No Glitches in Gardendale: A Tribute to the JCDH

This was a solo trip, but TOR gets the credit for nudging me to make it. When she received her first Moderna shot through her workplace, she was determined to help me get mine as soon as possible. Good friend that she is, she bombarded me with websites and email addresses to try. Without her nudges, I might have waited much longer to do what I was expecting–slog through endless bureaucracy with the distinct possibility of getting nowhere.

But surprise! My first and–as it turned out–only attempt to register was with JCDH (Jefferson County Department of Health). It took me a couple tries to navigate the sign-up process, but strand by strand I made it onto and through the web and received confirmation on my phone minutes later. Seemed too good to be true. That same day, I received instructions to make the appointment for my first shot. There were two location choices: UAB Highlands (a walk in) and Gardendale HS (a drive thru).

When I logged back in, the date available was Monday, January 18, and my only location choice was Gardendale, which was fine. Staying in my car sounded good. I was asked to select a time. The first two I tried were full, but the third was a charm–11:40 a.m. Again, it seemed too good to be true, but within minutes, my cell phone showed the QR code and where to download the paperwork.

Although I live south of Birmingham in Hoover, Gardendale (north of the city) is not foreign territory. About a year ago, Sunni Speigle, program director for the Gardendale Public Library, invited me to give a talk about my Aliceville book. I thoroughly enjoyed the morning I spent at their beautiful library, which is high on a hill just off the same street as the high school. Their adult, youth, and children’s programs are very active. I’m invited back to talk about Sylacauga marble, but that has been postponed because of the pandemic.

Monday morning January 18, I had enough forethought (for once!) to put on a short-sleeved turtle neck under my jacket so I wouldn’t have to disrobe for the shot. I fixed my hair and makeup because, well, it isn’t every day lately that I have the slightest excuse to do so. I packed my car for what I assumed would be a long snail crawl through several blocks and a parking lot. Filled my Yeti with hot green tea, stuffed my WBHM tote with the current issue of Real Simple, a half-worked NYT crossword, a banana, and a salted caramel biscotti. Made sure my audio book (Kristen Hannah’s Winter Garden) was still on my phone for the drive.

When I exited I-65 onto Fieldstown Road, traffic was not backed up as I expected from all those aerial photos of bumper-to-bumper roadways leading to stadiums and vacant lots across the country. I’m so skeptical these days. After all, this is the ultimate Murphy’s Law year, right? No, wait! That was last year. Still, this new year has also had things that could go wrong do so.

That Monday morning, the sun was shining in a brilliant blue sky. Two smiling fellows in yellow and white vests directed me to the correct parking lot where another smiling person in a yellow and white vest took my temperature, checked my paperwork, drew a big capital E on my windshield and told me to follow “that young man up there.”

Almost 40 minutes early, I pulled into Lane E with only five cars ahead of me. I had just turned off the engine, taken a sip of tea, and opened Real Simple to the “Modern Manners” column when another smiling, vested person asked to see the code on my phone. “Okay,” she said.

Two minutes later, there was a silver tray on the hood of my car flanked by a woman with a blue gown over her jacket and a syringe in her hand. “You ready?” she asked. Was I ever! I slipped off my jacket, pulled up my short black sleeve, and the deed was done.

Finally, I was directed to move forward behind the car in front of me and wait 15 minutes (to make sure I didn’t pass out, foam at the mouth, or hallucinate, I guess). Seemed too good to be true, but I was on my way home 20 minutes before my appointment time. So much for the old adage. This was good–and also true. Bravo, JCDH! You hit a home run on January 18.

Speaking of home runs, I’m no Hank Aaron (May he rest in peace.) when it comes to baseball or to being a great community role model and example. At age 86, just weeks before his death, Hammerin’ Hank made sure his own Covid vaccination was photographed and publicized to encourage others across the country not to be afraid to get theirs. So I will take a cue from this great baseball player and humanitarian and hope that this Road Trip story of mine will encourage others to get on line, get registered, and get that first shot.

I now eagerly await the text that will direct me to book an appointment for my second dose. Of course, Murphy’s Law has not disappeared, and there are rumors that vaccine supplies are tight. Still, as my sweet friend Helen LaFlaur used to say, “The Good Lord willin’ an’ the creek don’t rise,” that text will pop up on my phone, and I can take another nice ride to Gardendale in mid-February.

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