Quarantine Halloween 2020: It Was Filled with Goodwill Costumes and Imagination
November 1, 2020
I will never forget this Quarantine Halloween 2020. It was the Saturday before an historic election where so much is on the line. I am as anxious as everyone and sometimes I want to empty the contents of my stomach when the images of what ifs crosses my mind – especially if this election does not go our way. It’s also the last weekend before we venture into the third wave of COVID-19 infections, and pediatricians are worried about children becoming secondary victims of FLU-VID (when flu and covid clash). No matter how much one debates COVID-19 impacting children, influenza’s disproportionate effect on children is as much accepted truth as anything in the world. Influenzae kills kids especially babies and asthmatics. So this fall is a frightening moment for us all, including your local litter-picking pediatrician. Vaccine rates are plummeting nation-wide.
But the plastic pollution crisis and minimizing our overconsumptive lifestyle is also on our mind at the Plastic Picker household. We had fun with it this month. At some moments I wanted to give up, and just purchase the kids something really outlandish and expensive and fun and new on-line. I have the same thoughts as every other parent. Would buying something make them feel better? But the kids are as committed to the earth as I am. We had a very Halloweeny Halloween, without buying much new.
We decorated the house just with one gray and weathered wooden Halloween sign that we’ve had for ages. We skipped other outside decorations. The kids weren’t into it this year and we did not want to encourage trick o’ treaters as we have high-risk grandparents in our house. The kids are in blended school which has done a surprisingly good job socially distancing the kids. Each child did dress up for school once. I did show up to a themed Halloween vaccine event on Saturday morning at work dressed in costume.
Our daughter dressed up as a modern take on Diana the Huntress. I think it was partially inspired by her devotion to Hunger Games. She spent a good week playing around with hair-styles and braiding and curling her very naturally straight Asian hair into some sort of style that befit her Roman character. We stopped by Goodwill a few weeks ago, and the actual shopping excursion was tense as she was anxious to be in the store with the few other patrons even though everyone was masked. I had gone into shopping mode, and was gleefully looking at the second hand kitchen ware. Shopping is therapeutic. We left with a few extra items like second hand red mixing bowls, and a pretty witchy dress I spied out of the corner of my eye. My daughter outside had given me a stern-talking to, and said I was loitering too long and why was I buying things I did not need? It was more her being off emotionally and I understood that. I was glad I got those mixing bowls. They were second-hand anyway, and the red matched my tea kettle. But we found what she needed, which was a greenish rustic jacket for her costume. We got stretchy black jeans that fit well, and she wore them several times at home. But they hugged her backside too suggestively and likely the rest of the world would have celebrated that, but our daughter is only twelve and she is beautiful and that is not how we like to present ourselves to the world. It looked appropriate for our modern age, and likely 90% of everyone else would have worn it. I did not say anything and let her decide for herself. She ended up finding a pair of slightly baggy cargo pants in her grandmother’s closet that she now loves. Her father ordered her a moon-necklace from amazon that she has always wanted. Initially she wanted a white tshirt and nothing seemed to work. She settled on a shirt I had bought a year ago and never wore that said “Sisterhood.” All in all, her costume worked well and mostly used and it distracted her. Here is her hair-style she perfected.
Our son also dressed up, and he was a cat. Our teen son was a cat. I was very confused because his costume consisted of a very nice pink hoodie we had his father order on amazon and specialized new cat ears. He reused a cat tail from his sister’s 2nd grade costume. He looked very cool and I asked him if he was an anime character or was this a new teen fad? He said he just wanted a pink hoodie. When he returned from school and all his friends had seen his costume, I asked him how it went. He said everyone liked it. I am still so confused. I would show you a picture of his ears, but I think it would confuse you too Dear Reader.
As for me, our office had ordered Phil’s Barbecue and everyone dressed up like Greece Lightening. They looked fantastic! I chipped in $40 for myself and someone else. Last minute, I realized I didn’t need to drive the 25 miles to work and probably it make more sense environmentally to meet the other Assistant Boss at her office which was only 10 miles away. Plus I didn’t have the right costume and I was still a bit hurt from those previous HR issues. So I sulked and I instead went to see other friends at the other office and work on an important Video project that will hopefully avert millions in fines. That is the excuse I made to myself. So I didn’t dress up on Friday. The project went well, and I got to see some other people and chat socially distanced and masked for a while. I think it was meant to be because some new work-planet projects came up after some other conversations. I also spoke with one of our San Diego Pediatricians for Clean Air members and he is willing to testify if we need further help on the anti-vaping work or clean air initiatives. This was very helpful.
And then there was the epic Spooktacular Stick or Treat Pediatric Vaccine event that was a smashing success on Saturday. Sometimes when you work as a team, you have to do all the prep work and the thinking and then let someone else make the touchdown. It takes confidence and a firm belief in one’s own worth not to want to get credit, or take back the lime-light. In the end it is true. There is no I in TEAM. Also TEAM is MEAT spelled backward. So weird!!! But seriously. Our HMO ended up vaccinating over 1000 children for influenzae at four locations spread throughout the county in a Drive Up/Drive Thru Innovative model. The kids were given free gifts, and all other missing pediatric vaccines were given as well as a free give-away of small durable masks. Most of the credit for this event goes to RN Plastic Picker. I helped from the MD side trying to push our agenda. The entire department came together and executed it. It was truly a team effort. But the face of the effort has to be the charismatic face of the department which was the Chief Boss. So she was the one we passed the football and she made the touchdown on Fox News and will present it to upper echelon management. What a fantastic interview! She will do a fantastic job at Monday’s presentation – I have no doubt. The combined efforts and everyone’s performance from individual nurses to RN PlasticPicker to Chief Boss made me so proud. And knowing 1000 vaccines were deployed before FLUVID eased my soul.
