Monday, May 11, 2009

¿Dónde está la guagua?/Where's the baby?

I am truly astonished to find that I have never told the "Where's the baby"/Dónde está la guagua? story. It's a tale of chicken pox and vaccinations and inadequate medicinery and being pushy and explaining math. Pull up a chair, you're going to love it.

So one day I was at work, in the little four-pod I used to work in, whereby Anita and I stared across our desks at each other over a low cubicle partition, and if I turned slightly to the left I'd see José, and if I turned a little more, I'd see the elegantly-named Tatiana, who we all for some unknown reason we all liked to call Tatys. Strange, because there's only one of her, and she's pretty small.

Well, José had arrived a little late, and announced that he might be leaving early, because one kid was down with the peste cristal/varicella (chicken pox), and if the other showed up with some pox, he'd have to go retrieve him/her from school. Interesting, I thought. I've never had the pox! (though my sister, ever the over-achiever, has had it twice). "Neither have I" admitted José.

I toodled along through my academic/administriative duties, casting aside old testing materials and creating new ones, learning a book-related software for creating exams which would hopefully only have one correct answer per item (test questions are called items when you are in the know, trust me on this). Then I went to one of the eternal meetings I was frequently invited to at the institute that I have never named (but at which several of my readers work, and they are probably enjoying this post an inordinate amount already). How about you?

Well, when I came back from the meeting, I looked ahead and smiled at Anita. I looked to the side, and saw the singular Tatys. And then, to the left, I saw a big empty space where José should be solving problems and dealing with the IT department. No José. Pittapatpittapat went the corazón (heart). "Um," I said casually... "where's José?"

Oh, he got some pox, so he went home.

Immediately I began researching post-exposure vaccination to chicken pox. I discovered that it can prevent infection or minimize symptoms. I don't want to be a weenie, but I also didn't want to suffer through a perfectly preventable childhood illness when I was distantly removed from my childhood (immature attitudes towards dating and incurable romanticism notwithstanding).

I flew off to my local doctor, and convinced her to prescribe me the vaccination, and at the same time she suggested that I should get a shot of immunoglobulin, just to boost my immune system. I grabbed the prescription and flew out the door, thinking a) immunoglobulin is a human blood derivative, have we learned nothing about contagion and blood banks, you quack? and b) I don't want other people's antibodies to fight off the vaccine, silly doctor, I want MY body to react to the vaccine. Because hey, that's how vaccines work.

Remember the baby? Well, here's where he/she comes in. I trotted off to the recommended clinic, complete with the vacunatorio (vaccination center) in the basement, dropped off my paperwork and proceeded to wait. Tickatickaticka went the clock.

Finally, I was called. Señora Barbara, they said. And I stood up. This is not my name, but like some actors have stage names, or writers have nomes de plume, Señora Barbara is my clinic name. (it is actually my middle name, treated like a last name, but this is not important to the story).

"¿Dónde esta la guagua?" (Where's the baby?)

La guagua?

La guagua.

Qué guagua?

(getting impatient)... The baby here, Aylin, with the national ID number veinti-un milliones (21 million) etc.

Oh, that's not a baby!

Yes it is.

No it's not, it's me.

No (very annoyed now), this RUT belongs to a two-year-old child.

No, (almost laughing), this RUT belongs to a foreigner who got into the system two years ago.

Having solved that there was no baby to be vaccinated, I was sent to the vaccination ante-room, where I watched several actual guaguas (babies in Chile, means bus in Puerto Rico, among other places) squirm on their parents' laps and try to stick stuff in their mouths.

When it was time for my turn, the doctor looked down to find me. Then she realized I was an adult, and taller than her by several inches. You want the chicken pox vaccine? Yes, I said. But didn't you have the chicken pox as a child? And on and on it went, about how no, and I'd actually had the titer to see if I'd ever had an antibody reaction to it (been exposed and not gotten it), and all the while, watching the clock, and wondering if I was going to get the injection before the incubation period ended. And wondering why some people insist on coming to work when they are sick.

And get vaccinated I did, and I got a bandaid to go over the puncture, and no lollipop, nor a single pox. José got two weeks off of work. Maybe I got the short end of the stick. But at least I have my story.


Bystander said...

Ah, Señora Barbara. Señora Mary here. I also answer to long pauses...I just know it is my name they are trying to get their tongues around.
Yes, you go into the system along with the newborns when you are a foreigner. I am now old enough to vote!

Eileen said...

ooh, congratulations on being old enough to vote. Presumably you can also buy cigarettes and alcohol (as though that were controlled). Maybe sometime I'll detail the story of how I almost couldn't get my driver's license because I couldn't prove that I'd graduated from the eighth grade. Oy!

Hope your visit is going well and that P (?) doesn't mind the blecky weather!

Margaret said...

Had to laugh at the RUT-age thing! I usually get the ID double-check when I write checks because I am clearly much older than someone who would have an ID that starts with 14!

Richard said...

La guagua - that is just too cute. Even the sound of it makes me think of a baby :) It's a pity no lollipop though - medical staff can be so cold.

Eileen said...

Margaret, at least you're a young adult by now. I'm still a rugrat!

Richard, maybe it's even cuter when you hear that we say it Wa-wa. It's not a pure W sound, but it's close. It's surely a Quechua word down here, but I have no idea how it came to mean bus in other countries.

I'm sure I could google it, but why take away all the fun for everyone else.

Thanks for commenting, all!

Richard said...

La guagua - that is just too cute. Even the sound of it makes me think of a baby :) It's a pity no lollipop though - medical staff can be so cold.

Carolina said...


You wrote such a sweet story!
I can do nothing but admire your sense of humour being while being around here.

Anonymous said...

That's so funny. It was "wa-wa" in my head.

Thank God you didn't get the pox. I've heard it's hellish for adults.

At age five I gave my chicken pox to an entire firetruck load of kids when I threw up. And I'm not lying--we really were on a firetruck. I bet those kids thanked me that they got it over with.

Abby said...

Wait, do you work at the institute that I work at by any chance? At least the names you named are all people that currently work in the academic department of my institute...although I can't imagine calling Tatiana "Tatys"...hmm. Maybe just a coincidence.

Anyway, I'm sad I missed yesterday too! I had some mother's day obligations for people who aren't my mother but are mothers none-the-less and I felt it necessary to celebrate with them. Plus I was slightly ill (sore throat, smog, maybe?). We'll have to do coffee soon, but perhaps after my mom leaves because I think things will be crazy until then!

Eileen said...

@abby, I worked there, but stopped before you started. Not stalking you, I swear. We should talk about it offline sometime, though I see you're crazy busy with work and family visits. When it calms down let me know and we can grab a coffee or something!

The above mentioned sister said...

Believe me.... you do NOT want the pox as an adult. My second case was at age 20, and it was pretty horrific.

Eileen said...

@aforementioned sister, I think that story is what made me determined to get the vaccine! Did you know, vaca (cow), vaccine, not a coincidence? In Chile beef is called carne vacuno, and the vacunatorio, well, you know. Etymology. So pretty.

Sara said...

It Germany everyone called me Ashley, which is my middle name. I have no idea why. I almost missed a flight becuase they were looking for Azzley Beck.

Good to know about that vaccine. I can't believe you escaped having the chicken pox for that long. I got it when I was two and I still remember my mom had to coat me in some slimy substance to keep me from itchy myself.