I was riding on the Mayflower
When I thought I spied some land
I yelled for Captain Arab ...
Who came running to the deck
Said, “Boys, forget the whale
Look on over yonder
Cut the engines
Change the sail”.
“Haul on the bowline”
We sang that melody
Like all tough sailors do
When they are far away at sea ... - ‘Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream,’ Bob Dylan, 1965.
In fact, though, we weren’t so tough.
For one thing, my gorgeous wife dislikes all things related to doctors and medicine – and I had to threaten to cut her allowance before she agreed to come along. (It’s a joke, guys, a joke – actually she pays me an allowance.)
For another, the third person in the vehicle (aka the Mayflower) was my friend from down the (Parkview) road, who happens to be the world’s most charming hypochondriac (WMCH).
As for me, just before we left, I’d been speaking telephonically to my learned friend, David Bullard, aka the Bullfinch. We’d been discussing bacon, school principals, and various related subjects, when I said, “Sorry, got to go, Dovid [his Yiddish name], going to get my Covid inoculation.” (I’m north of 60, as were the others in the car.)
“Jeremy, my boy,” he said (which is how he addresses me, though he’s younger than I), “don’t be silly. Think about it. You’re white, you’re Jewish, the government hates you, why would you let them inject you with something? Jeremy, my boy,” he repeated (rubbing it in), “I really don’t want your column of last week to have been your valedictory performance.”
Now the Bullfinch might be a bit alarmist but, other than when he’s playing alphabet soup on Twitter, he’s an eminently sensible fellow, so his advice did me make think thrice. On the other hand, my son – on an extended visit from the University of Oslo – has for weeks been ramping up (as they say) the pressure on my wife and me.
“C’mon, guys,” my son says repeatedly, “I can’t live my life here as I’d like to do because I might infect you-plural.” Normally, of course, I wouldn’t pay much attention to my offspring (who in heaven’s name listens to their offspring?), but nine years ago, when he was 18 and I was 59, I bet him that I’d easily get a Ph.D. before him and now he’s allegedly finishing his – and I haven’t even completed my MA. So now I’m obliged to listen. ___STEADY_PAYWALL___
There were other causes of anxiety. The government’s much-vaunted phase two (for oldsters) inoculation roll-out is, it appears, more of a trickle-down than a roll-out – rather similar to (you should excuse me) the struggles in front of the porcelain of an aged fellow with prostatitis.
For example, the government’s much vaunted WhatsApp system – wryly referred to by Judge Denis Davis on his TV programme this week as a “Rolls Royce of a system” – seems to be behaving more like an old-time Soviet Lada.
We registered on the system about six weeks ago, my wife and I, and have since received four or five more WhatsApps and SMSes enjoining us to register, but we haven’t yet been sent the “voucher” or number indicating that we can actually get inoculated and telling us where we can do so.
Ah, it’s just the ol’ Seffrican way, isn’t it? Got to get on the grapevine, maibru. One has nervously to find out from X where Y allegedly went – and X might not have it right, and usually doesn’t – and so on and so forth. This went on for a week if not longer, but all the alleged sites, where one could allegedly get in without the requisite number (be a humble walk-in), were in places such as Meyerton (no offence intended).
Then a relative said, “Well, ja, we heard from Z that all you have to do is go to the Hillbrow Community Health Centre (CHC) ...”
Hillbrow?! Lordy mama, being unkeen on fielding a refrigerator with my sensitive skull, I haven’t been near Hillbrow for a decade or more.
But on Tuesday there we were in the Mayflower taking a sho’t right (not left) at Clarendon Circle and heading up and then down Klein Street into the heart of the Badlands. Ah, À la recherche du temps perdu; as a teenager, I spent my weekends moodily walking the streets, imagining myself to be Bob Dylan, buying my weekly Penguin paperback (75c) from Exclusive Books Hillbrow, and having my weekly hamburger (also 75c?) at the Porterhouse.
Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ye. I regret to report that the city council doesn’t appear ever to send clean-up crews to the haunts of my youth, nor do pedestrians care much for petty details such as streetlights, nor do taxi drivers care much which side of the road they drive on.
And most of good ol’ Hillbrow Hospital (which occupied some gorgeously elegant early and mid-20th century buildings) is sadly derelict. Oh well, no one said that a National Democratic Revolution comes without cost.
We reached the gate at 14h55. Sorry, said the guard, vaccinations stop at 3pm; can’t let you in.
“What!” I hear you cry, “Gordin spent 860 words leading us to an anti-climax!” No, the story continues below, but let us reflect on those closing hours for a moment – and introduce another friend, Paul Zille (yes – from that family), who went to a site in Alexandra Township for his jab.
All in all, he said, it was a “heimish” experience, but he was astounded to learn that the site was closed on weekends. “WTF!” he said to me. “The third wave is said to be here, etc., the country’s allegedly going to roll out millions of jabs by whenever-it-is [q.v. C. Ramaphosa and Z. Mkhize], but the site’s closed at the weekend!” Paul took the words right out of my mouth, as Meat Loaf once remarked.
So, we returned at midday on Wednesday, made it in, and settled down in the queue. Now then, yet another friend had gone to the CHC at 7.30am on that very morning, reporting back that it took 90 minutes for him to get his jab.
There were only 50 people in the queue when we arrived there, and it took us three-and-half hours (210 minutes) to get our jabs. For one thing, folk who had actual “vouchers” were inoculated first – but there weren’t more than 10 or 15 of them all afternoon.
But, for another thing, “the system” – you remember “the system,” that good ol’ system, that system that’s always going down at the bank or home affairs or the licensing department? – well, it went down twice. We might have been there from noon but there was an oke who went in just ahead of me who’d been around since 9am.
Other than that, I have no complaints. Surrounded by ghostly but beautiful buildings, sitting in Jozi’s warm autumn/winter sun (at least until the sunshine was blocked by the buildings), and meeting new friends and some old ones (hi there, Alice Brown) – well, there are worse ways to spend four hours.
Oh, there was one dicey moment. Just as my wife and I were about to go in – we were by then at the front so could hear the talk of the nurses – we heard that the vaccine had run out. Our two hearts sank as one. But about 15 minutes later, two young ladies swinging a cooler box between them, as if going to watch the Lions play at Ellis Park, nonchalantly appeared.
I’m glad I have the Pfizer stuff in my body; I have a soft spot (specially on the top of my left arm) for Albert Bourla; imagine having to take scores of phone calls from Bibi Netanyahu; not even Barack Obama could deal with that. And I am, for the moment anyway, not writing my valedictory Polweb piece.
But won’t someone please tell me again how – given the present “system” problems and laggardly pace – Seffrica is going to manage to inoculate 22,5 million South Africans over the age of 18 (apparently 67% of the population) by March 2022? And where am I to get my second shot?