On the way to a COVID 19 vaccination

I got my first coronavirus vaccination on Thursday, and have been doing well. There’s a sore arm and some brain fog, fading two days later and that’s it.

A late wild sunflower we picked up from a home construction site soon after the entire plant had been ripped out. The Zuni River Otter fetish joined me years ago in New Mexico, because otters always make me laugh. I could carry it around in my pocket and look at it as needed. Even more years ago my mother, an artist, painted the white owl on a small piece of redwood.

There were times in the past few weeks when it seemed that I, in the category of being over 65, was never going to get an appointment for the vaccination. The sticking point was getting the pages of online application information forms filled out and submitted before too many others did that ahead of me after the county sheriff sent a text that a clinic would be held. With time my speed improved and I got not one, but two appointments. One in Fresno, thirty minutes south, and one ten minutes (supposedly) from home.

Being the optimistic early riser type, I grabbed the earliest appointment, 7 a.m. on the first day. Whoo hoo! The rest should be a breeze.

But not so fast.

For some reason I was sure this would be a drive through clinic. Not until I was getting dressed in the darkness did I look once again at the county’s map, and spot that the star marking the place where we would begin the slow approach to a nurse with a needle was actually inside a building, and not in the parking area.

Hasty additions to the wardrobe took place. I’m no good in the cold.

Into the wheelchair van and off I went with the British fellow on Apple Maps double checking my idea of where the county health facility is located. Well…

Apple maps sent me to the right street location, provided by the county flyer — which turned out to be an elementary school campus still under construction and crawling, at the pre-dawn hour, with workers carrying ladders, pushing and pulling trolleys of boxes, carrying tools. Not a medical looking person anywhere. Construction workers assured me that they had no idea about the actual location of a COVID vaccination clinic. I double checked the county’s information, and the GPS had indeed brought me to the correct street and number. There were brand new signs with that information in front of the new school. So I searched for alternative locations for the county health offices — as the clock ticked down on my wonderful first appointment of the day.

Results of that search sent me to a spot down the street but a way back from the road — which turned out to be a probation center. Or a relic of one. There were a few old, old cinder block type small, single story buildings painted a vague mustard color, blotched and faded with time. This looked enough like a set from a gunfight on tv westerns that I got out of there as fast as I could.

With fifteen minutes remaining till show time I was feeling a tad nervous. Technology was of no use and trying to call the county would probably mean half an hour on hold. So, on with common sense.

Abandoning technology I decided to drive around looking for a public office type of place with lots of cars around it at 6:45 a.m. Found it! Uh… No, that was the city’s fleet parking area. However, beyond that were some new buildings with cars in the lot that looked promising. Found it with moments to spare!

And did I see any kind of sign identifying the nature of these new looking buildings? No, I did not. If they were there they hid from me. Or perhaps the place is so new the county hasn’t gotten around to the signs yet. This is a fast growing area, after all.

And it was directly across the street from the school under construction. Here was I (and the map app) thinking that street numbers were even on one side, odd on the other.

The search for a handicap parking space for a wheelchair van can be laborious. You need a good, wide crosshatch on one side for the access ramp. Too often these have already been occupied — by tiny little cars whose drivers are undoubtedly also entitled to HP space. But again I was lucky. The place had at least ten HP spots in a row, all with the crosshatch and not a one of them occupied. Wow!

I was so excited I shot out of there without my warm gloves, forgetting to hang up the all important HP placard. Only to observe that there was a line of socially distanced senior citizens standing on a dark, windy sidewalk, ahead of me. And that the door wasn’t unlocked yet.

Along came the great fun of sitting there behind about 15 other people for some twenty minutes, growing colder by the moment until I felt considerable envy for the briskly flying Canada geese honking loudly above us. They were keeping warm with the exercise while here was myself, not moving much in my big power wheelchair, which was shaking a bit with my shivers. However, some others around me were looking fairly worn and challenged by the cold Central California dawn as well. The shouts of a sheriff’s deputy running along the line shouting “About ten more minutes, folks” did not dispel the shivers, but as I was feeling sorry for some of the others I did not mind being behind them too much.

Suddenly my blood pressure medicine began its frequent encouragement of a hacking cough. Uh oh, of all the places to be in the world when you need to cough a COVID 19 vaccination line is really not a good spot. So I hemmed and hawed, cleared my throat and thought hard about anything other than the tickles dancing around in my chest. I was so worried about being asked to leave for showing a potential symptom of an active case of this horrible virus that somehow the tickles apparently got scared away before my turn arrived for the temperature check in the doorway.

We all faced the east so the sun came up and blazed straight into our eyes, both directly and by reflecting in the new building’s various windows. When the door finally was opened by a thermometer wielding nurse whom you could barely see under layers of coat, scarf and PPE we, the blinded and barely moving due to cold, tottered and rolled inside.

From there it was simple and efficient. You located yourself on yellow duct tape markers and marched from spot to spot till somebody called you to a table. A few questions, a jab, bandaid and instructions to go wait ten minutes in case of anaphylactic shock and leave after your name was called.

It was the Pfizer vaccine we all got. Had I gone to the Fresno hospital’s drive through it would have been Moderna’s. But there seems, at this point, little known difference between them.

I was parked back in our garage some ninety minutes after I had left it. It was not a prolonged experience, and I feel so very blessed after reading about the challenges so many other people are going through to get this same simple procedure accomplished. Vaccine deniers are very active in California, and I was half expecting to see some, but did not. Didn’t have to wait several hours as has sometimes happened at the Dodger Stadium mass vaccination site in Los Angeles. Nor did I see any older people sitting in lawn chairs they had dragged along to ease lengthy waits in line.

At least it got warmer after the sun came up. The much longer line outside when I emerged didn’t have a lot of miserable looking people in it. So I decided that if I get the chance when the time comes for the second shot, I will again brave the early morning appointments.

There are still more questions than answers about aspects of this COVID plague that has interfered with life as we know it on Earth for a full year now.

And yet it feels to me that one little jab in the arm caused a couple of boulders to roll off my shoulders.

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