Last Wednesday started out like an ordinary day, or as ordinary as they have been during a pandemic—I woke up around 7:30 and moved through my usual morning routines and practices, took (with permission) a single sip of Shawn’s coffee, and set about my Wednesday morning work list (I am lost without my many lists).
More than I usually do, I kept glancing at the time on every available device. At 10:40 a.m. I got in the car and headed to Hannaford in North Conway. I walked in, breezed past the carts and baskets, and headed straight to the pharmacy.
Four of us arrived at about the same time, checked in, submitted IDs, and filled out some paperwork. As I took the clipboard and pen into my hands, the friendly pharmacist rolled her eyes a little and smiled, anticipating the question that never left my lips but certainly bubbled up in my mind: ‘And yes, this is the exact same questionnaire you just completed online… this is Hannaford’s version.’
I took my seat with the others and filled in my answers. No one spoke until a young woman named Anna wheeled out her cart and introduced herself, telling us that we would be receiving our first dose of the Moderna vaccine today, that our second appointments would be made for us, that we would be cursing her that night for our sore arms, and asked that we stay for fifteen minutes after our shots to make sure there were no adverse reactions. And were there any questions?
There were not.
Suddenly, purses were set down, jackets were coming off, and sleeves were being rolled up. I watched the other three people get theirs first. The first recipient took a selfie and said nothing. Anna wheeled over to the next two, a married couple, and asked, ‘Are you excited?’ And after a moment’s hesitation, the wife said, ‘I suppose’ and everyone laughed along with her. The wife got her shot, and then the husband, and then more silence.
Anna wheeled over to me. I asked her, ‘Do you mind if I take a selfie?’ She said, ‘Not at all, please do!’ I added, ‘I rarely take selfies, but this moment seems pretty important.’ She said, ‘Absolutely!’ The first recipient then chimed in, saying, ‘My selfie didn’t turn out, I missed it somehow.’ Anna said, ‘We can stage one for you afterwards,’ which made both of them very happy.
I felt her swab my left arm, and as I looked at the screen of my phone, I felt no hint of pain as she administered the shot. As she was finishing up, I looked in her eyes and said, ‘Thank you,’ and she smiled and said, ‘You’re so welcome’—and it was at this moment that I felt the enormity of the whole experience. Suddenly, there was a lump in my throat, and tears of gratitude welling in the corners of my eyes.
I watched Anna with the first recipient as they reenacted the moment for the missed selfie, everyone smiling behind their masks. After I quickly posted my own photo, I put my phone in my pocket and decided to spend the fifteen minutes sitting as mindfully as I could. I paid close attention to the warm and strange feeling in my left arm; to the beating of my heart, now much more relaxed and settled; to my breath coming and going on its own; to the motions of those picking up prescriptions; to the small, friendly conversations that bubbled up here and there; to shoppers wheeling by with fresh vegetables and bread and toothpaste; to the sounds of a barely perceptible pop song playing through overhead speakers (‘Just another manic Monday…’); to a feeling of awe at the marvels of modern medicine and the human triumph over disease; to the thought of the many thousands of people who were not fortunate enough to live long enough to receive this vaccine that could have saved their lives and those of others.
Every Wednesday, every moment, is extraordinary, when I look closely enough.
Fifteen minutes later, we were sent on our way with our IDs, new vaccine record cards, and information about our next appointments. I walked out into the early spring sunshine, more aware of my posture and of my left arm, feeling lighter, happier, and so full of hope and gratitude.
I arrived home to the intoxicating smells and sounds of pancakes cooking on the stove. I really am lucky beyond belief. I hugged and kissed the chef and thanked him, ate my pancakes, and got back to work.