The Jab

Wednesday, April 28th, 2021

A year ago, just over a month into our first lockdown, I was longing for a “normal” Saturday morning:

“We’d get up and have coffee and breakfast, get dressed and grab our instruments to catch the bus to our Saturday tune-learning workshop at the Jolly Brewer. We’d play Irish music for an hour and a half, then walk up to Barfields Butchers to grab something tasty to throw on the grill. We might pick up some wine and beer at Quaff down the street, then cross the road to Fiveways Fruits to get veggies for the weekend. If we timed it right, we could catch a bus back down the hill and go to the Open Market for lunch—maybe tacos from Casa Azul, maybe Greek food from Kouzina, maybe a stuffed Turkish flatbread from the lady whose stand is always thronged with customers. We might need to get some bread from the Real Patisserie, and maybe we’d buy some cheese at ridiculously bargain prices from Ovetts (“The BACON KING of Brighton!”). And by then we would be laden with shopping and tired of people, so we’d hop on a crowded bus to go home. It would be such a relief to walk in the front door and close it behind us, knowing we could just relax and be alone for the rest of the weekend. We’d put away our shopping, put on our comfy clothes, make some tea and chill out.”

This past Saturday, we got up and had coffee and breakfast, but we didn’t play Irish music because we’re only playing every other week at the moment. We did, however, go to the Open Market for lunch. We ate delicious tacos from Casa Azul while sitting in the sun, then nipped around the corner for a coffee at Baker Street. We didn’t have to go to Barfields Butchers because we’d gotten a delivery the day before: a lovely leg of lamb from Saddlescombe Farm, which we did indeed throw on the grill that night. We did buy some cheese at a ridiculously bargain price from the BACON KING (a little heart-shaped wheel of Baron Bigod brie for just £1), and we also bought a huge root of horseradish for some future use. And at the end of the afternoon, we hopped on a not-crowded bus to go home, where we put on our comfy clothes, made some tea and chilled out.

And between all of that, I got vaccinated!

I had to psych myself up for it, to be honest. I was so excited when I finally snagged the appointments, but as the date drew nearer, my anxiety grew as well. I was nervous about the side effects, both the potentially serious ones and the unpleasant but merely annoying ones. There was no way I was not going to get the shot, obviously, and I was going to take whichever vaccine they gave me and ultimately be happy about it. But the nerves persisted and made me somewhat miserable—until Wednesday, when I came across the #GenXZeneca hashtag on Twitter, a long thread of folks my age in Canada clamoring for the AstraZeneca vaccine as soon as it became available to them. I’ve been following the hashtag ever since, and it’s brought me tremendous joy.

I generally don’t make too much of being part of the “forgotten generation”—I guess because, like a typical GenXer, my response to watching the world obsess over Boomers and Millennials is oh well, whatever, nevermind. But I was amused and reassured and oddly comforted by all the 40-something Canadians donning their Doc Martens and old band t-shirts to go get their shots, reminiscing about Saturday morning cartoons and John Hughes films and Lollapalooza, and musing on all the aspects of growing up in the 1980s that seem more than a bit dubious today (everything from bubblegum cigarettes to drinking out of the garden house). I felt a sense of solidarity with all of them, and it actually made me kind of excited by the prospect of jumping on the #GenXZeneca bandwagon.

On a purely practical note, it was helpful to read about the specific side effects people were experiencing so I could prepare myself. Headache, chills, fever and aches were by far the most common, or just generally a “hungover” feeling (cue more reminiscences about the feeling you’d get after drinking and dancing at a club all night). Though I don’t typically get feverish, I still envisioned a rough night’s sleep following my afternoon jab, and I was convinced that, if nothing else, I would definitely wind up with a migraine. I figured I was lucky to be getting my shot on a Saturday because it would give me the Sunday to recover, but still, I was really, really not looking forward to a splitting headache. I was dreading it, in fact.

But miraculously, the migraine never materialized. Hardly any side effects materialized, actually. I felt a little achy and quite lethargic the next day, and my upper arm is still a bit sore to the touch even now, four days on, but otherwise…I felt fine? I even made pancakes for breakfast the morning after my shot. Admittedly, I then had to curl up on the couch and stay there for the rest of the day, but that’s not all that different from a usual lazy Sunday. My body generally responds to the slightest trigger with either a headache, a stomach ache, another random twitch or pain, or some combination thereof, but this time it fooled me. I’m so relieved it did.

So, I’ve taken the first step toward (relative) immunity. I have to remind myself to be extra vigilant now and not take silly risks just because things are starting to feel “normal” again. I’m working up a few antibodies, that’s all. I’m not out of the woods yet—none of us are. But we seem to be on our way.

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