Dancing on the Ceiling

Is my neurotic behavior here to stay?

I took a selfie of my left arm decorated with a red Walgreens’ band-aid. I had just received the first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

Laura Looney with bandaged arm and in a mask, just after her shot.

I was required to wait in the Portland, Oregon, store for fifteen minutes to monitor myself for dangerous side-effects. Fittingly, the store’s piped music played Lionel Richie’s “Dancing on the Ceiling.” Starting at noon, I watched the time pass on the clock behind the pharmacy counter. This minute-counting ritual calmed me.

Will I be eligible?

Photo by Waldemar Brandt

At the counter, a thirty or forty-something woman had checked me in for my vaccine appointment. She was nondescript – graying brown ponytail, charcoal-gray turtleneck top, dark slacks, black mask – for which I was grateful. I had not been nervous about the shot itself, but I had feared being ineligible for my vaccine appointment. But she had efficiently managed the process, including the state-required questionnaire about vaccine eligibility, without raising an eyebrow at me.

Why are the pharmacists not practicing social distancing?

While my eligibility was processed, I had observed, behind the counter, where the prescription drugs were tightly packed on ceiling-high white shelves, the other three pharmacists practically climbing on top of each other to fill prescriptions. Compared to the unruffled demeanor of the woman helping me, their frantic work pace had unnerved me. Later, after my shot, while watching fifteen minutes pass, another frantic employee, who had been restocking behind me, hurried by me brushing my shoulder. I heard her apology and saw the back of her head, the straps of her mask visible against her blonde hair, as she flew by me.

Why is the store inventory so low?

Image of floor sticker reminding of social distancing.

Inside, Walgreens had changed during the pandemic. Large dots on the floor guided my path to the pharmacy. I received a flu shot at this Walgreens in October. At that time, my first impression were the empty shelves. In quarantine at home, I worried about the availability of supplies like food and medicine. The empty shelves panicked me: would we get through the pandemic? On a recent trip to Walgreens, I asked a floor clerk about the low inventory. “Theft” replied the employee, her dark-brown hair arranged in a tidy bun on top of her head. She explained to me that Walgreens saves money by stocking just a few items per product. Shoplifters fill tote bags by sweeping their arms across the shelf to fill the bags, she said.

Why is the clinical room locked like a vault?

When I entered the store for the COVID-19 vaccine, the only other customer in the store was my husband who had just received his first Pfizer shot. Like October, the store shelves were barely stocked. After my shot, I noticed a new numerical combination lock on the door of the clinical room where I had had the injection. Walgreens had increased security since my flu vaccine, I detected.

Why do I feel so giddy?

At a quarter past twelve, and feeling as though I was dancing on the ceiling of the pharmacy, I posted the selfie on Instagram: “Right now I am in love with Walgreens, my husband, who got vaccine appointments for the whole family, and President Biden (but maybe not in that order),” I messaged. Despite my state of happiness, I felt disheartened when I saw a line of six cars at the drive-thru pharmacy as I exited the store empty of customers and merchandise. I asked myself, will I be this neurotic in the post-pandemic era? 

Exiting COVID-19 isolation

Resources to overcome social anxiety

Lora Looney

Lora Looney is a 2021 student in Designing Stories for the Web.

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