Stunning sunrises, slightly longer days, clear cold nights and Orion looking over our shoulders — it must be the end of January. And our 11th month of lockdown. But who’s counting?

Then, just as we’d given up hope of ever going barefaced in public again, some of us got an email inviting us to call the county to be vaccinated. Jubilation melted rather quickly into pique as those of us obsessive types (all of us in the “old fart” category of 1B tier 1, 65 and older) started dialing, and dialing, and dialing, and dialing, in order to take the powers that be up on their offer.

She persisted

I for one dialed 257 times: sometimes getting bumped off by Verizon with a line-busy message, sometimes the ring going through but only to a message machine saying definitively, “Do not leave a message if you want to schedule a covid vaccination.” Some of us tried, alternatively, both North and South County numbers. Bette Lu Krause got through finally on the North County line and decided a trip to South Bend was worth the effort. Nyel and Sydney Stevens got the same invitation and had the same thought — “A trip to South Bend, after 11 months, fine by us!”

I persisted for an hour and a half until I actually got a South County live person and then I waited online an additional 20 minutes until some other person picked up my call to ask me a pile of screening questions. (Though a thousand blessings to the first woman who kept checking in to reassure me that I was still in the queue. “There are two people ahead of you.”)

OK, I’ll quit complaining now: I got an appointment, in fact I got two appointments — one for the first dose Jan. 21 and a final dose Feb. 18. (Our county is delivering the Moderna formula, which requires a 28-day cycle.) Many of our friends also in the 1B category did not make this first cut, though, and are now, if they’re lucky, on a waiting list for the next vaccine delivery, date to be determined.

The day arrives

Even though my poke-time was just after noon, I had an ominous worry that I’d miss it somehow: I’d fall asleep inexplicably, or show up at the wrong place. This fear had a dreamlike surreal quality, as if I wasn’t really in charge of my body, or any of the normal elements of the day. I began to realize this was, for me, connected to the trauma of the last four years when one could and would wake up every morning to some new outrage one had no control over. (President Biden is right — we need to trust again.)

At any rate, I arrived at the county building off Sandridge 30 minutes early. (You can only line-up 10 minutes ahead of your appointment time, so many of us parked in the lot and waited.) Once there, everything about the process was totally smooth and professional. ID checked; one’s general health ascertained on a form with a series of questions; the form double-checked by, in my case, retired county nurse Cory McKeown. Then a short string of cars in batches pulled under the building overhang (“Turn off your motor please”) while someone at a table to the right of us syringed vaccine out of vials. There were even Milk Bones available — “Let’s take care of the important people first!” (Jackson agreed.) Roll down your window. Roll up your sleeve. A quick poke in the arm — that frankly I barely felt — and a sticker put on the card that allows me to get my second dose. Le voila.

A release time 15 minutes in the future was written on a small piece of paper and slipped under my windshield wipers. And then I was waved into one of two lines of cars of waiting old fogeys. I did feel a little dizzy at first —was it just because I was worried about a possible anaphylactic reaction? — so a nice fireman EMT came and took my blood pressure. It was a little higher than normal for me, but eventually I calmed down and was released right at my time — 12:38. (My poke was scheduled for 12:10.) So all-in-all, an hour well spent.

Later that day I drank some extra water, felt extra tired, and took a nap. The next day my poke-arm was tender to the touch and I took two short naps. Day three: arm still tender but I felt fine. Four days out, nothing to report.

Dialing for doses

Word on the street is that the county had 1,000 doses to deliver for the 1B group. 2019 Census data indicates Pacific County has 1,673 households with residents over age 70. So how would you figure a prioritization plan, something that fits within the resources of our cash-strapped county? I guess the dialing-for-doses method was the answer.

Pam and Sturges Dorrance noted in an email, “We know a number of people who aced the system first time out. We were not among them. We are casting the widest net we can in tracking down vaccinations. All help is deeply appreciated.”

Steve McCormic wrote: “I started dialing like crazy on Tuesday morning at 10:30. After several hundred tries, I finally got through at about 2:30. John’s and my simultaneous appointments were confirmed for Saturday, the 30th, although we were warned that there might not be enough vaccine to last until then. Most interesting was the story from our next-door neighbor, Deb (58, with compromising conditions), who lives with and cares for her ailing late 80’s father. She got through the first day and was told she and her father didn’t qualify as a ‘multi-generational’ household. So they would only give her father an appointment. Go figure — they’re the perfect definition of two people who should be vaccinated at the same time.”

“I’m sure installing a phone system that would have put callers in queue would have been prohibitively expensive, and would have delayed the start of taking calls, etc. So there’s naturally going to be some floundering as they figure it out.”

One neighbor put it this way, “I tried to figure out how I would prioritize and notify and schedule knowing that there weren’t enough doses to go around. Even in a perfect world and having that information, I came to the conclusion that maybe the crapshoot version that they are using is the best way after all.”

In a neighboring town to our north, Sequim, they just said, “Y’all come on down” with no attempt to organize anything. Inevitably the line of cars ran for miles and, even after waiting, many were told to go home and try again. According to journalist Tom Banse of NW News Network, “At sunrise, a line of cars stretched well over a mile from the Sequim city park, through town, and out onto U.S, Highway 101.” Some people arrived as early as 1:30 a.m. and were sleeping in their cars. KING-5 News reported that Steven Jensen waited around eight hours in the dark to get vaccinated on Tuesday. “Well, sitting in the car, in the dark for eight hours or so — [it’s] kind of tough,” he said. “But it’s worth it.”

I’m just hoping all my elder friends can get what they need soon. And I’d say our county did the best they could with the resources we have. Good on them. Here’s to a future where we can see each other smile again.

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