From Pandemic To Pan-Pipes: Haven’t We Suffered Enough?

I didn’t need to be asked twice.  As soon as it was announced that I was eligible to receive a vaccination, I was on to the hotline to make a booking.  As was every other member of Generation X, it seemed, resulting in a complete annihilation of the phone system.  Often, people complain about how long they were on hold – for the first three days of trying, I couldn’t get to ‘hold’.  Instead, I was unceremoniously dumped, with the encouragement to try again at a later time.  Then, on day three, everything changed. 

On day three, I made it to ‘hold’.  Which, I feel, is the telephonic equivalent to reaching the base camp of Mount Everest. There’s still plenty of climbing to be done, but at least you’re somewhere.  Having overcome the seemingly impossible hurdle of ‘getting to hold’, I now had to face the next challenge to my sanity – hold music.

What better way to soothe the jangled nerves of a frazzled public than with hold music?  And, given most of  the callers were Gen-Xers who came of age in the grunge era, what better way to relax them than with pan pipes? On a loop that plays over and over again, possibly for hours.  

This was thoughtless.  The least they could have done was to supply pan-pipe versions of classic grunge era songs.  Had the pan-pipes been performing a version of ‘Rooster’ by Alice in Chains, it would have been okay.  Instead, it was all weirdly mystical and filled me with an overwhelming urge to climb Hanging Rock.  Apparently, the ‘pan’ in ‘pandemic’ is actually short for ‘pan-pipe’. Who knew?

After forty minutes, I was sucked out of the third circle of hold without warning and delivered to an operator whom immediately asked me for my name.  Still reeling from the after-effects of forty minutes of pan-pipe music, I instinctively answered ‘Miranda’ before correcting myself.   After a minute or so of niceties, the operator asked me where I wanted to be vaccinated.  In a panic, I answered, ‘the arm, if possible’. All the images on TV had been of dignitaries presenting their biceps for vaccination, but maybe this was just for show and that, in actual fact, the needle went somewhere far less photogenic.  This put ‘vaccine hesitancy’ in a whole new light.

Turns out the ‘where’ was geographic rather than anatomical.  I had a choice of Prahran, Springvale or Cranbourne.  I was booked to appear at the Cranbourne Golf Course. I was surprised by the venue. I was also a little concerned – I hadn’t played golf in over twenty years always had an awful short game. I instantly imagined arriving only to be informed that there were only a few remaining doses left, the recipients of which would be determined by way of a playoff.  I wouldn’t stand a chance.  I confirmed the venue, but forgot to ask which hole.

I now had about eight days on which to work on my putting.  However, having been informed that  I would need to go to the golf course, I began to have doubts as to whether this was, in fact, correct.  My sister had been vaccinated in Cranbourne, but had gone to the local Turf Club, rather than the Golf Club.  Golf and racing are completely different sports; there really ought not be any confusion.

To be sure, I rang the hotline again.  This time, I sat on hold listening to what I was certain was a pan-pipe rendition of ‘Spoonman’ originally performed by Soundgarden, courtesy of the Pakenham Pan-Pipe Ensemble.  As the pan-pipes weaved their particular magic, I was suddenly wrenched from ‘on hold’ and delivered, shaken and a little disoriented, to a waiting operator.  I was told that the call may be monitored for coaching and quality purposes.  It seemed ironic that people who use pan-pipes for hold music should be concerned with quality.  

I quickly confirmed that I had a booking and that I’d been given the wrong venue in the first instance.  Throwing my five iron to the floor in disappointment, I was informed that I should, indeed, be heading to the Turf Club.  I decided to dress like a jockey in order to blend in. I’ve never really been to a turf club before, and I’d hate to stick out.  Granted, it’s rare for a jockey to be over six feet tall, but you’ve got to make an effort.

Arriving at the car park, there were dozens and dozens of people my age locking their cars, donning their masks and heading for the entrance.  Those without a mask were drinking coffee.  It says a lot about Melbourne’s love affair with coffee that drinking a flat white is a recognised exception to a public health order. 

As I approached the entrance, it occurred to me that this was the pandemic’s version of the Big Day Out.  Doubtless, the Pakenham Pan-Pipe Ensemble would be headlining the Main Stage, tearing the roof of with their version of ‘Enter Sandman’.  The whole thing ran like clockwork. I’d say it was like a well-oiled machine, but I’m yet to encounter a piece of machinery as awesome as the vaccination centre at Cranbourne.  The staff were, frankly, impeccable. I’m supposed to rest but, for some reason, I feel an uncontrollable urge to listen to pan-pipes.  Getting vaccinated felt like a tangible step out of the pandemic.  I can’t wait for the next one.