I am the type of person who wants to be on time for an appointment. If an appointment is at 11 a.m. the next day I start planning for it the previous day. I mentally make a note of what I need to take with me, how far is the place from my house? I open the Google Maps App and review the directions to get an idea of the route.
When the CDC recommended that a new booster is available against the new COVID Omicron variant Bharati and I decided that we should take it. It was late September. We had planned the Great Ancient Mediterranean Cruise to start in mid-October. We should have taken the booster at least fifteen days before our departure.
On Monday, September 26, after a weekend trip to Indianapolis to visit our son and his family, I started looking for an appointment for the new booster. I soon discovered that the Pfizer vaccine was readily available but I needed the Moderna. A pharmacy nearby offered the Moderna vaccine. They had a time slot at 12:45 p.m. on the same day. The next available date for a Moderna vaccine was October 4, which would have been too late. It was noon. I immediately booked the appointment. The pharmacy was only a fifteen minutes drive from my home. By the time I got dressed and was on my way, it was 12:40 pm. I reached the pharmacy just a few minutes before 1:00 pm. I was getting concerned that I was late. I rushed through the door, only to discover that the counter to register for the vaccine was closed. I could see the shutters pulled all the way down. I then remembered that my GPS had said the distance to the Pharmacy from my home was 2.5 miles and I had driven more than that. I had crossed another branch of the same pharmacy on my way. Thinking that I had come to the wrong branch I drove to the other branch. After a confusing dialogue with the nurse at the counter, I was told that I indeed had my appointment at the branch where I was. Then why was the counter shut? Why was I given the appointment?
I came home frustrated and without the vaccine.
“When you were there why didn’t you ask someone why the pharmacy counter was closed,” said Bharati.
She was right. I could have done that but I thought I had made a mistake about the branch.
Anyway, the next day, I started a new search. Luckily, a separate branch of the same pharmacy had Moderna. This branch was farther from our house. It would take half an hour to get there. I made an appointment for 4:15 p.m.
As their system confirmed my appointment, I was advised to fill out a form online to provide details about myself. The system strongly recommended doing this to save time. I followed the instructions. I was also advised that I should come at least fifteen minutes early.
I was ready for the appointment at 3:30 p.m. Bharati volunteered to drive me there to avoid any discomfort I may experience post the vaccine. Bharati was not in a rush. On top of that, a friend of hers called. It always happens when we have to go somewhere. Bharati kept talking and I kept looking at my watch. This is not a good time to take my blood pressure reading, I said to myself.
The call ended at 3:45 p.m. I was concerned that we are going to be late.
“Let’s go,” I said, slightly upset.
“Don’t worry,” Bharati said in her usual calm demeanor. “It only takes a few minutes for them to give the vaccine. What if you are a few minutes late? They are not going to refuse to give the vaccine.”
We reached the pharmacy just around 4:15. The person at the counter to register for the vaccine appeared to be from India. He saw my last name, ending in ‘kar” and concluded I was a Maharashtrian.
“Aapan Mumbai che ka?” He asked in Marathi. Translated it means “Are you from Mumbai?’
I replied that I was from Hyderabad but that two of my sisters live in Mumbai. We continued talking in Marathi. He took my vaccine card and walked over to give it to someone. I told him that I had filled out the required form online. He said it’s a good thing I did.
“Basa. Amhi bolawoo. (Take a seat. We’ll call you.)”
So, I took a seat on a chair facing the display of medicines for eye drops, stomach upset, blood pressure, etc. I waited and waited and waited. A few people were called in to take their flu shot. I thought I would be called after them. It didn’t happen. Twenty minutes later I saw a young couple approach the registration window. They were given a form. They filled it while standing and handed it in.
I had been waiting for more than half an hour. I went to the registration window to ask what was happening. The Indian fellow had disappeared somewhere.
“What’s your name?”
I told her my name.
“Did you fill out the form?
“Yes. I did it on the website.”
“Oh. I’ll print it. Have a seat.
I was upset by the delay. Meanwhile, the young couple had gotten their vaccine shot and left. They had come twenty minutes after me. Five minutes later I heard my name being called. A new nurse, who looked like the one to administer the vaccine asked my name again. She wanted me to fill out the form. I was really irritated. I wanted to shout “Damn it, I had done it electronically. How many times do I have to say it?” But I restrained myself.
“I’m printing it.” Someone else shouted from somewhere inside.
So, five more minutes later I finally got my vaccine. It only took a couple of minutes to administer. It was past five o’clock. I had spent forty-five minutes. Bharati was waiting outside in the car. She didn’t want to come in thinking it would take just a few minutes.
“This is bad,” I said, showing my irritation, to the nurse who gave the vaccine. “Why did I have to wait so long? And I had done all the paperwork to save time.”
“I’m so sorry,” She apologized. “The system should have printed the form automatically. Besides we have been so busy. Your name just fell through the crack.”
She gave me the receipt with a coupon for ten dollars to be added toward my awards balance. As if it was enough compensation for my time wasted in waiting.
“I told you,” Bharati said when I returned to the car. “It’s no use following all their instructions and being super-efficient. It would have taken you a couple of minutes to fill the form and you would have been ahead.”
“There is always a next time,” I said.
At least I got my vaccine. There was no use ruminating over it. Things happen that are beyond your control.