Maurice’s Review: I’ve always admired Cheryl’s gift of gab. Now I’m happy she has the gift of a jab (or two). Thanks again for including me in this fun writing project.
The man who was waiting to administer my vaccine informed me he was a student nurse and the woman sitting at the table, between him and another student nurse, was their teacher. I glanced at the other student and his vaccine recipient. My stomach churned a bit as the student nurse at the other side of the table was bandaging a WOUND, a bleeding wound, with blood gooped into a visible circle on the recipient’s arm. No one was screaming, except me, inside my head. I looked at the teacher and said, “I hope you taught him well.” She assured me she had, but gave no explanation for the carnage taking place at the opposite end of the table.
My neighbor encouraged me to sign up online with the county to get a vaccine appointment. My husband and I got onto the county COVID website and I signed up immediately for my first shot. He decided to wait until April 7, when everyone could get in on the game. I wanted to be ready in case my tai chi class had a chance of going live for anyone who had been vaccinated. It stood to reason they would want me to be vaccinated as well, as soon as possible.
My man handed me a printed notice of when and where to report for leg one of liberation. I immediately began to fuss. I did not know where this place was, A-B Tech. It was in the county, so could not be too far away. I stuck the paper to the refrigerator with a mega magnet (you actually need good gripping strength to pull the thing off whatever you’ve stuck it to) so I would not lose track of the information. I had 18 days to plan for this drive.
In the meantime, my husband made his biweekly trip to the big grocery store on Smokey Park Highway we call BAIngles (Big Ass Ingles, not to be confused with HIngles, the Ingles on Haywood or SHIngles, the Shitty Ingles on Patton—an amusing naming trend we copied from somebody else) to purchase some necessities for the household. While perusing the snack aisle, a disembodied voice announced there was a vaccine available for whoever wanted it. I imagine as soon as the announcement reached the inner workings of his brain, my guy dropped the tortilla chips and sprinted to the pharmacy—screw April 7. He got his first shot a full two weeks ahead of me!
A week before I was due at A-B Tech for my shot, I dragged out the city map and the Map App on my phone to plan a route to the college building housing the COVID vaccination proceedings. To my delight, it was a mere 11 minutes away from our house. The phone app gave me three different possible routes and I took great comfort from having driven on most of these roads before. If you are wondering why I was making such a project of it, it is because I have a bit of driving anxiety and a lot of getting lost angst. We have a portable GPS system and a built-in NAV system in our new car. I haven’t yet conquered the new car system. I really felt I could find this place and not get too lost, so I decided to do it the old-fashioned way and fumble about the streets of Asheville until I landed upon the right place.
On the Monday morning of my vaccine appointment, I fastidiously rechecked my map and written driving directions. I loaded my backpack with a snack, camera, my phone and my insurance card (they said to bring it even though insurance wasn’t needed). I carefully selected the mask made for me by my friend Nita. It has a Baby Yoda motif fabric, which gives me confidence and flair. Then I headed out toward my destination.
I made it to the campus, but unfortunately, the street sign I was looking for on campus was not in evidence and I drove past the turn onto the street where the building was located. I got a tour of the campus. As I headed into a woodsier terrain where there were no more buildings, I realized I missed my turn and was headed into theretofore unplanned territory. Thankfully, there was a side street where I could turn around and head back. As I drove back toward the way I had initially entered the campus, I spied the building, sitting back from the road behind another building and that’s why I missed it coming from the other direction. It had been hiding from me.
The printed paperwork indicated there would be volunteers helping me find the proper building and corresponding parking garage. However, there were no humans in sight, so I followed the signs (were these the said volunteers?) and found myself in a tidy little parking garage. There were plenty of spaces. Getting into a parking space ended all my anxiety. I was there now.
I donned my mask and followed the well-placed signs into the building. It was relatively quiet for a mass injection site. Friendly people greeted me at the door and handed me the paperwork to fill out. I had barely started when they called me into another waiting area. They allowed me to finish the paperwork while I was checked into the county vaccination tracking system. Three people admired my mask. I told them about Nita’s handiwork and awesome mask design skills.
I was then directed to the sit and wait for your shot area, where I was entertained by a couple of women whose job it was to watch for an open chair at the side of a qualified injector and clean your chair after you vacated it. A spot at Table 1 opened up and I was ushered to the side of my student nurse. He was a good-looking young man; I could tell despite the mask. He assured me he was completely competent, which reassured me until the nursing instructor got up and came around to my side to supervise his choice of injection site (i.e. my tender little upper arm). She gave the go ahead and, as I looked away, he jabbed the needle into my flesh. I felt nothing. “Are you done?” I asked. He laughed and said “yes, please wait over there for 15 minutes.”
I insisted on giving him my verbal A plus. It was so quick and pain-free I suspected he hadn’t actually given me the shot! He did, because my arm ached like hell later in the day. I felt relief that I had not suffered the bloody appendage rendered by the other student nurse. I asked if the 15 minutes was self-monitored. It was.
So, I sat and chatted with another volunteer cleaning the chairs in that area. She told me she was to speak with each person to make sure they were okay. She had a system of leaving an index card under the chair if she spoke to the person waiting in it. When I left, she sprayed down my chair and began conversing with a newcomer. I was smugly happy I did not have to do my waiting amid the chip-buying customers at BAIngles.
I felt a weight lift from me as I exited the building, taking pictures as best I could without disturbing anyone or invading privacy. I liberally doused my hands with sanitizer and went in search of my car. Once inside my vehicle, I checked I had my little vaccine card and the slip of paper to clomp onto my refrigerator with the mega magnet to remind me of when the second shot was due. I rolled down the windows, left the garage and drove in the direction I was headed when I had earlier missed my turn. There were new roads to discover as I made my way home by instinct. With no timetable to keep and a beautiful city to drive through, I traveled the road as it curved down toward the river and home.
See you out there real soon,
Guest Editor Maurice has been with Living With Ethel from the start, so it was only fitting that he edit our second anniversary story. He has given me plenty of help taming the wayward circus that is my writing. I might even get to see him before 2021 is over!