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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 petite.

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.

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.