Thrice in my life I have been so angry that I’ve literally seen stars.
The first time involved a former fiancé who thought playing kissy-face with his ex-girlfriend was no big deal (it was). The second time involved an acquaintance who thought I might appreciate an unsolicited critique of my parenting skills (I did not).
The third time was in December when, while perusing social media, I discovered about a dozen pictures of my husband’s co-workers — specifically office staff who never interact with patients — getting the COVID-19 vaccine before him despite his role as an emergency department nurse.
Angry may be an understatement; I was in an all-out rage. How dare anyone get the vaccine before the front line healthcare workers — the nurses, doctors, cleaning staff, etc., who were still recycling single-use PPE while literally getting sprayed with germs known and unknown every single day?
The mama bear in me came out strong and I did something I never do — I used my mobile device as an actual phone, calling one of the hospital administrators (a friend of mine) and really letting her have it.
This friend was gracious and patiently explained the complex algorithm used to determine who got dibs on the rare first doses. My husband would get his soon enough. He had adequate PPE to use in the meantime. And really, wasn’t the point to get everyone vaccinated as quickly as possible?
She was right. But I was still mad. My husband (wisely) encouraged me to keep my anger off social media, so I vented the old-fashioned way — privately to my small group of friends.
As they always do, my girls had my back. They let me cry and curse. They shook their fists alongside me. By the end of our conversation, I felt seen, I felt heard, and I felt vindicated. I figured my outburst accomplished very little besides making me feel better. It was much too late that I learned it actually did quite a lot — all of it harmful.
My friends — my loyal, wonderful friends — left that conversation believing that they and their loved ones weren’t deserving of the vaccine — or at least wouldn’t be for a long, long time.
Weeks and months later when state criteria said otherwise, some hid the fact that they had received it. Instead of being vocal advocates, sharing their personal experience and potentially influencing others who are on the fence to get this miraculous vaccine, they were silent, closeted. Because of me.
Far worse, one friend passed on the opportunity to receive the vaccine altogether, convinced she wasn’t “front lines enough” thanks to my selfish, misguided rant. Should anything happen to her before she gets another chance — losing wages due to a need to isolate, getting critically ill herself or passing the virus on to a vulnerable loved one — any of that could happen and it would be my fault, my impulsive, overreacting, overzealous fault.
Last week the governor of Washington put the kibosh on Whitman County’s plans to use leftover doses to vaccinate educators. I worry that Olympia’s hasty reaction was in response to heated phone calls from people like me spewing their righteous indignation about “line jumping” and threatening a PR nightmare.
I understand we can’t have a total first-come-first-serve free-for-all. I know there must be order. But laws almighty, this effort is hard enough as it is and we’re still in the phase where we’re vaccinating people clamoring to get it. I don’t even want to think about how much harder it’s going to get when we have to start begging people to come in once, then pleading with them to return for the vital second dose.
I was angry, and I was wrong. I want my loved ones — most especially my cherished partner — to be safe. The thing that will keep him the safest is a fully vaccinated, healthy community. Anything, absolutely anything, that slows down that effort is detrimental to him and to all of us.
This is hard enough on its own — justified or not, it helps none of us to make it even harder.
Jade Stellmon set sail for a three-hour tour on the Palouse in 2001. She is now happily marooned in Moscow with her spouse and five children.