, that arrived each season with their visas, did the MOST work with the HAPPIEST of spirits. We would all celebrate and their joy was contagious! NEVER a grumble! Only hard work, family, and thoughtfulness. Why couldn’t WE be like that? Growing up here in SW MO, and near a town of high Mexican population, gave me an immediate respect and admiration when I was young. I tire of hearing racist talk of them or any other race. I spent a month with a friend in Chihuahua. It was such a beautiful time and cultural experience. “Us” folks have a lot we could learn if we choose to open our hearts and brains. The paradox you mentioned about traveling. It’s exactly how I feel. I’m frustrated with myself by not loading up Finn and I more. I don’t understand my hesitation, Martha. Today we are going to take a drive into Northern Arkansas, near the Buffalo River, to view the autumn beauty. I’ll find places to stretch and walk and be. I’m a ponderer (I like that better than overthinker, lol) and I’ll reflect on such beautiful posts, as this, and just wonder “why do people make it so hard?” And them smile and laugh watching Finn run and play in the leaves; knowing we’ll probably meet some really cool people observing this around us! We’ll be sending you, Bear, and Teddy hugs and love from our little autumn Narnia. 🤗🧡 🍁

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