HOWIE: I GOT THE PUBLIX VACCINE AND IT WAS A BIG MOMENT

I am not a morning person.

But last week, I set my alarm and wandered into the living room in the dark.

5:50 a.m.

The night before, I left my computer open to the signup page for the Publix COVID vaccine distribution. Now, the web page is about to go live.

It feels like trying to buy concert tickets. Except right now, if I had to pick between this and the Rolling Stones, I’d pick this.

I’m in the queue. That has to be good news, right?

There it is: the “book an appointment” button.

Ooh, here’s a slot at the Publix in Key West. 

Fill out the information. Click.

Dammit. Someone else gets there first.

This could be a little more intuitive. And the site keeps some but not all the information in place once you’ve filled it in, even if you don’t get the slot you’re looking for.

Refresh.

Wonder how many other people are out there, clicking and clicking.

I start up a second laptop. (I know…)

Refresh.

Refresh.

All available slots in Key West are full.

Well, I guess that’s that. I’ll have to wait till next time. Wish there was a waiting list. Who knows how many more times it will take before –

Wait:
Refresh.

There are slots in Islamorada? 9:24 a.m. the next day? I’ll take it.

Please don’t let someone else be a quicker clicker.

Holy crap, I got in!

The next day brings one of those beautiful Keys mornings. It’s cool out but not cold. The rich blue sky has a few wispy clouds. I leave Marathon early enough to account for the normal morning traffic on the Overseas Highway and the possibility of the Snake Creek Bridge (thanks to my colleague Jimmy McCarthy for that warning). But there are no issues. It is, as always, a beautiful drive, and I pull into the Islamorada Publix parking lot a half-hour early.

The pharmacy isn’t open. What if I’m in the wrong place? A friendly Publix employee reassures me.

Workers are setting up a table with clipboards, pens and forms – just one page and not even both sides. I check the boxes and settle in to wait a bit.

People are walking their carts up and down the aisles, filling them with groceries, as though there’s nothing going on. Don’t they know? Science is about to happen over here.

It turns out my appointment is the first of the day. I walk into the pharmacy, sit down and hand my phone to a helpful person who takes a camera shot before I get the shot.

I can’t watch a needle going into my arm, so I look straight ahead. Very slight discomfort when the needle goes in and then it’s over. I’m told I should sit and wait for 15 minutes in case there are any side-effects from the shot.

There are none.

I have a little card that tells me to come back in four weeks for the second shot.

I go out to my car and just sit there for a moment, then start the engine and head back to the highway.

There is a feeling of jubilation that I did not expect. I want to pump my fist into the air.

The thoughts that come to you.

For the better part of a year, I have been getting tested every week or so. Forewarned is forearmed.

My family has been touched more than once by the disease. My extended family has had reason to grieve.

Although I will wear one until the recommendation is lifted, I can now see a time when I won’t check my pocket or the car for a mask before I go anywhere.

The tunnel does not seem endless any more, and that might be a gleam at the far end.

As I head back to Marathon, my thoughts go to my childhood, standing in a long line at a school gym, waiting for the sugar cube with the red dot on it that meant I wouldn’t get polio, sensing the wave of relief from my parents.

This feels every bit as big.

Mike Howie
Mike Howie is the Keys Weekly’s copy editor and a valued member of the team … if for no other reason than he makes us laugh.