Michiana Chronicles: The Second Shot

Mar 18, 2021

At the vaccination center beside the big church, people came and went quickly, so parking was easy. Mask on, and a short walk over to the low building where all the action was. I bet many a wedding reception was held there before the virus came. In the doorway, a greeter saw the vaccine record card in my hand, and said, “Are you here for the second shot of Moderna?” You bet. “If you’d apply hand sanitizer, you can head on in. You won’t have time to read that book—we’re processing a thousand people a day,” he said, in the friendliest way possible.

Credit Ken Smith

Right turn, short corridor, and then at the door to the big hall, the buzz of many calm conversations. It had been smooth sailing there a month ago for the first shot, but they’ve obviously upped their game—more people working, many more coming through, and still smoothly organized and pretty much no line. When I registered, there was hardly time for small talk before the woman behind the plexiglass handed back my card and directed me onward. Up ahead, spaced out across the middle part of the big room, many stations with shot-givers at small tables and shot-takers at single chairs beside them. Here were the many voices that made a calm lively soundscape of the entire hall, and still there was not a lot of time for chit-chat. “That needle looks much smaller in diameter than the one at the blood bank,” I said. She said, “Oh my yes. Left arm or right?” I opened my shirt and pulled up the sleeve of my t-shirt. Alcohol, needle, Band-aid. Got my card back marked with today’s date. I remembered to thank her for her service. She gave a little startle, as if to say, “Certainly, our pleasure, but things are moving too smoothly and swiftly here to expect such niceties.”


Hop up, head down to the chairs spaced evenly across the far end of the hall. “Wait fifteen minutes, please, to ensure that you don’t have any reactions to the shot.” Big old digital clock on a stand. A buddy from work was in the next chair, but the spacing, the masks, and the business-like rumble from the room made chit-chat hard. For a brief time I opened my book. Penelope Fitzgerald was reviewing the World War II diary of Victor Klemperer, who had secretly documented the grinding pressures of wartime food shortages, anti-Semitism, endless threats from the Gestapo, and aerial bombardment. He forthrightly confessed that when a neighbor died he wondered if they might inherit her little store of potatoes. Then the fire-bombing of Dresden, where he and his wife lived. Fleeing the burning city…not soon to return. Victor Klemperer documented it all, felt it all, considered it all, that good man.


Now my fifteen minutes was up. Out in the side corridor, the low rumble of people getting things done receded. In the entry were small ornate chandeliers and photo collections from old wedding parties, mid-celebration. Life from before, and maybe soon again. Over to the side, I glimpsed a small room where vaccination staff and volunteers seemed to gather at the start of their shifts, and a homemade poster, hand lettered, that said, “You Are Making History!” That seems true to me. 


Outside, the fabric of my car seat had been warmed by the sun. Back home, my spouse was at her desk, working by email and Zoom. The cats had made toasty spots for themselves on sofa and bed. House cats don’t worry about historical events, about sacrifices and losses. I checked the mailbox. No wedding invitation today, not even a save-the-date card. Not yet. Not yet.


Music: "Wrong Foot Forward" by Flook