My meeting is dragging on and I can’t leave. Every department member gives an update more slowly and with more detail than the last. Finally, I apologize, say my goodbyes, grab my coat and head out the door. I press the button to call the elevator. I’ve been delayed so much that now it is time for school: elevator rush hour. One elevator is out of service, another arrives but it is full. I let it go and push the button again and put some music on in my headphones.
In my ears, A Tribe Called Quest plays. A chorus of “You’re buggin’ out, you’re buggin’ out.” repeats and I really am. I need to go now. An entire song plays and still no elevator arrives. I’m not going to make my scheduled departure at this rate. I make a snap decision. I’m taking the stairs. Round and round and down I go. It’s a dream-like scene with every single floor looking the same. Am I making progress? I can only tell by looking at the numbers by the doors I pass. 38, 37, 36… By the 30th floor I’m starting to get dizzy and hold tighter to the railings as I circle downward. By the 20th floor my legs are starting to burn. Almost 1,000 steps later, a G next to the door tells me I can go outside.
I arrive at the building just in time and join the lineup in the rain to get inside. Taxis queue up, windshield wipers sliding back and forth. Drivers open the doors for their passengers and open the trunks to get their things. Once out, they join the queue behind me. When I get to the security checkpoint, I’m asked to show my pass. I hand him my documents. He reviews them and waves me in.
The contrast is surprising. Outside it is cold and grey. Inside it is spotless. It smells of new building materials and cleaning products. The people in front of me make their way to a shiny escalator. Couples, single people, and a few families step on and are let off into a large open space with high ceilings. I scan the room for my check-in counter. It’s at the far end of the room.
A maze of stanchions and belts directs us all to the check-in counter. Together we queue, snaking back and forth. A tall blonde man in a suit writes an email to his boss. A father and daughter in comfortable sweatpants and t-shirts laugh together. A couple takes a selfie together before a security guard in a vest approaches them and points at a sign. “No photography permitted in the secured area.” They apologize and the guard leaves to remind others to move the line along.
When I arrive at check-in, I’m met by a young woman and a man likely over twice her age. They smile and wish me a good morning and ask me for my documents. The woman explains to the older man how to use the terminal to check people in. She’s being patient even as the man is going very slowly, having trouble with the interface. Am I still going to make it on time? I look at my watch surreptitiously to not make the man feel worse. Finally, everything is verified, and I’m checked in. The man gestures to the arrow on the floor directing me between the check-in desks and further back into the building. I pass their desk, following the crowd, eventually joining another queue. It’s time to board.
One by one, we’re directed to our assigned seats. When I take mine, my documentation is verified one last time. Everything is good. Within moments we’re cleared for departure. As we leave, the attendant asks:
“Would you like the injection in your left or right arm?”
(Photo of the Thorncliffe Park Vaccination Centre by East Toronto Health Partners)