A Shot in the Dark

With few of us flying, we don’t hear stories of air rage anymore. They used to be all the rage, and on the rise. A nutter goes wild because a flight attendant doesn’t say “Please.”A frequent flyer doesn’t get his upgrade. Some fanboys drink too much, forcing the pilot to land in Dubuque.

Booze is a factor, for sure, as are tight connections and tighter seating.

But there’s something else at play here, and that is class warfare. It seems when people are put physically close to something they want but can’t have, they get agitated. We’ve all felt this walking through business class to our middle seats in Row 287.

This is what I’m feeling about vaccinations. Why am I at the back of the plane? I’m 71. I have underlying health conditions. What about me? I wouldn’t be saying this if my wife wasn’t already vaccinated, or if Doug Ford hadn’t suddenly announced last Thursday that anyone aged 60 to 64 could get a vaccine by walking into their local drug store. This was confusing. Start with those 80+. Sure, I get that. Then, move to those 60 to 64?  Hey, boomers, what about us?

Add to this itching resentment the stories of doctors who are booked to do vaccinations only to be told the night before that they’re cancelled because of ‘lack of supply.’ Or the doctor who had some extra jabs and wanted to give them to anyone passing by, but was ordered to return them, even if they would be past their due date and useless.

Or my friend I was on a Zoom call with on Friday morning.  In the middle of our call, his phone rang and he said “Excuse me, it’s my pharmacy. I need to take this.” This he did with his camera and microphone on. Even though I could only hear half their conversation, it was clear he knew the pharmacist well. “10:30? King and Yonge? I’ll be there. Thanks so much.” He hung up the phone with a smile on his face. All he said, all he had to say, was: “Vaccine.”

My eyes turned green. I was bereft. “Great.” I said.

“How do you get a vaccine?”

“Because I’m 63 and I’m organized.”

I laughed wanly.

Ian Brown wrote about our “vaccine envy” in the Globe on the weekend. As he said, it’s not the worst problem to have. But like air rage, it will rise up to slay whatever serenity and sense of fairness we have. Because the only thing worse than a corrupt vaccine system, where the rich and powerful can buy their way to the front of the line, is a confusing vaccine system, which we have now.

My doctor’s office emailed me on Saturday to say:  “We know you are hoping to get your COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible and are seeking the latest information. Please do not call us to try to book an appointment. We need to keep our phone lines free for patients with immediate medical needs.”

If a 12-doctor downtown clinic is “seeking the latest information,” where does that put its thousands of patients?

Canada’s vaccine problem isn’t just about delays and Junior High negotiation skills. It’s a chronic inability of our politicians to organize anything beyond tomorrow morning. 

It’s not that Canadians can’t plan and execute big things well. But we have to be brought to a point where even we are shamed by our well-intentioned ineptitude.

An example: For decades,  Canadians were happy to Not Win Gold™ in Olympic events (except in hockey, of course). In the 2006 Winter games in Turin, we won 7 Gold, 10 Silver and 7 Bronze. After much wailing, we put our Own the Podium program into gear, and in the 2010 Winter Games in Whistler, Canada won 14 Gold, 7 Silver and 5 Bronze – the most gold medals by any country in Winter Olympic history. Pride and shame drove us to do better.

Contrast that with what’s happening in America right now with what used to be called the meth lab by us nice Canadians living in the apartment above.

As of this morning, 21% of Americans have received at least one vaccine. In Canada, 6.4% of us have received at least one dose.

There’s a double difference here, one between America’s response and Canada’s, the other between Trump’s America and Biden’s. Last week, every Canadian’s ears perked up when we heard Joe Biden say the vaccine would be available to all Americans by the end of May, and that July 4th would be “Independence Day” from the virus.

America, who sunk desperately lower than Canada, is now racing past us. This is a well-known quality in our neighbours to the south. As Churchill said: “Americans can always be trusted to do the right thing, once all other possibilities have been exhausted.”

And they do it with incredible speed and determination. Wade Davis reminds us of what America is capable of once it sets its eyes on a goal: “In 1940, both Portugal and Bulgaria had bigger armies than America. Yet within three years, one factory in Detroit, the arsenal of Chrysler, would produce more tanks than the entire Third Reich, and was also pumping out Liberty Ships by the hour.  The world’s record was 4 days, 17 hours per ship.”

But America’s not the only ones who can do this.

By the end of World War II, the Royal Canadian Navy was the fourth-largest fleet in the world - behind only those of the U.S., Great Britain, and the Soviet Union - with more than 400 warships.

Some 45,000 Canadians died in World War II. So far, in the War on COVID half that number, 22,500, have died.

It’s time to save ourselves.

It’s way past time.

So can we please just get our act together and do this?

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