“This entire process runs like a well-oiled machine.”

“I’ve never been through something like this before, where it all goes so quick.”

“Everybody is very nice here.”

As they came in for their COVID-19 vaccination shots on Old County Road, people were appreciative. Their year-long anxiety must have felt like a boil about to be lanced with a vaccine needle.

The vaccine manager, a soft-spoken and kind man, explained to us volunteers Johnson & Johnson was the only vaccine available that day. He warned us there may be folks who, for whatever reason, will refuse the J+J vaccine. If we ran into this situation, we were to call the manager to explain it.

Everyone seemed relieved to be getting their first shot. Well, almost everyone.

“How are you this morning, sir?” I asked a tall, large middle-aged man about 60 years old, his arms folded across his chest and looking the other way.

He didn’t answer. I thought he might have forgotten to put in his hearing aids.

A registration lane opened, so I directed him to it.

“Sir,” I said louder. “Line 3 is…” He took off before I finished my sentence. I noticed he blew by the registration clerk.

Why would he act like all this is an inconvenience? The entire process takes perhaps 30 minutes. It costs nothing and he won’t take up ventilator space in an ICU. Geez.

“I am so excited to get my shot so I can entertain again,” a lady said.

“You mean you want to party, don’t you?” I asked.

In her flowered muumuu, she did a shake-a-shake-a dance, hands high in the air with her registration form. She was perfect timing for my lowered spirits after interacting with the fellow before her.

“There are too many people here in such a small space,” complained one middle-aged woman. “And I can’t believe there are no available bathrooms.” No comforting words from me helped this lady, her mouth growing as tight as a zippered storage bag, holding her crumpled registration papers in a clenched fist.

By mid-morning, my back was tired, and I hoped to be spelled for a few minutes to sit and have a drink of water. But there were so many people coming in at once, it wasn’t possible. Every other volunteer was as busy coordinating the flow of patients.

Sometimes I had to prod people to move forward a little to help shorten the line. One woman did so, but she was hesitant.

“I don’t bite,” I said.

“You mean you don’t bite in the mornings,” she responded with a sly smile.

A middle-aged couple asked if they could register together.

“Are you married?” I asked. “Hey, did I just see you hesitate?” I joked with the husband.

“No, but I did,” smirked his wife.

Of the hundreds of patients who I saw at the beginning of their vaccination process, no one complained about getting J+J. Rather, they were some of the happiest folks I saw that morning; it was as if they had won the lottery.

“Yay!” said several, arms raised like a marathoner crossing the finish line.

“This is fantastic!” exclaimed others.

A brother and sister came in together, both in their early twenties, he in a simple t-shirt, and she in a plain dress. He registered first, and his sister spoke to me in the meantime.

“I worry about my brother. He has a medical issue with his eyes, and I hope the J+J vaccine is safe for him,” she said. I assured her I had heard nothing to the contrary, and everyone before her was excited about receiving it. She seemed glad to hear this.

After my shift, I came home a little dehydrated and with a sore back. I had stood for almost five hours, something I hadn’t done since being in the military decades ago. I didn’t have time to find drinking water, nor could I desert my post to look for it. Chairs to sit on for a moment or two were for patients, not staff or volunteers.

“Hey, I have a couple of complaints,” I could have said to the vaccine manager. “I had no water nor a place to sit for a few moments, and there was no way for me to leave my post because of the lines of people. What gives?”

If the manager were a natural skeptic, like I am, he might wonder if I complained at home about not having certain comforts available when I wanted them. Did I hope to find the process of vaccination volunteering to be as perfect as I always thought of myself to be?

Nah. Bring on hundreds of anxious people to be vaccinated, and I will live with a slightly sore back and mild thirst for hours every time.

Mike Skinner is a writer who lives in Tenants Harbor. Skinner was a medic in the U.S. Army, a hospital executive, and a college educator. He is the author of “My Life as a Non-Valedictorian,” available through Maine Authors Publishing.

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