Need a free vaccination? Check your heterosexuality at the door. (Buenos Aires, here I come.)
Come Autumn, I will again be loosed onto another unsuspecting country to mangle the language, plunder the culture, and most likely make a complete ass of myself. Hopefully along the way, I’ll pick up a few productive things. The country in my crosshairs here is Argentina, and the city will be Buenos Aires. I’ll be there from September 18 – December 17 studying tango music, practicing my Spanish, and eating enough red meat to clog the Lincoln Tunnel. Consider this an open invitation for anyone who wants to come visit.
Naturally, you have to prepare for a few things before heading to an unfamiliar country, such as debilitating infectious diseases. While I don’t expect to be drinking the marsh runoff from the Rio de la Plata, it’s always a good idea to get a Hepatitis A vaccination just in case, as my friend Dr. Roger Yu, M.D. puts it, “someone wipes their butt and then prepares your food.” I guess you just never know.
Unfortunately, the HealthyNY insurance plan thru Aetna does not cover immunizations. Of course they don’t. Why would they want to prevent you from getting a disease when the only way they make money is when you have to be treated for one? Always an original thinker, Dr. Yu suggested I go to a gay clinic, since they provide free vaccinations for high-risk gay men in New York City. So with the help of the ever-popular website, http://www.hepclinics.com, I found a spot in Chelsea run by the NYC Health Department that does walk-in Hepatitis A vaccinations. Perfect.
There was of course the small detail of my not being gay. I have however paid 7 years of New York city and state income tax, money that’s helped fund these public health initiatives and therefore consider myself just as entitled to a free shot of liver crippling HepA regardless of what I do behind closed doors and with whom I do it. So wearing my tightest t-shirt that says ‘Robot Power’ on it, I dove headlong into paperwork that placed me in a category with ‘people who use street drugs’ and ‘men who have sex with other men.’ I was tempted to write in the margin: ‘not that there’s anything wrong with that…’ Although there was an extremely attractive and scantily clad woman sitting across from me in the waiting room(clearly a litmus test planted to weed out heteros looking for a free shot), I tried my hardest to focus on checking out the other dudes, giving them the ‘Oh yeah, I’m totally, totally gay, too’ nod, and to sit with my legs crossed in the feminine scissor-style, bobbing my top foot rhythmically (I find I do this quite naturally, and perturbingly so). I even tried doing that thing women do where you snake one ankle around the opposite calf from the front, but it was excruciating and I was trying to be gay, not organ-less.
It’s probably a product of my Chinese DNA, but I’m always looking for a bargain, so I had them throw in a tetanus/diphtheria shot while they were at it. What the heck, just load me up, I said. Any other diseases I can sample while I’m already here? How about typhoid? The doctor on staff said no, but if I want, Long Island Hospital in Brooklyn doles those out at bargain basement prices.
I have to say, saving up to $100 in vaccinations by just pretending to be gay for an hour is definitely an experience I recommend to anybody. I mean, where’s Michael Moore when you need him, and why don’t all backpackers know about this loophole? It’s something you sure can’t find in your Lonely Planet guide.