I have an old friend in Texas, a former classmate, who reports that her years, eyesight, and diminishing ability to deal with complicated matters make her more dependent on her families – some of whom, fortunately, are only a few miles from home Life. One of her sons recently tackled the COVID-19 phone page and signed her up for her first shot.
I often sympathize with her, but I can’t empathize. After all, I live in a relative garden area for vintage cars: in the state of Vermont, where everything we need is easier for us – automotive department, registration with Medicare and Medicaid, assistance with heating oil, all kinds of help from our local senior centers. What can possibly go wrong?
With that mindset in my bosom, I waited patiently for the morning of January 25th, the first day we 75+ year olds could sign up for our recordings. Then I pounced: “VT Dept Health COVID-19 notification.” A happy looking, simple website popped up, asked for my name, address, date of birth, phone number, and email address, and promised to contact me immediately.
That was Monday. Tuesday nothing. Someone told me to give them 48 hours. So i did. Still nothing. Suddenly the vaccination process, which had been of abstract interest, was pertinent and personal. So I called the number on the website. It started suspiciously with “855”.
Time was, I had cramps in my left arm that held the phone to my ear on hold. Now I just put the phone on “loudspeaker” and put it on the desk, where it plays elevator music and reminds me from time to time how important my call is to the person called.
After about 20 minutes a young girl came over and asked me the questions, but seemed confused about the answers. She asked three times for my date of birth, twice for the spelling of Montpelier (Hah! I thought that was what 855 was about), gave me an appointment for the next day, but then said she had to call her manager. who would be there soon. “Look,” I said. “I’ve been on the phone for an hour and, to be honest, we’re not getting anywhere. I will try another time. Thank-you.”
True to my word, I tried again. This time I got a young man, but with a je ne sais quoi that told me I was facing a worthy opponent. We sailed on swimming. He asked my county and then my hometown and how to spell Montpelier.
“Wait a minute!” I cried. “You are not here in Vermont!” No, he wasn’t, he allowed; He was in Cincinnati. “Hello!” – I was excited – “I can spell Cincinnati, and it’s not even your capital city. Didn’t you learn state capitals in high school? “He hadn’t done it and thanked you for the information.
Then he asked for my date of birth. “Five, twenty-four, thirty-five,” I replied. Was that 1935? he asked. “No, you idiot! Six thirty-five! “I could see him pulling my chain, but we got along famous. I liked this kid.
He leafed through the openings around Montpelier and gave me an appointment in Barre on February 16. “February 16th!” I shouted. “Criminal! I’ll probably be dead by then! “
“Well, unfortunately this is the first available date. However, if it expires before that date, please let us know so we can give this space to someone else. “
I was enjoying this conversation more second by second – especially now that it had proven fruitful. “It must be hard,” I sympathized, “dealing with confused, sullen old farts like me all day.”
“Well, they’re not all grumpy,” he said. “As you I mean. Can you really spell ‘Cincinnati’? “
“Damn sure,” I assured him. “And even the Roman after whom it is named. But thank you for making not only the recording date but also my day a lot brighter. I hope yours is equally blessed. “
Willem Lange writes regularly for the weekend magazine. He lives in East Montpelier.