How to Get a Covid Vaccine

How to Get a Covid Vaccine

A Short Story by Linda C. Wisniewski

(After Lorrie Moore’s short story, “How to Be a Writer”)

  1. Tell your best friend you are tired of being cooped up in your house with your fiscally conservative socially liberal husband for 2,982 days, 14 hours and 22 minutes, give or take a half-hour here and there, as the world deals with a global pandemic. There are vaccines coming and you want one.
  2. Listen without interrupting as your friend complains about her musician husband’s incessant ukulele practice day after bloody day. The vaccines are coming.
  3. Devote the next three days to comparing conversations. Did she let you talk as long as you let her? Is her husband as boring as yours? When will you get your vaccine?
  4. Plan your next outdoor meetup for coffee (if before noon) or tea (if after). Talk about how to get a vaccine appointment.
  5. Set aside time each morning to search for news stories online about vaccine availability in your area. Bookmark these on your laptop.
  6. Set aside more time each afternoon to search for news stories online about vaccine availability in your state, the country and the world as a whole.
  7. Read for hours uncounted because who cares what time it is or how much time you spend online reading more news about the botched rollout of vaccines and who is to blame.
  8. Discover your place in the population eligible for the vaccine. What group in your state do you fall into? Refresh the local news page several times a day to see if anything has changed.
  9. Detour for an hour or two when you see interesting or alarming or upsetting news online. Read the news then complain to your boring husband that the news is upsetting and you are planning to stop reading it. When he tells you to relax, you will both get your vaccine, don’t listen. Just worry.
  10. Over lunch each day turn on the small TV in your kitchen and get indigestion as you eat a sandwich and watch CNN or MSNBC reporting on the pandemic. For a change, watch the local channels for news about the increased shootings in the nearby city.
  11. Discover you are in group 1C, for people over 65 but under 75, after all healthcare workers, first responders, and essential workers, and those residing in nursing homes have been vaccinated.
  12. Remember the last time you wished you were just a little bit older. You were waiting outside a bar on a Friday night with your high school friends while the one who was 18 went inside to buy a six-pack he promised to share. Wish you were 17 again and there was no pandemic and you were fresh and young and your only care in the world was whether you’d all get caught drinking underage.
  13. Read a text message from your son in New York City. “You can get vaccinated in NYC starting Monday. Over 65!”
  14. Click on the link he sends and learn this applies only to New Yorkers, which you have not been since 1969. Text him back: “Can you get me a fake NYC ID?” You are only half-kidding. He replies: “Nope.”
  15. A friend asks if you would show up for a vaccine appointment at 2 in the morning. “Hell yeah,” you say, and do not smile so she knows you are dead serious.
  16.  You need a better plan. Why should you have to wait your turn? You are not getting any younger. You have been good, wearing a mask, staying home. You deserve the vaccine now. Today.
  17. Contemplate googling “how to make a fake ID.” You are not stupid. You watch crime shows on TV. This search will be in your computer’s history forever, maybe even floating somewhere in the “cloud” but so what? Will they throw an elderly white lady with no criminal record in jail? Doubtful.
  18. Think of changing the state on your driver’s license to New York. Take it out of your wallet and see it has an underlay with an American flag on the front and Pennsylvania 1787 on the back and wonder how you will manage to change it.
  19. Search your wallet for other cards you could use. Find your social security card issued in New York State. That could work if you claim it’s your only ID. But maybe not. This is a matter of life and death. Your possible death. Ignore your husband when he tells you to relax.
  20. Google “how to make a fake ID.” Be shocked at the long list of websites. Click on the one called ID Warehouse, and follow the instructions. Order some supplies: special paper, hologram overlays, and some other stuff.  Mentally thank Amazon Prime for bringing them to your doorstep the next day.
  21. When your new Fake NYS ID is as perfect as you can make it, click on the official website and, using your 1964 New York address, schedule an appointment for the next Monday afternoon. Mornings are open too but why get up early? It’s a two-hour drive to the city. Do not take New Jersey Transit to Penn Station, as you usually do. Avoid exposing yourself to virus particles in closed-up train cars.
  22. On Sunday evening, lay out your clothes and try to sleep. Contact your son in Brooklyn and tell him what you are about to do. Read his reply: “Good luck.”
