By BEN R. WILLIAMS
I don’t like to brag about my good fortune, but my girlfriend Lauren is one of the most thoughtful people I’ve ever met.
A couple of months ago, Lauren told me what she was planning for my birthday. Knowing my love of the Mothman, a cryptozoological wonder of possible extraterrestrial origin that allegedly plagued the town of Point Pleasant, West Virginia in the 1960s, Lauren had bought us two tickets to Point Pleasant’s Mothman Festival. Not only that, but she had also booked us an Airbnb in nearby Huntington that happened to be right next door to a barcade, one of those wonderful establishments where you can play old pinball and arcade games while enjoying an adult beverage.
Truly, this birthday trip ticked off nearly every box on Ben’s Weird Interests BINGO card. I was really excited about it!
But then, of course, the festival was cancelled last week because COVID rates are soaring among the unvaccinated.
I had more sympathy last year when all the stuff I was excited about got cancelled. At least back then the vaccine wasn’t an option. A pinball tournament in Richmond that was going to be my very first was cancelled in April 2020. A Blue Oyster Cult concert at the Harvester in Rocky Mount was cancelled a little later. It’s now supposed to take place in about two weeks, but I guess we’ll see what happens.
Of course, all of that pales in comparison to the hospital situation. Someone close to me recently needed to go to the hospital for a possible concussion. She was told that the nearest hospital that MIGHT take her was Carilion in Roanoke; every hospital closer to home was only taking people on the verge of death. The reason: all of their beds are packed with unvaccinated patients struggling with — you guessed it — COVID. This person ended up just staying at home, and we all crossed our fingers hoping that she wasn’t concussed.
Earlier this month, a viral video made the rounds of a man whose wife has stage IV breast cancer. She has to go into the hospital frequently for treatment, but she recently had her treatment cut short due to a horde of unvaccinated COVID patients taking up all the beds. The man, justifiably emotional, told anti-vaxxers that if they didn’t trust the vaccine, then they shouldn’t trust modern medicine at all. If you choose not to get vaccinated and you get COVID, just stay at home and ride it out and leave the hospital beds for the people who desperately need them.
My friends in the medical industry say it’s a nightmare right now, as bad if not worse than the winter. Hospitals are overrun with COVID patients. About 9 out of 10 of them are unvaccinated, while the remaining ten percent are vaccinated folks with compromised immune systems. Many doctors and nurses have no sympathy left. The vaccine is readily available. On the day I write this, the Pfizer vaccine has been officially approved by the FDA with the others likely to follow shortly. And yet we’re seeing record numbers of pointless deaths from folks who “did their own research” at crackpot.biz and decided they were better off taking antibiotics and livestock de-worming medicine than an actual vaccine that actually works.
I also have no sympathy left. I can’t even tell you how many articles I’ve read about some rabid anti-vaxxer who died of COVID. The story is so common that it’s hardly newsworthy. I don’t feel joy at their deaths. I don’t feel anything at all, other than maybe a vague sense of sadness at the state of our misguided country.
The current situation reminds me of a family member of mine. As the story goes, her husband never wanted to go on vacation, and he didn’t want her to go on vacation either. After several years without a getaway, she asked him the following question: Do you want to let me go on vacation, or do you want me to sit around the house staring at you and waiting for you to die? After some thought, he decided he wanted her to go on vacation.
I got vaccinated back in March because I’m ready to go on vacation. I’m ready to live my life. I realize the vaccine isn’t foolproof and there’s still a chance I could catch COVID, but all legitimate scientific evidence — and here I’m excluding crackpot.biz — suggests that my chances of catching it are vastly lowered and my chances of having a severe case are minimal. I’m ready to get back into the world.
The problem is, the anti-vaxxers are the ones shaping that world, and unless you’re a big fan of pestilence, it’s not a great place to visit.
And so, to the anti-vaxxers, I offer a variation on the question my family member asked her husband:
Are you going to get on board with the program so we can all go on vacation safely? Or are the rest of us going to have to sit around staring at you and waiting for the inevitable?