So back at the beginning of April, my wife and I became eligible to receive our COVID-19 vaccinations here in California; we couldn’t get them sooner than that because neither of us fell into any of the previously-prioritized high-risk age, essential occupation (my wife is a substitute teacher and animal trainer who stopped doing in-person work once the pandemic started picking up steam last March, and I have worked from home for years—not, unfortunately, as a full time fiction writer) or medical categories (“The Event” notwithstanding). Once the window opened for us, we had about two weeks before it opened for every adult in the state, so we figured we needed to get scheduled as soon as we could. But of course, first, there was bureaucracy to navigate―nothing as Kafkaesque as The Saga of the Possibly Rabid Skunk, but still.
The first obstacle to getting scheduled was that, as everyone knows by now, we pretty much had to do it online. (Citing low supply, our medical group, Scripps, was not scheduling people for initial vaccinations, instead directing patients to the state’s designated vaccination websites.) And although we knew we were going to become eligible starting April 1st, prior to that, we couldn’t schedule something for after April 1st, since the sites would boot us once we said we weren’t in one of the categories that could get a shot now. They didn’t care about “going to be”.
Kevin: Is it always like this after you’ve done a raid?Time Bandits
Fidgit: I don’t know. We’ve never done one before.
Kevin: But I thought you were international criminals.
Randall: Going to be. Going to be!
Once March 31st rolled around, we planned to get an early start on looking for appointments, or at least, that was the plan.
Wife: “I’m going to set my alarm for midnight.”
Me: “Because why?”
Wife: “So I can go online and try to get us appointments before they’re all gone.”
Me: “You’re really going to get up at midnight?”
[Much later …]
Me: (wakes up at like 2:30am because, uh, reasons)
Me: (after attending to said reasons, wanders into the office to check appointments. None are available within 30 miles or so.)
[The next morning]
Me: “Did you get up at midnight to check appointments?”
Wife: “No, the alarm didn’t go off.”
So that day I started haunting the scheduling sites again, visiting them every hour or two to look for nearby appointments. By now, everyone knows how that went; every day I would check the list of appointments using the designated vaccine finder web sites, and would get a list of locations offering the vaccines, including which ones they have. These would be the usual sorts of places, i.e., pharmacies, both free-standing like Rite Aid, CVS, and Walgreens, and those inside of larger stores, such as the Sav-Ons inside of Albertsons and the Ralphs pharmacies. These locations would have vaccines in stock, but after you would go through the questionnaire to confirm eligibility, they would cheerfully inform you that they had no appointments available and maybe you should try back later, or, in the case of some distant Albertsons, they would say that even though the state said we were eligible, that particular location was still only administering vaccines to certain subgroups or high-risk occupations. But that was all right. I didn’t really want to drive all the way to Murrietta or El Cajon for a vaccine.
Anyway, after a few days of that, while I was clicking through all the unavailable vaccination locations returned by the official vaccine finder site, my wife, in the other room, decided she would take a look at the Costco website. All the nearby Costco locations have pharmacies, but they never came up on the vaccine finder, and although I had at some point previously planned to see if we could get the vaccine there, by the time I actually started looking for appointments that had completely slipped my mind. But fortunately my wife remembered.
Wife: “Costco has tons of appointments available for next week. I just booked for 10:30am on Tuesday. You should see if you can get the one for 10:45.”
As it turned out, I could indeed get the one for 10:45, and so, that Tuesday, we ventured out for our first shot of the Pfizer vaccine. This represented the first time we had been out anywhere together, except for one or two trips to the vet, and also the first time we had been inside a store, for over a year, so that was kind of weird. Costco being pretty strict about enforcing the wearing of masks, everyone had one except for a few very small children, although there were a few people who apparently didn’t feel the need to cover their noses. Because of course who breathes out through their noses, right? And in an example of “This is who we are now”, where once one might have noticed that someone was wearing a cool outfit or whatever, on this trip, we were noticing other accessories.
Wife: “Look at that guy’s mask. It looks like it was professionally fitted.”
Me: “Check out that guy’s Iron Man mask.”
Wife: “That mask is made from pretty fabric.”
Yeah, we haven’t gotten out much lately. So we were kind of like rubes in the big city goggling at all the buildings and the pretzel vendors and wow look at all the pigeon shit on that statue!
Anyway, the process of getting the vaccine was pretty straightforward; we handed in our paperwork, filled out more paperwork, got our temperatures taken with one of those infrared gun thingies, then tried to find a low-traffic spot near the pharmacy to await our turn. This being Costco, even during a pandemic, low-traffic spots were hard to find. I thought I spotted a quiet corner near the counter but this turned out to be right by the door to the room where they administer the vaccines, so we relocated from there pretty quickly. Before long, though, they called us in, and since we’re married, let us into the vaccination room together. This was a small little chamber with a large desk, much of which was occupied by a large and noisy device.
Wife: “What’s that?”
Me: “It looks like a droid from the Death Star, but I think it’s an air purifier.”
Needle-Wielding Costco Employee (NWCE): “It is an air purifier. Sorry it’s so noisy. I don’t know if it really does anything.”
Me: “Can’t hurt, I guess.”
Yeah, can’t hurt, unless of course it just sucks in viruses and spews them all around the room. But it probably wasn’t doing that. Anyway, we both got our shots, and then were instructed to hang around for the requisite fifteen minutes.
Wife: “Can we shop while we wait?”
NWCE: “No, you have to stay here where we can see you. If you go out in the store and have a reaction, we don’t want to have to search for you.”
If you’re at all familiar with Costco, you know that could take a long time to scour the store for someone having an anaphylactic shock reaction in the corner somewhere. Almost as long as you might have to wait in line to check out.
In any case, after the 15 minutes was up with nobody collapsing or swelling up like Violet Beauregarde, we were free to collect our vaccine cards and leave. By the time this post appears, we should be back at the Costco for our second and final vaccination, after which, theoretically, we might be able to go back to doing things like our own grocery shopping and visiting the harbor for walks with the dog and maybe even, you know, seeing other people now and then. And maybe our cars will stop looking like they’ve been parked in the garage of a haunted house:
Objects In Mirror Are Obscured By Spider Webs
But the very first order of post-vaccination business*, which we each scheduled immediately upon getting into the vaccination queue, is going to be this:
Because even during a pandemic, Mr. Tooth Decay never takes a vacation.
* This is because, very early on in the pandemic, I ordered an electric clipper, which my wife has been having a surprisingly large amount of fun using to periodically shear me like a sheep. Otherwise, a haircut would most definitely be prioritized above the dentist, plaque buildup be damned.