  23. Monday morning, eat a bowl of Cheerios, take a shower and blow dry your hair. Dress in black slacks, a quilted black jacket and high black boots. In New York, you will fit right in.
  24. Drive across the river into New Jersey. The sun is bright, a good omen, and traffic is light.  Most people are working from home or staying put. Notice the half empty parking lot at the huge Paramus Shopping Center. Is that good (people being safe)? or bad (people afraid to go shopping)?
  25. Enter the squeeze of cars approaching the Holland Tunnel. This, at least, feels normal. When you come out at the other end, the sunlight blinds you for a second. Pull down your visor. The female voice on your GPS guides you to the mass vaccination clinic at the Javits Center. Thank her out loud because nobody can hear and she’s not so annoying today.
  26. Pull into a parking lot on Tenth Avenue and hand your keys to the valet. Easy peasy. Hop out and walk a block west on your shiny black boots. Soon you will be protected from this nightmarish virus, and all because you are so smart.
  27. It’s cold outside. Step up your pace until you reach the big glass doors. Pull the long metal handle and let yourself inside the building. Fish your mask from your pocket and put it on. Hordes of other masked people mill around and uniformed guards point down a hall to your left. Try to maintain a social distance of six feet, an impossible task.
  28. An old woman, in other words, a woman your age, cries in a foreign language you don’t recognize. Turn to see where her sobs are coming from. A teenaged girl tries to comfort her as she rummages through a large cloth bag. The woman wipes at her wet face with bare hands and laments in a quavering voice. Slow down and watch them.
  29. The girl looks around the cavernous room, then down at the floor all around them. She walks away from the old lady, scanning the ground with her eyes. Shaking her head, she slow-walks back to the wall where the woman wails. Your heart hurts.
  30. Look around for help. Cross the cavernous lobby through the flow of people who glance at the women and keep walking.  You can spare a minute or two. Move closer. The girl tells you the woman has lost her ID. She cannot get vaccinated without it, and she is a grandmother raising three grandchildren alone. She cleans rooms in a hotel and is afraid of catching the virus but she has to go to work. She has to, the girl says, near tears herself.
  31. Take a deep slow breath and walk away, toward the huge windows. Look outside at the sunlit street. It used to be so busy, every time you came this way. Not today. Today there is plenty of space.
  32. Reach inside your handbag and pull out your carefully crafted New York State ID. It has your real name on it. Walk back to the women. The grandmother has stopped crying and stares at you warily. The teenager puts an arm around her. Give the girl your ID.
  33. Tell her your appointment is at three, and her grandmother can have it. The teen’s mouth falls open. Tell her to take it, the old woman needs it more than you do.
  34. The teenager pulls her grandmother away from the wall, thanks you, and scurries down the hall. Watch them disappear.
  35. Contemplate hanging around to see if the ID was good enough and the woman got her vaccine. Ask a nearby guard how long it takes. Once you’re inside, about an hour, he says, including the wait for possible side effects. Thank him for his help and go back outside.
  36. The sun has moved and as you walk north, enjoy the warmth on your shoulders. The occasional beep of a truck backing up or an impatient taxi horn recalls for you the old New York, last year, before the virus. Walk and walk, breathing deeply through your mask, making eye contact with people you pass, their eyes visible about the cloth covering their mouths and noses. Nod to see them nod back at you.
  37. Some of them may be infected with Covid. Maybe they don’t even know it. Maybe you are too. This should scare you. But not today. Today you feel one with them, a small drop in the moving tide.
  38. Do you want to know the rest of this story? Walk back to the place where you started, and wait on the sidewalk. Soon the old woman and her grandchild will step out into the sunshine. They will raise their folded hands to the sky. Wipe tears from your eyes and go home.

    Linda C. Wisniewski is a former librarian who shares an empty nest in Doylestown with her retired scientist husband. Linda teaches memoir workshops for the PSBI Writing Center. Her writing focuses on memoir and personal essays and has been widely published in literary magazines and anthologies. Linda’s memoir, Off Kilter: A Woman’s Journey to Peace with Scoliosis, Her Mother and Her Polish Heritage was published by Pearlsong Press. Her time travel novel, Where the Stork Flies, is forthcoming from Sand Hill Review Press in May 2021. Linda blogs at website