It’s not every day that you meet a great father-and son team. But last Monday was the day. Still don’t know their names but do know that they had each other’s back.
The come-together took place at the Parkland drive-thru for Pfizer boosters in the Ellis Davis Field House parking lot in South Dallas. After a half-hour drive to the site, the sight of the lot with a series of tents and an army of orange-and-white traffic cones seemed as organized as Pick Up Sticks. But there was hope. Two signs provided a promise of success. One read “Testing” and the other “Vaccination.” Even then I was hesitant. After all, I had already had the two previous vaccinations. Would this sign mean “Booster,” too?
Now panic was setting in. The media had reported that the booster was available at the Field House, but what if that had been premature? Still, I wasn’t going to give up.
Luckily there was a red compact car ahead of me and I decided to follow their lead as they headed down the winding Vaccination lane toward two of the tented drive-thrus. I was grateful that they were in the lead. The maze of cones would have been ideal to test a drunk driver.
As we approached the tents, the driver of the red car got out and hailed an official masked type walking by. They exchanged words and the driver returned to his car. I lowered my window and using my take-pity-on-me voice hollered to the official type. “Is this the right lane for the booster?” I could tell by his eyes that he was smiling. It was indeed the right lane.
Now patience was the key to success. As the cars moved forward into separate lanes, I somehow managed to ease next to the red car. It was a changing point. The driver was a 40-something son who had driven his 72-year-old father to get his booster. He had heard about the Parkland locations thanks to the day’s media. The son admitted that he wanted to get the booster, too, but it was more important that his father get it.
With our car windows down, we settled in for a type of over-the-fence chat. The father told me about his days as a Marine in Vietnam and how he had another son… an accountant… from his first marriage who lived in Ohio. He hadn’t really kept up with that first offspring.
Looking at the older man, I noticed that he had a few missing teeth but there was a sparkling brightness in his eyes. His remembrances of Vietnam were still so fresh in his mind. He and his fellow Marines had prepared the locals for what was to come. It took me back to my days when the Vietnam war was such a nightmare that it tore the country apart and how the vets had been treated.
Before the memories of that time could settle in the space between our cars — and between our decades — his son said he had told his dad that I didn’t look old enough to qualify for the 65+ group. Under my mask I felt a sudden flush of giddiness and feigned off the compliment. His father protested — his son had indeed made such a claim. Such a protest only made me want to jump out of my car and hug both of them.
As we approached the first tented site, the 40-ish son looked concerned. He told how his dad had gotten his earlier vaccinations at the VA center and hoped that they would pass muster here. He said he thought we would be done within a half hour. He was being optimistic.
A half hour later we had only moved about five cars ahead. The son thought it was due to paperwork being cleared. We soon accepted the reality of the day — this would be a long wait for a conclusion.
Looking in the rear-view mirror, the lines behind us had grown dramatically while the “Testing” lanes across the parking lot had hardly any business.
Just after noon, news helicopters were fluttering overhead. As we got just four cars from the tent, I got an uneasy feeling. From a distance I spied staffers and drivers in the tents negotiating and exchanging paperwork, but that was it. There was no sight of syringes plunging into arms.
As we neared the two “Vaccine” tents, my comrades in the red car and I were now separated. They were directed to the tent on the right, and I headed to the left. Just beyond the tents were another set of tents. Oh, gee! I started wondering if the people who had arranged the early days of the Texas Gold Star driver license had been hired to design this process. At least this time I could sit in my car while waiting.
Finally, just as the car ahead of me moved on to the next set of tents, I pulled up to be greeted by a nice young woman by the name of Kassandra. Before she could ask for my paperwork, I was handing her my ID, vaccination card and my Medicare card. She didn’t need that last one, but I was eager to please at this point. After checking my information, Kassandra had me sign papers removing Parkland from all types of problems resulting from the visit. At this point I would have signed anything. I was delirious. I was nearing the tent where I hoped syringes met arms.
Leaving the tent, I saw my guys in the red car already in the lineup to cross a lane to the final set of tents. By this time, I had lowered the windows, taken off my mask, turned off the car, pulled out my iPad to catch up on emails and settled in for another wait.
An elderly man in a nearby car evidently had to answer the call of nature. He left his car and walked over to a lineup of portable water closets across the way. I started worrying. What if his line started moving? Would other drivers wait for his return? Or, would they callously drive around his now idling car and take his place? All my worry was for naught. By the time he had ambled back, no one hadn’t moved one iota.
Every now and then I would spy a car with a syringe being inserted into a driver’s arm and driving off to a parking lot where they would park. Within minutes they would take off. Was this the infamous 15-minute wait zone like the ones we had encountered during the previous vaccination periods to make sure there were no post-injection reactions? Luckily an Emergency Medical Service Vehicle was parked nearby.
Eventually, I was waved ahead to the second tented area. Was it really my time? I was so ready with my mask on. I had my vaccination card and my driver’s license to prove that I was who I was and all the paperwork that Kassandra had given me.
As the staffer greeted me, I proudly reported that I had worn my “short-sleeved shirt.” She didn’t get it. But it was the one shirt in my closet that was perfect for a shot. Its last showing was at Market Center back on February8 for my second dose. I deliriously tried to explain. Patiently, she nodded, took my paperwork and disappeared. Looking across the other lanes, the cars and syringes finding their targets kept plowing ahead including the Vietnam vet and his son, who were now headed to the wait-in-place area.
It seemed like it was taking a long to whip out that syringe for my puncture. Had I failed the test? Had Kassandra called ahead and told them about the crazy old gal who tried to pawn off her Medicare card? Would I be sent back to the lineup of cars that had grown in the past 1½ hour?
Before I started frothing at the mouth, the staffer returned with paperwork and syringe in hand.
I was so swept with the feeling of acceptance, I never felt her plunge the needle into my left arm. She didn’t need to tell me to follow the path lined by more of the orange-and-white cones to the waiting period. I was not only prepared for this next step, I had my iPhone set up for the 15 minute wait-and-escape.
As I drove to the time-out zone, I saw the red car with the father and son start up and drive away. Seeing them leave cooled my frustration of the hour and 45-minute process to get the vaccination. Who was I to complain about sitting in an air-conditioned car on a pretty day waiting for a preventative injection compared to what the old man had been through as a youngster 50 years ago?
As the cellphone alarm went off setting me free, I smiled. In addition to a chance meeting with a couple of good guys, I was relieved that the worst part of my pro-active health plan was over. But it wasn’t. Next on my “must-do list” was getting my flu vaccination. Hopefully, it won’t require cones and tents.