I’m in a car with a new friend, Ed, on our way to Dodger Stadium to get the first dose of the Covid vaccine. I’m in a good mood. It’s 4:00 PM, Biden was inaugurated today and I can feel hope starting to break down my armor – until we take our place at the end of a two and a half mile line of cars, all heading to get a life saving vaccine. Our appointment is scheduled for 5, but that dissolves as we switch our concern from getting there on time to hoping they won’t run out of the vaccine when it’s our turn.
I’ll spare you a description of the grueling inch by inch crawl as we eat up hour after hour of a five hour ordeal. No bathrooms, no food, no relief, masks on, looking forward to our reward – a sharp stab in the arm with a needle. I can’t begin to describe the pandemonium of thousands of cars doing a half dozen switch backs the entire length of the parking lot of Dodger Stadium. Tens of thousands of orange cones creating crisscrossing lanes, eerily lit up by red and white headlights and taillights. It’s feels like the apocalypse. I take a few pictures but it’s no use. It’s like trying to photograph the Grand Canyon in one shot.
I know I’m lucky to be here at all, to have gotten an appointment, but that’s not what this blog is about. It’s about a moment, two and half hours in, I have a wild look on my face, I fantasize rushing out of the car, standing in bumper to bumper traffic and screaming bloody murder when Ed opens his phone and begins reading to me about nothing and anything – Biden, cats, restaurants, real estate. He’s a snake charmer, soothing me with the calmness of his voice and bringing me back from the brink. He goes from being a new friend to a lifeline. That’s what this blog is about.
I recently went to a friend’s home for a “socially distant” dinner. She opened the door with a big smile on her face and we bumped elbows. “Big hug,” I said. We wrapped our arms around ourselves, we sat down in her living room more than six feet apart and when we started talking, I felt relief. We both live alone, we hadn’t been seeing people, and we were hungry for connection and intelligent conversation.
She went into the kitchen, I lagged behind her, and we filled our plates with beans, roasted vegetables, biscuits, and a chocolate marshmallow dessert. We carried our dinners to the table that she had set beautifully, lit candles and we sat opposite each other, eating and talking a mile a minute. For a delicious moment, I forgot there was a pandemic, what we had endured for four years under a corrupt administration, and that I had waited in line at Dodger Stadium for five hours the day before. It was a huge exhale, a gift to talk about mundane things and to laugh at ourselves for being human and imperfect.
Before I left, I hugged myself again and when I got into my car, I realized how much I treasure my friends. How deeply important they are to my well being. Spending close to a year in quarantine has shown me who cares enough to reach out and who doesn’t. Who I can count on and who I can’t. What matters to me and what doesn’t. How I feel about myself when there are no distractions. I’ve learned how to talk myself down when I’m severely irritable and there are no snake charmers around. I’ve learned how to find my breath when I’m anxious and how to soothe myself when I’m depressed. Mostly, I’ve learned how to leave myself alone when I think I’ve done something wrong and how to appreciate myself when I feel proud. These are gifts that I intend to hold onto and keep close to my heart when the next phase of life rolls around. Whatever that looks like.
Is there a particular friendship that you treasure?