We stood in line

I am in one of the high risk groups for H1N1 and although Carleton Place will be having a flu shot clinic on Wednesday, November 4th, a child of someone who works with my husband has been diagnosed with H1N1, so we decided to try to get the shot ASAP!  So yesterday, I left work early and we headed over to the neighbouring town of Smiths Falls and got in line.  The clinic there started at 3pm and I knew that many people would have lined up even earlier than that, but we got there by 5pm and it was to stay open until 9pm, so we thought we had a good chance.

When we arrived, the line up to the school was very long.  There were easily 500 – 600 people in the line ahead of us and as people came out, they told us they had been there since 2pm (a 3 – 4 hour wait).  But the line moved and that was reassuring.  It was pretty cold, but thankfully, there was no wind and it didn’t rain, so it was just a matter of putting up with the cold.  Many people brought coffee and snacks and although they recommended lawn chairs, we didn’t really see anyone with one.  We hadn’t stopped to eat, but I didn’t care.  We were there with a purpose and a little hunger wouldn’t hurt.

I couldn’t get over how many people were there with little children.  It was so cold and the wait was bound to be three hours or more, so it was a difficult situation for many of them, I’m sure.  But all of the kids were so good.  You didn’t hear any of them crying or complaining.  Many parents tag-teamed and either went back to the car with a child to warm up, or stood in line saving their spot.  This flu clinic was held in a school, so many people drove their cars up and pulled the kids in while they waited, which was a great idea.

The local radio station had parked a truck with a speaker and blasted music to keep everyone entertained, but around 6pm, they drove off and many people commented that even the entertainment people didn’t want to hang around.  All in all, I think spirits were good and no one really complained.

Around 6:30pm, a nurse came out of the school and walked down the long line.  By this time, we had made our way about half-way to the school.  There was still a long line in front of us, but also a growing one behind us, stretching back out to the point we had started from.  The nurse seemed to be counting…..and she came to a stop 5 people ahead of us.  They were stopping there.  Oh, the sense of defeat cannot be explained!

Ahead of us were a mother who had brought her daughter who was in nursing school.  She begged with the nurse to let her daughter into the line, pleading that this was her only opportunity and as a health care worker, she had to have the shot.  As well, there was a couple with their 2 year old and a man who simply walked out of the line when the nurse made her decision.  The pleading from behind us was evident also.  A woman with a pre-existing condition was very upset, and we were also in front of a fire-fighter who needed the shot.  There were many disappointed people, but of course, the decision was made.  There would not be enough time or flu shots for everyone there that night and they had to make a decision.

So, at 6:30, we were cut off and in a way, I wasn’t disappointed.  It was an absolution of sorts…..we had tried and we didn’t just give up because it was cold.  We could go home with a clear conscience, back to the warmth and have something to eat and try again later this week.  In some ways, I felt sorry for the people who were the last ones to be let in.  They still had at least two more hours to wait out in the cold and it was getting darker by the minute. Many of them had little children, and those that had been playing around in the park area would probably not be able to do that for much longer.  Now the hard part would begin.

I have a plan for Wednesday,and even though it will involve standing for several hours again, I am determined to get the shot this time.  At least it will be daytime as our clinic begins at 1pm.  I think they’re calling for snow on Wednesday, but I’ll bundle up and brave the elements.  Maybe I’ll bring my camera and blog about it next week.  I should think about tweeting in line.  It might be interesting. Wish me luck!

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