I got my first COVID vaccination dose today.
Hmm. There's some back-story that might be worth sharing.
Laura and I decided long ago that, once the vaccine became available, we'd stagger our doses.
There's no way we could both be down at once. We can barely keep up with Mal's needs when we're both healthy.
Laura got her second on Tuesday. She's always juggling schedules, and, last week, she bravely scheduled a dentist appointment for Mal (who foolishly admitted that one of his teeth hurts) on Wednesday.
They called her to verify everything, and they totally ignored what she'd entered online. She thought they were just repeating back what she'd already scheduled, so she went ahead and verified his appointment. At exactly the same time she was supposed to get her shot.
We talked about it, and it was in a time slot with one of the weekly meetings for my day job that I really should not miss. So she decided to reschedule it. Which happened to be on Thursday.
Her appointment wound out turning out great. Mal wanted to go with her. The appointment was halfway to her parents' house. So they spent the rest of the day there.
I mean that it worked out great for everyone except me. D got a nice, quiet day at home. I mean that it was quiet except for my sobs of loneliness.
Anyway. After they got home, she got pro-active about finding an appointment for me.
We live in a weird area. We live far enough from Austin that we really should be part of Williamson County. But we live close enough to the lake that Travis County (which includes Austin) swoops around and encompasses us.
It's the sort of thing that looks like a gerrymander. But I believe this one is motivated about greed over controlling the water rather than things like racism and voter suppression.
Anyway. I've been on Williamson's County (since all the sites are going to be closer) vaccination waiting list since Mar 29. They basically sent me a "Don't call us, we'll call you" message.
Laura found appointment slots that evening while I was busy doing other things. When I came back, she told me to pick one. And hurry: we only had 10 minutes left.
I've been told that getting one of these slots is about as rare as getting a ticket to a Springsteen concert. I cranked up the computer from my day job to check my schedule.
Our options were either Wednesday or Thursday. I didn't want to just tell everyone "I'm taking the day off" with no warning, so I picked Thursday afternoon (that also minimized the meetings I would miss...looking back I wish I'd scheduled it the other way around).
Shortly after that, she forwarded the email confirmation. They warned us to
- wear a mask
- not be more than an hour early
- bring a portable chair and water
- cancel if you were running a fever
My appointment was for 1:30.
Google maps predicted that it would take 30-50 minutes to get there. I planned on leaving right at 11:30. Crises at day job kept me until 11:56. Then I wolfed down some pizza and fended off Mal (who wanted me to join in a great board game from Khrys and Mei Li, about a racing an ogre in a treasure hunt) and rushed out the door.
When I got in my car, it immediately warned me that it was low on gas.
We have one gas station on the way out of town, which is really expensive. Then two more, as you get into the next town. The second of those is always really cheap. I could tell I had plenty of gas to get to it.
But Waze had me turn off that main road before I got to either. The next one is notorious for stealing credit cards. I'm hopeful that the one I stopped at after that is honest.
After that, I rushed across Austin (there were times I might have actually exceeded the speed limit, although I was just trying to keep up with the cars around me, honest) and parked just after 1:00.
After I pulled my chair out of my trunk, a guy warned me that it
wasn't worthwhile, because the line was moving fast. I took his advice and replaced the chair and my water bottle.
It was at a pretty big auditorium. Depending on where you grew up, it falls somewhere in the range of "That thing is huge!" to "Eh, my high school could have graduated there."
My guess is that it normally holds around 10,000 people. I can't find anything online to firm that up.
When the vaccines first rolled out, this place was packed. There are "By Appointment Only" signs everywhere. I went through 3 pre-checkpoints before I ever got to anyone who actually checked anything.
In the early days, people would just show up and wait. At the end of the day, workers didn't want to waste leftover doses. So they were willing to give them away to whoever was left.
It seems a lot like it was an "I'm rich/retired and can afford to just take the entire day off" version of dumpster diving at a restaurant.
When I got there, it was a lot like rushing through an empty Disney World. They kept telling me things like "Just try to keep up with that couple in front of you" and "All the way to the end of the hall, then turn..."
