I’m wrapping up a meeting on Wednesday morning when my phone buzzed. A text message flash across the screen. A reminder that my appointment to get the second COVID-19 vaccination shot was two hours away. Mild panic set in as Her Holiness of the O.C.D. told me we would be inoculated on Saturday. I know this because we were planning to deal with the “common” side effect of feeling flu-like symptoms all day Sunday. We purposefully bought comfort foods to help make our flu-day pass a little easier.
One hour and forty minutes to go, I telephoned H.H.O.. “Come with me if you want to live,” I did not say to her, but in hindsight, that would have been a great time to use that line. Instead, I relayed the information I had in front of me. “Hold please,” said the voice on the other line, but more like “Huh? That’s wrong.” Several precious seconds passed as information was correlated, verified, and processed. “Ok,” she said, “We gotta go.”
Like several people we know, the facility where we arranged to get our first dose is in another town, on the opposite side of the Seattle metropolitan area from where we live. It is a journey that would take one and a half hours if speed limits are observed and if there are no incidents that might cause further traffic delays. Fortunately, I don’t follow speed limits in the state of Washington as they are off by at least 10 to 20 M.P.H. by California and Texas standards (seriously, who came up with 60 M.P.H. for an interstate? If I drive the same interstate—The Five—in Southern California, it’s damn near like the Autobahn, but in Washington, the whole road is nothing but a speed trap. It’s super lame.
By the time I picked her up, we had one hour to go. I rigged the car for “performance” mode and punched the gas. As we merged from the on-ramp, I somehow managed to get boxed in Clark Griswald Style between three very large semi-trucks. Though they moved around, it wasn’t enough to get past anything. A steady stream of traffic whizzed by effectively blocking any chance to escape. 55MPH for five miles, it was almost enough to send me off the rails. Finally free of pack I increased the speed and took off. We made it in fifty minutes (point-to-point) and had to wait for our appointment time.
The parking lot of Edmonds Community College has been turned into a duo-lane track with checkpoints. Orange cones and people in high-visibility vests everywhere. The first time I saw all of this, I thought of the military checkpoints you see in science fiction films and games—The kind of installation for processing massive amounts of people quickly. I know this particular setup is tiny compared to others I’ve seen in the news, but it still took my breath away. It somehow made the global threat feel even more like a global threat.
The administration of the shot took seconds and was painless. The second shot was the same, but it came with a caution about the very real possibility of experiencing slight fever, aches, cills for twenty-four hours. And that was it. They gave us cards with the serial number for the dose of Moderna that we received and drove to the last checkpoint where you wait in case there is an unwanted reaction to medicine. Fifteen minutes later, we were done. Though everyday life (whatever that means anymore) is still a ways away, a huge weight feels like it has been lifted.
Neither of us got sick, but it does feel like a truck ran into my arm. And we’re both exhausted. I suspect that a good chunk of this weekend will be spent napping. If that’s the only side effect, then we’ll take it. And I know there is a high probability that this won’t be the last shot we’ll have to get to wipe COVID off the map, but at least we’re on our way to defeat this as we have for polio and smallpox.
In two weeks, the vaccine will be in full effect, and we’ll be free again to move about the country. And just in time because I need to see palm trees soon.➵