Monday, April 19, 2021

Life in the Time of the Virus - Not Throwing Away My ... Shot.

Doctors Looking At Art
from John Hopkins Magazine
 And so I am vaccinated. The Johnson & Johnson "one and done" vaccine.

It happened a couple weeks back, on a Wednesday. It turns out that the process of making appointments was tougher than the process of getting the stab itself. Being JUST under 65 in Washington State meant I missed out on the initial round, but when we finally cleared at the end of the month April, both the Lovely Bride and I when to the vaccine finder online and, finding out that shots would be given out at the local hospital, Valley Med. Great. Except to sign up, you went to the UWMed site, and once you signed up to be put on the waiting list, there was no confirmation one way or another. 

So after a week I went back to the vaccine finder, and signed up for a bunch of locations. I found they were giving the vaccine at the local sports complex (the ShoWare center, a local venue noted for never turning a profit every year). But by the time I filled out all the forms, they were out of appointments. So I ended up signing up down for a vaccination site down in Auburn, at the Outlet Center (formerly known as the Supermall). And filled out the online forms pretty fast to keep from losing THAT one. 

Now, because of what I do (designing computer games), I am extremely sensitized to UX (user experience) - how people navigate the complex web of their online experience. Every site had their own format, their own questions, and their own process. and for anyone who was not computer-savvy, it was a frustrating experience (The Lovely B, by the way, got on her iPad during a Zoom dinner party, and struck a win very quickly with a local Rite-Aide, which did not have any openings when I went looking four days before - BUT since then the J&J vaccine was halted as a result of potential blood clotting, so she's been moved further back in the line).

So, the Supermall. A friend had had a horrible experience locating the vaccination site, so I went down early for the first appointment of the day. The web site gave the location of the site by the Suite number of the store, but the maps of the mall itself did not identify anything by Suite number. And there was not a lot of signage in the mall parking lot (Supermall - big parking lot on all four sides). parked near by best guess, and found that the mall ITSELF was closed at that hour. I drove to where I had seen a number of cars parked thinking it was another entrance. And indeed, THAT was the site where the vaccine was being distributed. Spoilers: It was on the north side of the building, with a HUGE white tent for people to queue up in.

It might have been the hour, or the fact I was there early (9:30, even after going to the wrong entrance), or the fact that the web sites had confused so many people, but the huge white tent was empty, and I walked in. The place (an abandoned Sports Authority with an external main door) was swarming with helpful volunteers in orange jackets (far outnumbering the patients). One asked me if I had brought along my ID and QRCode from the confirmation message. I had not brought the QRCode, and she sent me to Guest Services, which was a long set of tables with more volunteers. I was the first of the day, so the young woman that was helping me had an older volunteer at her side, and four more volunteers hanging over her shoulder to understand what needed to be done. It turned out the first volunteer at the door was wrong - you did not NEED to bring along your QRCode, it just makes it easier. I was confirmed and sent on my way to the long, empty queue area leading to the shots itself. It was sort of like arriving for your flight early, and No One was ahead of you at security.

And here's the thing - everyone was extremely friendly and upbeat, something I rarely see in malls these days, so I was actually taken aback. The friendly volunteer at the empty queue directed me to a table with two more friendly volunteers (trainee and trainer) who took my information, and when I confirmed I had an allergy (sulfa drugs), called over a friendly firefighter who said there should be no problem but I should wait 15 minutes after the shot to be sure, and another friendly firefighter administered the shot. Now, I have an INTENSE dislike of needles, but this was probably the easiest shot I've ever gotten. I was sent to another friendly volunteer who was stationed near a widely spaced set of chair, and when I did not fall out said chair in 15 minutes, I was released into the (closed) mall itself, where a string of friendly volunteers in orange jackets showed me to the exit. 

I had taken the rest of the day off (because I was topping out my vacation time in any event), so I ran some more errands and went home, and napped. Felt a little "meh" the next day, but avoided any serious reaction.

So, it's over? No, it is not. First off two weeks to have the vaccine run its course. Plus, in D&D terms, the vaccine is Damage Resistance, not Damage Immunity. I am not immune to fire, but I will take less damage from the fire, hopefully to the point where, if I suddenly find myself in a fireball, I would not be hospitalized.(I will refrain from torturing this analogy any further in the name of the Geneva Convention). The end result is that I will continue to use a mask when I go out, and work from home until the situation changes further.

In the outside world things are trying to lurch back to normal, with a rise in number of cases in several counties out here, but a decline in fatalities (A separation of the sick and the dead). King County is verging on slipping back to Stage 2 from Stage 3. Traffic is starting to suck again, more people are being shot in public places, and I'm getting a lot more spam calls. So, I guess America is slowly becoming America again. The local grocery has pulled up the one-way arrows for the aisles that everyone was ignoring anyway. The local newspaper did a long piece on Sunday on museums that were slowly and cautiously reopening.  There was an article as well about how, despite expectations, there was a decline in suicides in the past year, as people did not deal with each other as much. And there remains much concern about new variants that are spreading and replacing earlier waves. 

So we have hit a milestone (instead of a millstone), and there is some glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. On the 15th the floodgates open, and everyone else will be allowed to get the vaccine (which, to continue the airport analogy, feels like when they have boarded the first class, business, gold, platinum, jade, and radioactive metals classes, along with people with children, those who are serving/have served in the military, and Seahawk fans, and now are ready to board "All Other Rows".

And that is where a lot of my younger colleagues are: All Other Rows. This too, I want to say, will pass.

More later,