Everything was very carefully measured and roped off, with stickers on the floor to help make sure everyone stayed 6 feet apart.
They gave me paperwork to fill out when I first arrived and promised that I'd have plenty of time.
When I finally got to the end, they had a bunch of the portable tables you'd use for big family picnics set up. People were very deliberately set up katty-cornered.
I got a little overwhelmed right then and there. Thinking back to it, it hits even harder.
Those of us who have had the wealth and luxury have basically spent the past year in isolation. And this is where it can end for everyone, if we will just get the vaccine as fast as possible.
This pandemic has "only" lasted about a year and a half. As I'm writing this, it has 561,356 confirmed kills in the U.S. Cases are trending upward. Deaths were dropping, but now they're heading back up. World-wide, we're so close to 3 million deaths that I'm sure the last 4 happened while I've been typing this article.
I can't imagine what it must have felt like for people who grew up knowing that their entire village could be wiped out by something like mumps or polio or rubella. Or to know that a vaccine exists, and may be available...someday.
Or to be right on the edge of that.
Those of us who have survived have mostly put our lives on hold for a year and a half, waiting for this.
What must it have been like to just grow up knowing that something like this could wipe out everything and everyone you know? Would it be worse to know that a prevention existed...but that it would take years to reach you, if it ever did?
While I was filling out my paperwork, the line started to build. I started to read, but one of the volunteers was watching carefully and told me to get moving.
I tried to get in the back of the line (something Mal will have to learn about someday), but that line was for people who were still filling out their paperwork and didn't show up early enough to get tables like mine to sit at.
I zipped through the rest of the queue, answered a couple of questions about ancient bad reactions to immunizations (spoiler alert: getting sick enough to spend a weekend crashed on the couch isn't enough to matter if EMTs weren't involved), and got a quick shot in my shoulder.
I probably didn't really feel it. But my brain totally insists that I felt tiny little crystalline stars sprinkling down my arm.
They gave me a grown-up card. And a sticker. And directed me to a waiting area to make sure I didn't have an immediate life-threatening reaction. We were very sternly warned to be responsible and wait 15 minutes before leaving.
This was the first chance I'd had to even let Laura know that I'd arrived OK.
I sent her a message, then played a pointless game for about 10 minutes.
Then they walked through and told us that we were welcome to wait the entire 15 minutes if we liked. But, assuming we didn't have any major pre-existing conditions, 5-10 minutes were plenty.
I was a little miffed that it was closer to 10 than 5. But, hey, I got a few more minutes at that stupid game. So I guess it was worth it.
I headed out.
On the way out of the neighborhood, I noticed a gentleman with darker skin and dreadlocks. I gave him a subtle wave, and I got a surly glare in response.
Laura and I both feel bad about the basic fact that we live in White World. Neither of us likes it. We both do our best to be friendly to all our neighbors...and especially to our neighbors who aren't as challenged as we are in terms of sun tolerance.
I drove a little further, and I realized that this is the area of Austin where Laura and I both wish we lived.
It doesn't have the giant oak and beautiful back yard. But the people who live there aren't going to poison Mal's ideas about good and bad just because they have the same skin color. Or maybe they will, but in what I consider the "right" direction.
I really want a workshop where I can build things out of the wind and rain.
I don't know how likely it is that I'll be able to build one where we are now, much less if we moved there.
But it's really tempting to look into it.
On the way home, I spent a lot of time behind an SUV. It had a sign in its back window. It said: "Have you noticed that 'pandemic' is 'dem' surrounded by 'panic'?"
I really wanted to pull these people over and ask whether they've noticed that half a million Americans are dead. I wish I knew how many this amounted to world-wide. Headlines suggest that cases are spiraling out of control in India.
I got home in time to break out my latest wood-working project. I'm building a thing to crush fruit.
I spent about an hour on that before rain started splattering down.
I put all my gear back away and headed inside.
Laura showed me pictures of hailstones from nearby.
They're about the size of goose eggs or pool balls.
Worrying about a pandemic seems easier.