(Written 8th March 2020)
I needed the influenza flu vaccine since I was about to travel.
Given the current situation, I decided that having the vaccine regardless of whether I’m actually going or not is not a bad thing. If anything, its one less virus to worry about for the next year. (Flu vaccines are for the Influenza virus, not the coronavirus.)
Emerging from the cluster of HDB blocks into the marketplace, the first clinic that came into view was one that belongs to my childhood. The interior has remained unchanged for almost 20 years and the walls were still plastered with posters and notices of every possible disease and condition. And from across the road, I could pick out black and white A4 sized notices:
FLU VACCINE AVAILABLE HERE. $30 ONLY. WHY PAY MORE?
Something in me knew that I would end up here. But I defiantly walked past the empty clinic, to the next one and the next, and the next.
Those clinics either did not carry the influenza vaccine or were simply closed as it was Friday night.
I stood at the end of a row of shophouses and began to search for clinics nearer to the MRT, where the malls are. Perhaps I could get a nice dinner after that. Maybe a stroll, window shop, something.
But it’s just a flu vaccine.
It’s a very simple thing.
Why am I so afraid to face Dr Wong*?
Awkwardness. It’s gonna be awkward.
Geez, how old are you already and you still can’t handle a simple situation?
Just get it done.
But I could shop around central too…
My brain did the thing again, where it zoomed in on a problem and amplifies every detail to the point where I would become paralysed with indecisiveness.
Meanwhile, my fingers googled Raffles Medical’s price and let’s just say it snapped me out of the hellish loop.
Dr Wong has aged so much over the years that I have not seen him. His office remained the same, like a quaint time capsule. The only thing ageing was the man now asking why I needed the vaccine.
‘Erm,’ I smiled sheepishly, ‘I’m travelling?’
I knew what he was gonna do.
After telling him where, he looked at my records and sighed.
‘Y’know, you can…turn on National Geographic,’ he passes me a wry look and knew that I knew where he was going with this, ‘…buy some snacks,’ he continued.
I let out an uneasy chuckle.
He gave a smile that held tons of messages: him knowing that he can’t stop me, concern and a bit of helplessness.
But he tried, nonetheless.
After trying to convince me to convince the rest of my family to get the flu vaccine, I left feeling torn.
During a quiet walk back home, I couldn’t help but wonder if it was fate that led me to the old clinic, to meet a familiar face and to receive a warning about travelling during this period.
Update (29/3): My flight got cancelled the very next day. I searched for other flights and found one at a lower price. I was conflicted.
As the days passed, CNA became our after-work activity, like a sick form of entertainment. Watching the world slow to a near standstill as death tolls rise while Europe is swallowed whole by Covid-19.
The exponential rise in cases mirrored my fear of bringing something to and/or from my destination. The anticipated guilt of harming others became too much and I dropped all travel plans like a hot char siew pao.
The number of cases continues to ascend and my company began the physical segregation plan.
A week later, the country I was to travel to imposed a ban for Singaporeans entering.