RAMONA ON CORONA and the Quest for a Vaccine

A humor series on navigating this difficult time

I’m sharing another installment of a humor series from my friend Pam Goldman, centering on a woman named Ramona, who tries to help… in her own way. If you’re new to this series: Here’s the previous installment.

I think maybe it was easier for the doctors and scientists to come up with the Covid-19 vaccine than it is for folks 65 and over to get an appointment for it. Trust me, this phase is happening at the opposite of warp speed. I have friends who are developing medical conditions directly related to stressing about how slowly this is rolling out and into their arms.

First of all, I have a question. Why does the government assume all senior citizens have laptops? And if they do have them or have inherited an old MacBook Pro from one of their kids or grandkids, why does the government assume seniors know how to use them? 

If you are a senior who is able to navigate to the appropriate site, simply (ha!) follow the directions and create your profile, I imagine you will bust a gut when, after 2 hours on hold, a drop down informs you there are no appointments available. You have my blessing to pull whatever hair you still have, out.

I must tell you (and I share this with the unvaccinated, out of my belief, in full disclosure), K. and I got the shot. Our wonderful, determined daughter on the West Coast found some cancellations as she searched the website very late at night, Pacific Time. As we slept she booked two appointments. Lucky us.

K.’s appointment was first. I waited in the car. He went into the facility with trepidation and came out grinning forty-five minutes later, signaling me with a thumbs up. I smiled for the first time in a long while. (The last time was when he brought home two quarts of coffee Haagen Dazs). 

I was next. I entered the building after passing muster with the security guard. He directed me to a male nurse who directed me to a female nurse who asked for my appointment confirmation card and my i.d. (a passport). She examined everything and looked up to survey what she could see of me above my KN95 mask, my eyes, forehead and multi-colored hair.

“Are you 65 or older?” she asked (incredulously I hoped).

“Oh, thank you!” I said, assuming she was nonplussed by my somewhat youthful un-mascara-enhanced eyes, somewhat un-filled-in eyebrows, somewhat unlined forehead and somewhat goth undyed hair. “Yes, I am over 65”, I answered, expecting her to gasp or faint. She did neither. “Ok, you can stand at the smiley face sticker on the wall, six feet behind that woman over there.”

I moved on and looked back over my shoulder to hear her asking the next person, “Are you 65 or older?” The man looked near death. “Well, I never!” I thought to myself. 

I moved up six feet and six smiley face stickers on the wall until I was finally first in line and summoned by the Wizard of Oz of the whole vaccine operation. Masked and behind a plexiglass window, she examined my confirmation card, checked my name off her list and plexiglass window she surveyed my confirmation card, checked me off her list and scribbled on a small neon pink piece of paper which she slipped to me under the window. 

“Hold onto this. You’re number 189. Have a seat over there”, she said. “Someone will call you when it’s your turn.” She had zero personality. 

I sat three chairs away from a crabby lady with yellow kinky hair who talked out loud and complained to the whole room as her mask kept slipping off her nose, “I don’t know why we have to sit here,” she grumbled.

“189, Ramona!” a beefy male nurse read out loud off a clipboard, “190, Susan and 191, Drew!”

“Follow me,” he said as he led us down a long hallway, single file, like school children on their way to the principal’s office.

After a short time in the holding area, a female nurse called my name and I followed her to

a small examining room where a nurse poised at a computer asked me to take a seat. She typed my information and then shuffled out the door saying, “I’ll be right back with the vaccine.”

She returned in less than three minutes and there it was in her hand. I couldn’t believe I was in the same room as a vial of what I thought of as liquid salvation, salvation in a thin glass tube that might save the world. I hoped she wouldn’t drop mine. “Which arm do you prefer,” she asked.

“My left arm. I’m a complete chicken so I’ll be looking in the other direction,” I said.

I felt a bit queasy before she even rolled up my sleeve. 

“It’s done?”, I asked seconds later as I felt her put the band aid on.

“All done,” she said. 

It was an amazing moment. I was led by a young male nurse walking backwards like he was giving a college tour, to the ‘recovery’ room. There were about 15 other recoveries sitting there and even though the chairs were spread apart I did not think it was the best logistical choice for 15 people terrified of getting Covid. However, I took a seat. I wondered if I would end up on the news if I had an extremely unusual and dangerous reaction. Fame at last. 

I waited the allotted 20 minutes for my severe reaction, which did not happen. I was called into the next room where a masked nurse behind plexiglass wrote on the back of my confirmation card the date of my second dose, four weeks away.

I stepped outside and momentarily unleashed one of my mask’s elastic bands from one ear and let my mask dangle as I deeply inhaled one breath of the cold, fresh air. I saw K. parked down the street and gave him a thumbs up. We both felt well enough on the way home to pick up our grocery order, curbside. We also stopped for ice cream to celebrate our coveted status as a 50% vaccinated couple. 

We breathed more easily than we have in almost a year, filled with hope and gratitude, that the first leg (or should I say arm?) of our journey back to normal has begun. 

I wish the same for you.