The BDN Opinion section operates independently and does not set newsroom policies or contribute to reporting or editing articles elsewhere in the newspaper or on bangordailynews.com.
My work life restarted in Maine in 2003 when I took a job on the copy desk of the Sun Journal in Lewiston after relocating from Washington, D.C.
It feels like another part of my life restarted there last week, again in L-A. I went to the Auburn Mall to receive my first coronavirus vaccine from Central Maine Healthcare.
I hadn’t been to the mall there since probably 2006. It hadn’t changed much from the outside, but on the inside it has been transformed into a highly efficient mass vaccination site.
Arriving a few minutes early for my appointment, the process moved very fast. A member of the Maine National Guard opened the door. Once inside, another Guard member took my temperature and directed me to a sign-in station. After handing over a checklist I had filed out, I was directed into the vaccine area, which had a number of stations set up.
A medical assistant logged my information and a nurse, who would later deliver my shot, asked a few questions. Then as we waited a few moments for the paperwork to get finished, we talked about how signing up for a vaccine was like trying to get concert tickets in the ‘90s.
Which of course led to a full on discussion of U2, my wife’s favorite band, and a favorite of the staff as well — that is until Zooropa. That’s where U2 lost the nurse who was helping me. Another nurse staffing the site joined in on the conversation. She had seen U2 during an early gig in Boston, when they were opening up for some obscure band (Barooga Bandit) none of the rest of us had ever heard of.
It was so friendly, so easy and everyone was so nice. It was like a collective, community sigh of relief that vaccines were available and there might be a light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel.
After getting the shot, I moved over to a waiting area where you have to sit for 15 minutes to make sure you don’t have an allergic reaction to the vaccine. And, lo and behold, a former co-worker at the Sun Journal was volunteering there.
We hadn’t seen each other in 15 years, and despite four masks and a face shield between us, we reconnected after just a second of hesitation.
It was like the icing on the cake. To see someone outside my bubble, in person. To talk. To catch up.
I’ve seen similar pictures from friends all over the state. Parking lot reunions and celebrations of community, of science and of hope as people have traveled to get their vaccine.
Maine is a national leader in the efficiency of its vaccination rollout program. Maine ranks 5th best for administering the first dose of the vaccine among U.S. states and 5th best for the number for fully vaccinating the population.
As of April 12, more than 520,000 Mainers (about 46 percent of the population) had received their first dose of the vaccine and more than 386,000 (about 34 percent of the population) were fully vaccinated.
I know that there are some people who are worried about side effects and the news that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is being paused can be a little scary (serious side effects are very, very, very rare). My experience is similar to most of the people I know.
I didn’t even feel the shot itself. It was over so fast, we weren’t done talking about U2 when it was time to move on.
My arm was a little sore that night and the next day, and I had a few weird dreams. Maybe I was a little more tired than normal. I had a strange little ear ache and sensitive scalp, which might not have been related at all to the vaccine.
I’m looking forward to returning to Auburn in a couple of weeks to get my second shot. But what I’m really looking forward to is the day — through our collective actions as a people and our ongoing desire to look after one another — we can ease into a new, safer normal where COVID-19 doesn’t factor into almost every decision we make.
Getting an appointment for a vaccine can be frustrating, and you might have to drive a little ways to get it more quickly. But it sure is worth it. I don’t think I’ve ever looked forward to a trip up the Turnpike as much as I am for my drive for that second shot.