Community Re-Connection at the Vaccination Clinic

April 5, 2021 | Filed Under Things I Think About | No Comments

I was able to book an appointment for the Johnson & Johnson “one-and-done” vaccine for today, to my delight and surprise. My first attempt to make an appointment on April 1, when I and 5,499,999 of my California neighbors all became eligible on the same day, was less than unsuccessful. However, a neighbor let me know that the vaccination site at the Oakland Coliseum had availability, and I was able to book an appointment with less than 24 hours of wait time! And yes, I was elated, but I also cried a bit—the idea that I’d finally be able to get the shot was such a relief.

The Coliseum, like most oversized sports arenas, is a large structured surrounded by acres of parking. In addition to the vaccinations, the Oakland As were playing a home game tonight, and the traffic lines for both were quite long—although the vaccination parking lot lines moved much faster!

A mix of local police, Highway Patrol, and National Guard members were managing traffic, along with an amazing number of volunteers. The first stop, a person with a tablet checks your ID and your appointment confirmation, then sends you on to join one of the waiting lines.

I choked up at this point—seeing so many people of all backgrounds and social classes and education and every demographic you can think of, all working together, standing in a barren parking lot on a cold, windy day to help other people—this is the America I signed up to live in.

The lines moved fairly quickly (you stay in your car the whole time—they also have a tent for walk-up appointments), until almost the last turn of the queue. Not a big deal, we were not in a hurry (my husband drove, just in case I had a reaction, I would not have to worry about driving home), and we passed the time chatting. Given the multiple lanes of traffic, and the amount of parking lot that had to be divided into lanes, I amused myself trying to figure out how many traffic cones were in use.

The line moved again, and we were directed into one of many rows inside one of the three *enormous* tents set up for the vaccinations to take place. Two nurses came up to the car to check my ID and verify my information, and informed me there would be a brief wait while a new cooler of vaccines was being brought to the tent. One of the nurses was on her first day at the site, so the other nurse took the pause to bring her up to speed on process. The medical staff and volunteers were chatting with those of us waiting, and someone was playing music, so some of them were dancing, which was fun to see, and some of us were seat-dancing in our cars.

The coolers appeared a few minutes later, and the nurses went to work. I felt the jab, and it burned a bit (I think the new nurse was a bit nervous), but then it was done! They give you back your ID, and your vaccination certificate card, and then you drive forward to waiting area, where, as the senior nurse informed us with a knowing wink, “You can enjoy the view of the graffiti tags” while waiting the 15 minute reaction period. I gushed my thanks, and did a happy “woohoo!”, and applauded the two nurses, who gave me a “woohoo!” in return. Then, all the staff in the tent applauded—

Reader, I cried.

The sheer number of people involved in running this vaccination center, and the enthusiasm, energy, and care they showed—even after standing on their feet in the cold, on a concrete parking lot, for eight hours—was deeply moving. Even though I’ve stayed in touch with friends and done a lot of virtual gatherings in the past 14 months, which have been so helpful for my mental state, there is nothing like being with a group of people all working in the same space towards a shared goal to create a feeling of connection.

This is the power of the people, the collective will of the community channeled into service for the highest good of all. I am humbled by their service, and I am honored to a part of this community.

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