The text arrived Tuesday morning: Report to the fieldhouse Wednesday at 2:21. It was my randomly selected turn at a vaccine for covid.
It’s kind of a weird system: you let them know as soon as possible if you can’t make the appointment; otherwise, you just show up. Particularly given that Gunnison schools and Western are on spring break this week and town seems rather ghostlike, I wondered how many no-shows there might be.
But there were plenty of yes-shows as I drew near the fieldhouse yesterday afternoon. The county built this facility many years ago. Located at our rodeo grounds, it houses some offices and meeting space, but most people are more familiar with the “Cement Room,” and the “Rubber Room,” designations based on the floor surfaces. Neither of these rooms has an ounce of ambiance, but they’re big spaces the community has put to a variety of uses over the years. And now they’re the site of mass vaccinations.
The effort is more massive than I thought, despite the reports from everyone who has gone before me. Our county is to be commended: all these staff members and volunteers are mobilized at least twice a week for three months now, and it is running as smoothly as you could ever hope for.
Until yesterday, I did not stop to consider the number of people required to make this go so smoothly. Everyone’s tag, which identified them by first and last name, said they were a “volunteer.” I know some of them are doing this as their job, but there are volunteers in there too, and this is an extremely generous donation of man- and woman-hours.
And they were all so pleasant about it, too. Maybe because it’s such a good thing they’re doing, helping people regain their lives as we once knew them.
There was the gatekeeper, cheerfully checking to make sure we all had appointments and assuring us we’d be helped promptly as she ushered us inside. I blew right past the hand-sanitizing station I didn’t even notice to get to Tammy, whom I assume still works for the city (for the past year I’ve been dropping my bills through a slot in the door rather than checking in with the finance department).
She was asking people if they’d been in contact with covid positives, and about possible symptoms, which seemed to completely stump the man ahead of me, who didn’t feel he had a “baseline” for telling her if he had a cough or not. I don’t know where he’s been the last year, and when I reported this back at work, Kara said it was a good thing I wasn’t the one asking people these questions.
A man took my temperature, and then I moved into a winding line with tape marked every six feet (which the man in front of me also struggled with) — a line that moved quicker than I could get my feet set. My friend Karen was one of three checking people in, and I almost got to her table, but a man who had been wandering around opened up his station one second too early.
After a brief argument about why I couldn’t use the name I use for everything else (somehow, it was going to confuse the State, and we certainly wouldn’t want the State to be confused), an argument I lost that then caused me to be called by a name I don’t use for the remainder of the process, I was handed a piece of paper to take with me as I passed from the Cement Room into the effervescence of the sodium-lit Rubber Room.
Another short, quick-moving line, where I barely had to time to ask Dennis (at least, that’s the name on his tag – who knows if that was only there to keep the State from being confused) how many shots were being administered. “Only 350 today,” was his laconic answer, even though that sounded like a lot to me.
I was directed to Table #4, of perhaps 15, to sit down with Stacy, a customer of ours who supervises the cheerleaders at Western. I had studied the paper she was there to help me fill out, and I had a question: if I get flu-like symptoms following each flu vaccine, is that an “adverse reaction”?
Stacy said that was a good question, but she didn’t know the answer, so she raised her stick with a red cross on it, and a roving Dr. Wolkov (retired, sort of) told me I can’t have had an adverse reaction, because no one has had this kind of vaccine before. I still don’t think that’s what the question was asking – it didn’t say, “to this vaccine”; it said, “Have you had an adverse reaction to vaccines before?” – but he did add that Advil or an antihistamine could be useful.
Onto the next fast-moving line, where I ended up six feet behind Lynn’s boss Neil, who said he thought he was the last one in the Post Office to be getting his shot. For a moment, right before I got directed to Station #4 (must have been my number yesterday), I experienced a brief welling of emotion: game-changer underway! Then it was off to my stabber Sue, who congratulated me on sharing the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day with her (although the beads I wore almost all day thinking they were glow-in-the-dark turned out to simply be an ugly pale green).</p>
She told me the more relaxed I was, the less likely I would be to get a sore arm, so I tried to melt into the chair like the Gelatinous Giant from a weekend re-reading of The Phantom Tollbooth. Sue was exultant when I told her I didn’t even feel the shot of Moderna, but I am a little sad this morning to report that my arm is rather sore.
From Sue, where this quick little jab hardly seemed worth all the months of build-up – I know it is, I was just expecting the skies to part or something – it was on to my friend Loren, part of the county’s business recovery team, but yesterday tasked with asking people to sit on carefully-spaced chairs for 10-15 minutes and to raise my arm if I felt like I was getting dizzy.
He had a sticker for me, which right there made the whole thing worthwhile, along with an offer of water and a granola bar.
The day ended with me nodding off at my desk while trying to do bookwork, so swamped with fatigue that Kara and Gilly sent me home early. After several naps ended by restless legs kicking me awake, I signed up for the CDC’s V-Safe app and reported my symptom.
I am still a bit washed out this morning, but it is a new day in a way it wasn’t just 24 hours ago. Now we just need to work on getting these shots to everyone else who wants and needs them.