On Saturdays I have been volunteering at a COVID-19 mass vaccination site. It has been strangely magical.
There is a buzz of hope, agency, and human connection there that I wish I could preserve in a jar like summer berries and save it for a gloomy day.
It is a peculiar pleasure to guide people through the lines, quelling their fears and finding someone smarter than me to answer their questions for them. There is a powerful sense of community between the volunteers, the organizers, and the vaccinators as we work. Inside jokes blossom and deep conservations with near-strangers become commonplace. There is a sense of urgency. There is a dash of chaos. Usually, though things run with impressive efficiency. And of course, there is a lot of hurry up and wait.
It reminds me of horse shows.
If this site were a horse show, it would be easy to put us all into jobs that correlate.
The other line monitors and I would be ring stewards, runners, and those countless volunteers you see millings about the grounds making sure all the exhibitors have everything ready to go. Those at vax site registration would be working in the show office checking Coggins Tests and paperwork. The medical professionals doing the vaccinating would be the judges—because they are the people we are here to see. The paramedics would still be paramedics, there just in case, staring down at their phones. And the police officers would be the bored family members waiting around for the show to finish up for the day.
A vaccination site like a horse show is organized anxiety and excitement—those in attendance dream of what is to come.
At the end of my last shift, a few opened doses were left. The team leaders asked if anyone wanted to be vaccinated so I signed up. As my stomach fluttered with excitement, I rolled up my sleeve and got my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. I realized the stuff in my arm got us one tiny step closer to the end of the pandemic, and that meant more in-person horsey events and more time with the horse friends I loved.
I was hyper-aware, throughout the pandemic, that many of the riders and owners I am around are in one at-risk group or another. I felt nervous going to horsey places. While I was careful, I live in a crowded city and was terrified I would unknowingly pass along the virus and put someone in the hospital.
I also often thought about all the times I had come home from an equestrian event and then proceeded to come down with the “horse show crud.” Drafty barns, crowds of people, and not much sleep aren’t ideal conditions for staying healthy—adding COVID into the mix was a terrifying prospect.
After I get a second dose, I know that I will be protecting myself and those around me from COVID-19. The jab is also letting me do my part to help the world open back up after a year of restrictions and cancellations. Yes, there have been some shows since March 2020. Yet we know the fun parts of equine events are not just what happens in the arena, but what happens at the spontaneous after-party behind someone’s trailer or at the communal table near the food tent.
My second shot is only a few weeks away. After a year of waiting on hold, it’s like the moment when an injured horse finally comes sound. I can’t wait to see what’s ahead—and all of you when we are safe.