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Friday, April 19, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Clark: Coupon, sharp wit take sting out of flu shot

I don’t remember when it happened. But getting a flu shot has become a painful rite of autumn.

You know, like watching Wazzu choke at football.

Last fall, if you recall, we all faced imminent doom from a worldwide outbreak of the deadly swine flu which was renamed the deadly H1N1 over objections from the pork industry and Miss Piggy.

Trouble was, no matter what you called it, there weren’t enough flu shots to go around.

Only groups of people like those six months to 24 years of age could score the precious vaccine.

That struck me as quite unfair considering I pay way more taxes than any lousy kid except for maybe that dough-faced Justin Bieber dork.

Eventually enough supplies of flu vaccine were made available. Although by that time no one cared, since the much-hyped flu pandemic had fizzled worse than Envision Spokane.

This year there is no paucity of flu shots.

Practically every pharmacy has a sign out offering to prick the public for a nominal fee. Many businesses offer flu shot days for employees. On Saturday the health district is even hosting a drive-through shot window in Spokane Valley.

I actually thought about doing that until I found a vaccination deal I couldn’t refuse at the South Hill Safeway.

Get a flu shot at a Safeway and you’ll also get a coupon good for 10 percent off your grocery purchase.

I love seeing capitalism in the vaccination marketplace.

So I drove to Safeway on Wednesday for my flu shot. And sure enough, I got 10 percent off a package of steaks, a case of Diet Coke and a couple bags of Halloween candy that, given my sad history, will probably disappear before any trick-or-treaters come a-knocking.

As a bonus, I was treated to the comedy stylings of Safeway’s top needle man, Tom Stanley.

Stanley is a white-smocked fixture at the store’s pharmacy, filling prescriptions there for 21 years. Last year the store gave 2,100 flu shots, and Stanley delivered his fair share.

Prior to being injected, I had to answer some very personal questions about whether I was sick or into latex.

I never read forms very closely.

Then I forked over 30 bucks and waited my turn.

“I get a good repeat business,” said Stanley as he prepared to skewer my left shoulder. “I give a fairly decent shot.”

There’s a trick to mastering the art of shot giving, he explained.

And that is to keep the victim (er, recipient) distracted with jokes and snappy banter.

Then right before the Big Moment, Stanley likes to say something to take a person’s mind off what’s about to happen.

Such as …

TOM – “So are you pregnant or planning on getting pregnant?”

DOUG – “Uh, wha?”

TOM – Jab.

DOUG – “Hey, not bad. I barely felt that.”

TOM – “Guy walks into a bar with jumper cables around his neck. Bartender says: ‘You’re not gonna start something, are ya?’ ”

All right, Tom. You can stop now.

Before leaving, I asked Stanley if he had any other words of wisdom that people should know before getting a flu shot.

Absolutely, he said. If the shooter “starts swabbing your neck, I’d probably go somewhere else.”

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by e-mail at

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