Jackie’s Excellent Adventure. Or, How I Finally Got the Covid Vaccine (My Coronavirus Diaries, Installment #21)

March 10, 2021

Today’s the Day! Dose 1

Getting there

Since I’d never driven to GBMC (Greater Baltimore Medical Center) before, I searched for directions to the site. Of course, the search engine (starts with G, ends with gle) sent me on an unfamiliar route. But a late-night epiphany set me straight: North Charles Street… blocks away from Mom’s former ophthalmologist = best route. In fact, it was only a few more blocks away from another hospital I’ve driven to, frequently!

I turned right onto the hospital’s sprawling campus… and had to wait for a veritable convoy of vehicles entering via a left turn signal from the opposite side of the road. I feared they were all heading in my direction, to get a shot in the arm. Once I made it onto the circular drive, I tried to find the landmarks cued up on the instructions email I’d received on my cell phone. The signs for exits from the circular drive looked like a multitude of wooden posts from the old M.A.S.H. 4077th set. Hopelessly lost, I turned off the main circle into the driveway of a building, rolled my window down, and asked a valet attendant for help.

He sent me back the way I’d come! Almost back to the beginning of my circular drive, where I suddenly saw the low-to-the-ground signs for The Ambulatory Test Center—and two white tents awaiting me. The email had instructed me to park in one of several designated parking garages. But I pulled into the first available garage, because my appointment time was rapidly approaching. I parked as close as possible to entrance of that garage, memorized my location and the name of the lot, and trudged up the hill to the Ambulatory Test Center.

Waiting in line

I found the end the of the line, just beyond a plastic-enclosed ramp that led to the door of the tent/building. I was the only Black person in that line, and I stood behind an older white man sporting a ponytail, sunglasses, and a fedora-style hat. He was engrossed in the book he was reading. Surreptitiously, I looked at the cover because it looked familiar–it was a Maryland Civil War history book I had purchased pre-pandemic at the Baltimore Museum of Art gift shop! Looking ahead at the line, I noticed that people were being admitted in groups of two to four at a time. A nurse at the door instructed us to have our identifications ready. The line grew behind me: several elderly couples, some in wheelchairs, others leaning heavily on canes. One woman said she’d driven down to this Towson site from Belair, Maryland; another person arrived from even further away.

Before long, it was my turn to walk through the door and be told which of several lines to stand in. I showed an attendant my ID cards and received my vaccination registration card. But then, I was told to stand by the door, next to an orange cone, while ponytail-guy was moved forward to the main line, an aisle with rows of curtained spaces on either side of the room. I asked the attendant, “Mother, may I?” to see if I could move up a little. Social distancing is one thing, but for a second I felt like I was being pushed to the back of the bus. Another attendant laughed and said she hadn’t heard that phrase in a long time, recalling how as a kid, she loved answering, “No, you may not!” At the same moment, my attendant beckoned me forward.

Getting my shot

I was called forward to a vaccination station. In less than 5 minutes, I’d gotten the shot, the Band-aid had been applied, and I was being told to sit on one of the folding chairs set in rows in front of the stations. I’d be free to go after 10 minutes. It was 1:40pm.

As I sat waiting, I looked around the room. There were no badges for us saying “I’m Vaccinated!” Even the Band-aids were standard issue, not the colorful ones folks have posted online. A bit disappointed at the absence of fanfare, but still grateful, I walked out of the building, down the ramp, and tried to get my bearings to return to my car and go home.

Jackie’s Excellent Adventure

Jackie is not known for her great sense of direction. Sure, she can find her way to most places, and she doesn’t need “starts with G, ends with gle” to do so. It’s the return trip that causes problems. Her saving grace is that she does remember landmarks and places she’s been before, as both driver and passenger, allowing her to find her way home.

When I stepped outside after getting my shot, it was an unseasonably warm 68⁰F, and I was a bit giddy that I’d actually gotten this done. I knew that since I’d walked up a steep hill to get to this building, I’d need to walk down the same hill to get back to the parking garage. So, I did. But at the bottom of the hill, I did not see the entrance I’d used to drive into and walk out of the garage. Two “helpful” passersby pointed me toward the nearest garage. I spent the next 20 minutes wandering up and down rows of cars in dark aisles that looked nothing like where I’d left my car. Spotting what looked like offices, I went inside the adjoining building, where I found two people eating lunch at the mall-style Subway shop. As it turns out, I’d been wandering around the Tulip garage—not the Lily garage where I’d left my car an hour earlier. I found the Lily garage–the building separated the two garages–and quickly found my car.

I knew I needed to make a left (not a right) onto Charles Street, so I did. Why I turned off Charles onto Bellona Avenue (which had been recommended by the search engine) instead of continuing to Lake Avenue (the road I had chosen), I do not know. But I drove on, knowing I’d eventually find the cross-street to take me home. I turned the wrong way onto Northern Parkway—right instead of left, and I was now on course back to GBMC!

A quick right turn onto Charles Street (again), a U-turn and a left turn back onto Northern Parkway put me back on track toward home.

Back home, I took the obligatory selfie of my vaccinated shoulder, ate a sandwich, and stretched out on my couch for a two-hour nap.


3 thoughts on “Jackie’s Excellent Adventure. Or, How I Finally Got the Covid Vaccine (My Coronavirus Diaries, Installment #21)

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