Cutting in Line

By Susan Estrich

February 18, 2021 4 min read

It is a brisk morning, but this is LA, so that means we are in sweaters and puffers. We stand six feet apart.

I cannot believe I am here, cannot believe that a year spent inside, in fear, in anger, in grief, is nearing an end.

Science is saving us, pure and simple.

I am here by chance, because my daughter saw a notice on Twitter that a private company had contracted with Los Angeles to provide software for vaccination sites being run by the City of LA (as opposed to LA County). She read the list of sites. None close to me, and rightly so. I have spent time at the University of Southern California Health Sciences Campus (not as a patient, thankfully, though it is a first-rate hospital), and the site I recognized was across from the pharmacy school.

"I'm getting mine on Monday," a trophy wife and former pretty little thing from San Diego bragged. What was particularly galling was that she had already had COVID-19, which means she should be last in line. She is not over 65; her husband is. (Shocker, that one.) He is a doctor. The shot was for a phantom staffer.

"I do the books sometimes," she added as I looked at her in utter shock.

What could I say? "How does it feel to be cutting in line, to be taking a spot from someone who needs it?" Is it polite to ask? Am I wrong to be horrified?

Or am I no better — a millennial mom, saved by Twitter?

Former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said each state is a "laboratory" of experimentation and change. As such, they are proving very aptly that there are countless ways to fail in distributing the vaccine fairly and efficiently.

What is going on in Los Angeles is being played out in major cities across America. I am in East LA, a predominantly Hispanic community. The line did have some Hispanics, but nowhere near the 49% of the county population they make up. It was mostly whites and Asians. It was hard to find parking. There were lots of nice cars. It was an easy 25 minutes from the other side of the world.

We are polite. We played by the rules, such as they were, and we won. It is nearly impossible to get a "new" appointment, and I'm waiting for an email from Carbon Health about my second shot — me and a lot of other people. It's not a software problem. It's the supply chain.

I check in at Carbon Health regularly, just in case it is trying to reach me. Really, I'm curious to see if it is even possible to get a new appointment in the city.

When will people with lung disease and heart failure get the vaccine?

Is it that we don't trust doctors not to help patients cut in line ahead of those with serious breathing problems? Or worse, not to do what that Florida nursing home did in sponsoring a vaccination event for its board members and major donors?

You hear the stories: rich people being vaccinated by celebrity doctors, trips to Israel, 53-year-olds with fake IDs. One woman's son claimed he was her caregiver and had forgotten his ID. The site had already had some cancellations that day, so he got lucky.

Then there is a doctor I know who gave a shot to one of his sickest patients, who happens to be 63. That didn't bother me at all. The spirit of the law. Or the hobgoblin of a simple mind?

I was a little girl when they lined up cups of orange juice and we all drank up so no one would ever get polio and end up in an iron lung. I remember the iron lung part especially. We drank every drop.

We are the beneficiaries of the greatest scientific minds to ever develop a vaccine so swiftly. Now it's our turn.

To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Photo credit: aykapog at Pixabay

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