My New Balance Expert Precision walking stick and I met two years ago, after I chipped two front teeth on a stale bagel. My dental bill was $14,700. To protect my investment, I walk with Expert Precision ­– I call her EP – on challenging terrains.


That’s why I take EP along when I go for my Covid vaccine shots at the Westchester County Center, which features a steep set of stairs at the entrance. I’m proud of Expert Precision; her sleek aluminum physique and delicate pronged foot make her resemble a ski pole, and her name makes me feel like one of the cool kids.


Our first vaccine foray is uneventful. Expecting a similar experience, EP and I jauntily set off for my second one. I mention to the staffer administering the shot that my only adverse reaction to the first one was an achy left arm, which was curious because I had the shot in my right arm. She predicts that this time my foot will hurt.


After 20 minutes in the recovery room, I get up, sling my purse over my shoulder, and pat my jacket pocket for my phone. Everything in place, I head for the exit.


At the door, I sense being more alone than I was when I entered. Expert Performance is missing. Let her go, I think. Then I remember all the times we shared, how she was always there for me, and had saved me so much money. I find the floor manager. “Do you have a lost and found?” I ask. “No,” he says, not even looking up. Then a young woman with a clipboard says, “I’ll take you to the lost and found.”


I follow her to the front of the building; lost and found is stuffed with gloves. Back in the inner sanctum of shots, I reconnect with the floor manager. “We’ll look for it,” he says. “Stay here.”


I set off by myself to locate the scene of my shot, cubical B4. It’s empty of people and my walking stick. A passing volunteer suggests I check cubicle A4. I know that isn’t right, but I oblige. Another volunteer yells to a third volunteer, “This lady lost her cane.” I do not say, “lady” is a demeaning word in this context.  Instead, I say, “It’s not a cane. It’s a walking stick that looks like a ski pole.” I don’t add, “Look at me. Could I be scurrying around with such agility if I needed a cane?”  Volunteer number three yells to a fourth volunteer, “She says she was in B4, but check A4, too.” “I already did,” I mutter.  Number four returns: “No cane.”


“I told you it wasn’t there, and it’s not a cane.” I’m gritting my expensive teeth. “I told you it looks like a ski pole so you wouldn’t waste time searching for a cane that looks like a cane.” A crowd gathers, surely thinking, “This broad is insane and too vain to call it a cane.”


Big Kahuna of Vaccine Management arrives. Burly, imposing and infuriatingly pleasant, he must be in charge of difficult cases.  He ushers me back to the recovery room while the others continue the search.  I feel he’s holding my elbow, although he isn’t. “We’ll contact you when we find it,” he says. I give him my business card so that in my fury, I won’t jumble my cell phone numbers.


Ten minutes later, he returns with EP. He doesn’t call her a cane, and I don’t ask him where he found her. I want my card back. He says he is keeping it to check that I arrive home safely. I grab it and EP out of his condescending hands, and she and I run all the way to my car.


Linda Pollard Puner is a college consultant who walks many miles with EP from Croton to Tarrytown.