Toad in the Hole

November 09, 2005

A Shot in the Dark

On one of those frantic errand rounds this afternoon -- reverse-burglary at Emma's and pick up her uneaten rat pup, fetch groceries -- we noticed a couple of women at a table inside Andronico's back entrance. This branch of the supermarket is set up so that there's a street entrance from University Avenue and another from the parking lot in back. The back entrance has a sort of half-assed lobby, with two automatic doors at right angles to each other, a railing that nearly obstructs one of them, a public phone wedged in between, a free-publications rack to trip over... Just a cramped, klutzy space.

On the way in, I'd wondered what odd sort of sample-mongering required a whole box of latex gloves. On the way out, we both realized it was flu shots, and pounced on the opportunity. I keep missing the shot days at Costco, and my GP hadn't got the vaccine last time I saw her; neither had Joe's.

The women were from the VNA. Both were having problems with the spot; every time the door opened they got a blast of increasingly cold air, as it was well past sunset and it has been a blustery day anyway. They joked that they were field-testing their vaccine by putting themselves at risk for pneumonia. (Yes, they were going to give Andronico's HQ a talkiing-to.)

"Hey," I told her, "Could be worse. You could be hospital nursing."

"Oh no -- I'm retired!"

Now, I'm something of a connoisseur, and this nurse's injection technique was excellent. Didn't feel a thing. My deltoid's a bit sore now, of course, but I've had much worse from flu shots.

As I was hassling with my shirt -- I couldn't get the sleeve rolled high enough, so the nurse lent me her lab coat to put on backwards while I unbuttoned and peeled the shirt off my shoulder -- I noticed a big orange orb-weaver trying to build a web between the trashcan and the phone hood.

I'm fond of this species. Our yard has lots of them every year, getting fewer and fatter as fall wears on. I'm getting easier with just picking them up, as they seem fairly peaceable. I also remembered that I'd found one in the car about a month, month-and-a-half ago, when we'd pulled into the Andronico's lot, it probably having hitched a ride with us from one of the bushes in our yard. I'd left it one of their parking-lot trees. So I felt a bit responsible, as there was a good chance this was the same critter -- I've never seen any others there.

I knew it wouldn't prosper in that spot, and would most likely just get janitored away sooner or later. Not everyone's as solicitous as I am, unfortunately. So I kept an eye on the spider as I got my shot, though I had to turn away to struggle back into my shirt. When I relocated the spider, I used one of our waiver forms to scoop it up. The idea was to rush out the door before the panicky spider could run off the paper.

Well. I turned around, there was a youngish women with a four - or five-year-old kid, a cell phone into which she was talking, and a big ol' stroller, with which she was completely trapping me behind that railing. Now how the hell attentive do you have to be...? She wasn't watching the kid, particularly; she was staring straight ahead, right through me, woth that thousand-yard phone stare.

I cleared my throat. Nothing.

I wasn't about to wait for long, so rather than engage in dialogue I excuse me'd and waved the spider at her. Worked like a charm, an aversive charm. Then I just had to weave through the half of the population of Berkeley that had suddenly decided it needed to be entering or exiting that door at that instant. Spider and I made it to the nearest tree, and I maneuvered the critter off the paper -- and had to do it again, using as a handle the web it had extruded in a Garylarsonesque reaction -- into the tree's first crotch. Safe and sound at least for the moment, hooray.

I do nevertheless wish we could get those shots the way we voted -- absentee.

Posted at November 9, 2005 05:17 AM