Drive-thru Vaccines, check. You're Still Here. What's Next?

high school stadium

Houston has almost 7 million people to vaccinate. 

While that sounds like a big job - and it certainly is - Harris County has some hurricane-hardened experience serving large numbers of people, and not just during floods and fire.

Take schools, for example. The Houston area is home to 10 of the largest public high schools in the country, with my alma mater Alief Hastings clocking in at 3rd largest in Texas, 26th in the USA. Go Bears!  

Texans like their football, which leads to sprawling high school football stadiums with acres of parking. It turns out that this is the perfect setting for a function the various school boards likely never envisioned - drive-through vaccinations sites. 

Try pumping hundreds of people an hour through the local CVS or Walgreens drive thru. Not happening.

When I arrive at the vaccine site, workers direct the drivers to line up cars in an orderly fashion. It reminds me of how Chick-fil-A morphed their drive-through overnight from 2 lanes to 4 during early in the lockdown.

The first greeter says hello; instead of asking you for your order, here they ask if you ever had an allergic reaction to a vaccine or other medication. Then they scan your barcode and direct you to one of 4 wide lanes. 

As you get closer to the tent, a nurse asks you the same questions. 

Finally, when you arrive at the front for your shot, the tech asks you one last time about allergies, gives you the shot, and that's it. You are (almost) free to go. 

After you get your vaccine, they direct you to park for 15 minutes in a holding area. They want to be sure that if you have a bad reaction, you are not behind the wheel, drifting onto a highway feeder road.

If you experience dizziness, nausea, rashes or swelling, you are instructed to honk your horn. 

I wasn't feeling any of those feels, but I was surprised at what did surface.

A sudden desire to cry.  

What if we were all to pound on our horns with grief for the world that is gone, for the suffering that before March 2020 would have read like a screenplay for a Hollywood sci-fi disaster movie?

Or for grateful wonder at the incredible effort of the workers here, and all the other humans, mostly underpaid, who helped to develop vaccines and are coordinating vaccinating millions? 

The lump in my throat passes as I wait 15 minutes; I'm left mostly feeling tired. The tip sheet doesn't say "Honk if you're tired" so I decide to take a walk in the wild, Houston-style, just steps from the concrete jungle.  

I drive to the Houston Arboretum, a small forest in Memorial Park, bordered by a monster freeway, busy multi-lane streets, and a wide tangled bayou on its oldest edge.

Houston’s bayous are living wild veins tracing throughout the city’s concrete and glass overlay. They shelter dirty water, jutting egrets, curious raccoons, large trees, a tangle of undergrowth, and hordes of mosquitoes that thrive in the coastal climate.

I enter the park and come to the Wetlands Area display, featuring Before and After pictures from when a hurricane blew down most of the trees.

It's like standing over a steam bath so I move off of the decking over the bog and wander down the dirt path. I lie down on a bench for a bit, looking at the sky, channeling every bit of gratitude I can to just be here, breathing, alive, at this place in time. 

Like many people, COVID-19 has me wondering about my purpose. Well, COVID-19 is just my latest excuse, as this has been a question mark for me for most of my life. 

I ascribe to the Hero / Heroine’s Journey life template, not because I believe it's “right”, but because many spiritual people I admire followed it. I have also seen that it was at work in my life even before I was aware of it. 

In this process, we hear a call. If we accept it, we take a journey outside of our comfort zone to learn our lessons, find our medicine, claim our treasure, and return Home. 

This is cyclical. For many people, including me, it repeats at approximately 7 year intervals. 

My last seven years of moving, downsizing, divorce, travel, romance and entrepreneurship were my most recent Journey. 

Last March, when I returned to Houston, where I grew up, from Mexico, where I was living at the time, I thought I was coming for a family wedding. 

It might seem like a coincidence that I just happened to be in the US as the pandemic shut down borders and businesses, but I have too many examples of being led in my life to believe that.

In reality I, like most of humanity, I had been called Home again to regroup. 

At first I was so relieved to be safe that I thought I would stay forever. I would become known as the crazy lady in apt 542.

Fast forward to now. My Guides are saying, not so fast crazy lady. We still have unfinished business in other places. 

Exactly what said business is, is emerging, but my overall desire is to be wise and helpful with the time I have left on the planet.

A sincere request, albeit not very original.

I move off the bench, resume my walk, and come across a small theater clearing in the woods. It has a few low benches, grouped close together, their small scale encouraging adults to lean in and children, whose feet usually dangle from benches, to feel grounded and big enough for once. 

At the entrance are two large stones on the ground with bronze plaques honoring volunteer Catharine Mary Emmott. 

Forgettable text and beautiful moss embellish one stone, a bas relief portrait of Catharine Mary is mounted on the other. 

Her nose stands out from the bronze patina, bright and shiny, as if someone polishes it regularly.  I imagine many someones doing so, picturing all the children who pass, jostling each other for a chance to rub her nose, just because it's shiny and just because they can. 

Life has a way of dropping "topic of the week" themes on us, have you noticed? I had a conversation a couple days ago with my Mom about how she likes to visit family grave sites to take pictures of the headstones. 

I looked down at Catharine's stones and think, this is what I would like.

Not a gravestone announcing the first and last dates of my life, but a marker someplace wonderful that marks a good thing that I did in-between those two days.

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Horrific global events bracketed Catharine's life. She was born during the Civil War and watched WWI and II unfold, before her death in 1949.

She helped establish Memorial Park, which has war in its DNA. It was a training camp for 70,000 WWI soldiers and the locus of a race riot in 1917. 

Oddly enough, given I just got my first COVID vaccine shot, I notice that in 1918 when the Spanish Flu passed through Texas, she was 56, almost the same age as I am. 

Is it a coincidence that I met her on the day I got my vaccine?

I walk across the small stage framed by trees, in front of the empty benches.

I ask my Muse, "What would we say if we were to put on a show?" 

No answer.

Just the end in mind

May my life’s show  
be worthy 
of mossy rave reviews 
on living stone, 
a shiny nose polished 
by hurricanes 
and thousands of small hands 

Celebrating LIFE 
from first angry shout
to final imperfect breath

We are (still) here for a reason


Thanks for reading! See this piece and more pictures on Medium. Please "follow" me while you are there!  

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