One of the reasons I will never forget Quarantine Halloween 2020 is that this event was the first of it’s kind. Innovative and will change how we practice pediatrics. But I know the truth behind the origins of this event, which is beyond funny. RN Plastic Picker and I were pissed off (sorry for my language). Media relations brushed us off in a HMO wide event a month ago, when we wanted to highlight pediatric vaccines. We were dismissed as not the center of the story. We still had the event, but no news people came. We were mad! Why weren’t kids important? So in the conference room when we were realizing we weren’t going to get media coverage, we started spouting off crazy ideas. They don’t want to pay attention to kids???!!! Well we’ll just make them pay attention to us. And what is more pediatric/kids than Halloween!!! We had wanted to do a Camp Hot Shots or something like that before, so we just decided together to do something around Halloween and try to get some sort of free giveaway (non single-use plastic). The idea was warmly received and advertised. We had to remind the Media office again that we wanted media. They were lukewarm. But in the end Fox news responded. But more importantly, we had 90,000 robo text messages dropped regarding the flu shot and we actually ran out of the free gifts. It was a smashing success.
And where were RN Plastic Picker and I? RN Plastic Picker was running around like crazy the entire week before. She stopped by Costco to get food for the staff out of her own money, and refused to take any money from me. I always tell her I’m rich and she laughs. She knows that it’s important to those she manages to show them the truth that she cares for them. She bought plastic but very nice single-use Halloweeny table covers. There were small burritos (the salsa was way too hot!), fancy croissants, orange juice, cookies, coffee and water. Everyone got into the spirit of things. RN Plastic Picker was dressed as a bumblebee with super cute antennas. I will never forget everyone else’s costumes. One of the RNs was dressed like a cute blue butterfly and I distinctly remember seeing her jogging across the parking lot with more vaccines and her wings were fluttering. She was a butterfly fluttering bringing vaccines. There was a pineapple, many 1950s Greece costumes, butterflies, and our nursing scheduler was a very loud and very fun clown. She had big shoes and a horn that she honked, that made all the patients laugh and wave.
Other than supporting RN Plastic Picker and pushing the themed vaccine event and posting it everywhere on social media, I didn’t do much logistically. I did show up on Saturday for most of it. I ate a burrito with the super hot salsa (way too hot people!!!). I came in my Goodwill witchy dress, a shawl I fashioned from a dark scarf, boots from my mother-in-law, and an actual broom from our house. I stood at the corner directing traffic, and smiling with my MD badge. That is what I love about my job. Sometimes I just do what I want. The nurses were getting paid so they needed to give vaccines and they are so good at it. There are reasons why nurses are the most trusted profession in America. What about Dr. Plastic Picker? I was pretending to be a Disneyland Character Actor. I twirled my broom. I waved people into the right line. I cheerily asked through my mask to patients who rolled down their window, “How Can I Help You?” I told them in true excitement that the line was moving very fast and thank you for coming. There was a free gift at the end. I tried to make eye contact with each child and wave to them! Happy Halloween!!! We made it into a festive event for the kids. One young boy rolled down his window and he confessed, “I didn’t know I had to dress up? I left my costume at home.” I reassured him that that was okay. There was still a goodie bag and gift for everyone. I reminded him he could still dress up and tag us on social media. It was all so beautiful. It was especially beauitful because I saw two of my own patients. One family did walk up and they are #minitrashheros2020 and we were so surprised to see each other. And the other patient is a special needs patient who does not talk, but knows me. I had just done a video visit with her as part of our innovative pilot, and she needed flu and another teen vaccine. Her sisters drove her and they stopped the car, and in surprise said “There is your doctor???!!!” I waved to them and was so happy that she was going to be protected from two vaccine preventable illnesses.
And one of my female colleagues who I chatted with briefly yesterday said, “I really like your costume.” I don’t get complimented a lot and I know she was sincere because she said it twice and her eyes spoke the truth. I told her I had purchased it at Goodwill and the broom was from home. And so it was a wonderful day for many reasons.
At the end of the day RN Plastic Picker actually fell trying to remove the signage as we were ending the Pediatric Vaccine event at 1230. My friend fell and ripped her favorite jeans. My real contribution was just directing her to sit a bit to catch her breath and I jogged to get her some bottled water. The rest of the afternoon and night the leadership team traded text messages about how wonderful the event had gone. Everyone has their own memories from the day. A child of one of the nurses in the North dressed up as COVID-19 and his costume was pretty fantastic. And we had our stories in our area.
And we ended the night at our house with the kids cooking a Halloween themed dinner. We had vegetarian nachos with a cool sour cream web, and mummy turkey dogs. We actually used the single-use plastic Halloween themed table covers from the vaccine event. I recycled most of the bottles from the event, and tried to do my part by helping to clean. I’ll save most of the things for next year since we hope to do it again. I may use some of the single-use plastic table coverings for a trashart project to give to RN Plastic Picker.
Happy Halloween Friends! Please get your flu shot if possible. And our family hopes that your Quarantine Halloween 2020 had some moments of fun. It definitely was memorable,