No hamburger or soft drink at this window - Lois Greene Stone

            Drive-through typically refers to ordering a meal or beverage by shouting into a microphone affixed to a menu board. Banking, in my snowbelt part of the country, has had that stay-in-your-auto-system for decades, way before ATM machines were erected. So, what’s possibly ‘new’ with COVID-19 drive-through vaccinations?
            If one can actually schedule an appointment, some places offer only drive-through injections. Sit in line in your car. When it’s eventually your turn, roll down the window, and the needle is inserted into your arm. Drive into the parking lot, sit in your automobile for fifteen or more minutes to make sure you haven’t reacted poorly to the dose, then drive away.
            As I have some underlying medical issues, it was suggested I have my vaccination at a hospital facility. Sounded sensible, and that was before I understood ‘no appointments available’ words delivered onscreen or via phone. The ‘don’t-call us, we’ll call you’ didn’t sound too bad until I realized that a missed call would mean my name returning to the queue. Should I carry my phone into the shower, and when I walk down the driveway to get the mail from my rural box, anytime I used the bathroom? And what if I’m on a Zoom with family, and the phone is in another part of the house? Can I get to it quickly enough?
            I did a search for vaccination hospital sites. One was a drive-through in a hospital parking lot, clearly on the other side of town by expressway. Another was also across town but in an office building. As I’m writing today, it is single digit temperature with snow falling. Even if I could get an appointment (which my phone hasn’t indicated such), highway driving at my age, black ice on the roadways, sitting in my car behind dozens of others, removing my coat to expose my arm via an open window, wondering during the stay-put-after time – given all that, if I had a reaction how would someone get to me fast enough?
            I decided a pharmacy inside a grocery store, or a state-run vaccination site would be preferable. Ah, grocery store. I haven’t been inside one since March 2020. If I could get an appointment, I’d have to navigate through shoppers, and where would I actually sit afterwards as it’s a rather small section of the market. The administrator is one also taking phone prescriptions, advising people about new medication, measuring out RX, and giving vaccines. How quickly can an emergency be handled?
            Then I thought about the sports’ arena where the state has its only site in this region. About 500 shots a day are expected to be given by those sitting at long tables under the domed building. Might that be better as all it is doing is mentioned above? Getting a time-slot is no easier than at a grocery pharmacy, but which might be a ‘safer’ environment for an old person? Definitely a longer walk from parking lot to building, and it is huge inside, and lines, but no shoppers…. maybe ‘safer’.
            Since nothing is available anyway, I thought I’d eliminate phone or online time and personally decide which is least preferable: not across town/ not highway driving/ not parking lot drive through. My phone and online list got shorter. A bit of tension changed; mind you, a bit isn’t much but I once was told ‘every little bit helped,’ and I was trying to now apply that to my emotions.
            A few months ago, it was should I or should I not, as in the childhood game played with petals of a daisy flower. Since my husband definitely wanted the vaccine, I realized that I needed to take it as well as ‘eventually’ he’ll be able to be among other masked people, and I’d still be inside.
            The county health department’s web page was so overused with residents trying to make appointments, the county shut down the registration site. So, I began to access the State site, over and over and over, and the ‘no appointments available’ was etching its way into my monitor. In between, I redialed the 800-number literally every few minutes for hours. Yes. Hours. This went on for days. My anxiety now was no longer should I have the vaccine but when, for both of us.
            I’ve managed to adjust to staying in place since March 2020, and here I was almost breaking down emotionally trying, constantly, to speak to someone or have an online page that said ‘sign up’. A couple of days ago, after six hours of this and realizing that I have not wasted so much time all these months indoors with anything so draining, a live voice came through the 800-number. Quietly I asked if there was a possible cancellation for two appointments at the state-run facility; the operator said she had one cancellation.
            Tears actually fell, and I said “For my husband’, and she said I needed his consent to speak for him. Glad phones were no longer tethered to a wall as they had been for much of my life, I went to where my husband was sitting and said, “Just say you consent”, and he did. The phone process to sign him up took quite a bit of time but he is scheduled.
            I touched a gold locket containing photos of my deceased parents, remembering when they gave me that tangible item for my eighteenth birthday, two years before my father was buried at age forty-five. An amulet. Maybe? My fingers were saying ‘thanks’. Knowing I was still in charge of keeping my mate safe for so many decades, and feeling those hours and hours had not been wasted, I shall begin the process and see when an appointment just might suddenly open up for me.

Lois Greene Stone, writer and poet, has been syndicated worldwide. Poetry and personal essays have been included in hard and softcover anthologies. Collections of her personal items/ photos/ memorabilia are in major museums including twelve different divisions of The Smithsonian.