Wednesday, January 20, 2021

On the First Day of the Rest of My Life: The Shot


In the first hour on the first day of availability of the COVID-19 vaccine, the line was already two blocks long.  We all had scheduled appointments, but nobody wanted to risk missing. I had spent four hours waiting on the phone when news of the shots had come, doing mindless tasks with the numbing recorded message on speaker; when the drone became a human voice -- "How may I help you?" -- my brain took a moment to shift gears and I answered so clumsily I almost cut off the call. "First available," I said.


On the scale of concern about getting COVID, from not concerned at all to very concerned, mark me terrified.  I did everything Dr. Fauci said, risked alienating some close friends, I am afraid, by nixing even socially distanced, open air walks (I took them alone, or with my husband). When special occasions arose, I passed food and gifts to my dear friend and neighbor of decades with a bucket and stick over the back fence.  I work from home, have a generous daughter and her partner who insist on shopping for us. These privileges have not made the year shorter.



"Let's keep our distance," I heard a man's voice saying as the vaccination queue moved. "Imagine getting infected in line for the shot."


In almost a year of lockdowns (I was an early adapter), I had worn only house slippers or walking shoes, only easy-fit boyfriend pants or gardening jeans and t-shirts, with a necklace for Zoom.  Today I put on nifty corduroy pants and my good Dansko clogs, a favorite cotton jacket last taken from its hanger in February 2020.  Waiting in the early San Francisco sun, I shifted my purse (Purse!) from left shoulder to right and reached into the jacket pocket to find the set of front door keys I had been looking for the last eleven months.


If it sounds as if this day felt monumental to me, it has.  Precautions remain, but the fear I've shared with millions of others has lifted. The shot itself happened so fast I didn't get a selfie. To make the next appointment -- "Your vaccine is here, you'll get your follow up," the attendant assured me, although I hadn’t asked – I was moved to six different chairs, had stickers taken on and off my shirt. "So sorry," apologized a nurse, "we're organizing this as we go."   A doctor who checked me out after the shot told me that when word came that the governor was making 60,000 doses of the vaccine available to the facility instead of the 10,000 they were expecting, people worked all night to set up tents. I noticed the big sales tag still hung from his swivel chair. There may be huge glitches in the national vaccine rollout, but just as they have since the beginning of the pandemic, front line medical workers are pulling out the stops to control this thing.


I was on the verge of tears as I made my way to the street.  So many have not survived. From social media, by email, I’ve felt the grief among those left behind. Even at a remove, the sadness has been overwhelming. Somehow I feel I have to work harder now at whatever I do, to use the new lease on life to the utmost.