Thinking About

In Praise of Art and Science

Waiting in line with stories at the vaccine clinic

Kate Green Tripp
3 min readDec 16, 2021
Photo: Levi Jones / Unsplash

I stood in line for science today.

Most lines are no fun. But when you’re queuing up to reap the benefit of life-saving innovation, vote down the bad guy, or inject meaning into your world (fill in the blank here: one fellow’s latest pair of Jordans is another’s immersive Van Gogh), the line is the place to be.

Sure, it would have been nice to romp in the woods this afternoon instead of shuffle across carpet tile in a Kaiser Permanente office park, but hey. I’m damn grateful for a third Pfizer dose in my arm and a rare sense of communal order seldom experienced in our otherwise shot-to-smithereens U.S. healthcare system.

To top it off, I felt a surge of California pride at the discovery of a line in the first place. More people queuing for omicron protection is precisely what the docs who know their virology are calling for. Booster seekers unite! The longer lines we see in the coming days, the better. Seattle, I’m looking at you.

My pride grew into relief when I wasn’t dinged by the (understandably exhausted) clinic staff for forgetting my vaccination card. The nice people in scrubs let me get what I came for, no matter that I arrived without my brain. Apparently, waning immunity need not pay the price for compromised memory. I was advised to circle back to Kaiser to get my card officially updated another day — how forgiving, how civilized.

The wait grew lovelier by the minute.

Plus, what is a line if not an opportunity to read? So, as I inched along the taupe and charcoal squares, I caught up with the writers I follow right here on this platform of a jillion words. Given my surroundings, I particularly appreciated reading Robert Roy Britt report that it’s ok to mix and match vaccines. Experts urge that we each get the shot available to us, he writes. Omicron makes today a moment for rapid action, not brand loyalty.

On a far lighter note, I loved hearing about all the varied feelings (from the author) and sweet behaviors (from her neighbors) Rosie Spinks’ newly fashioned book nook evoked. It sure is, as her piece reminds, endlessly delightful when human beings transmit the simple magic of grace.

Speaking of magic, Lisa Renee’s piece about the fraught and frenetic ways we try to remake ourselves via the timeless (and wacky) ritual of Christmas tree ornamenting is a marvel. Who are we kidding with the tinsel and the expectations? Everyone and no one, it appears — year in and year out.

I also read Will Leitch’s proclamation that 2021 was better than 2020. I’m not quite sure what 2021 was (is anyone?) but I’m certain he’s right about that. “I can say that the year that just ended was not as bad as the one that came before it. This may be just a temporary blip, a dead-count bounce. But it’s not nothing.” No it ain’t.

When the nurse finally called me in to the pin prick room, I sat down with a naked shoulder and a mind full of story, aware of the collision of art and science that keep me healthy. If the year that looms in the foreground is anything like its recent predecessors, we’re all gonna need ample doses of both.

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Kate Green Tripp

Writer / Editor / Strategist. Comms Director, Stanford Impact Labs. I chase ideas & shape stories about science, society & innovation. Mostly, I belong outside.