Fully Vaccinated

Marci and I are both fully vaccinated! We’re now two weeks past our second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against COVID-19. And it was only a couple of days, there, where we could read the minds of animals. Our tails never grew longer than a couple of inches, and they’ve since disappeared completely.

I’m joking, of course. Maybe it’s not funny to joke about these things. But then again, maybe it is.

The truth is that we suddenly feel a sense of freedom and release. Now that the likelihood of us catching COVID — or giving it to someone else — has dropped significantly, we feel like we have a longer leash. So we recently decided to take a five-hour road trip down to the New River Gorge of West Virginia. Mostly to celebrate our 23rd wedding anniversary, but also to celebrate our vaccination-assisted freedom.

We noticed an interesting phenomenon when we stopped for lunch in Parkersburg around mid-day. The restaurant posted a sign on the front door, apparently requiring masks. So we didn’t think anything about complying with the sign. It’s still the default behavior at this point. But when we got past the Host Station and into the Dining Room, we noticed that nobody else was wearing a mask. Even among the restaurant’s staff. If anything, it seemed like everyone else was looking at us funny because of our masks. So we took them off. And even when the server came to our table, we kept them off. Even when we went to the bathroom, we went mask-less. It felt weird, but also kind of nice — because we didn’t worry about catching or transmitting the virus from Parkersburg to some other place.

Over the course of the afternoon, however, we processed that experience. And by the time we went out for dinner in Fayetteville, we decided to recalibrate. We decided that since the CDC continues to recommend masks for any indoor assembly (even after vaccination), we will continue to wear masks. Even if that puts us in the minority. We know that we’ve done everything within our power to minimize the spread of COVID-19 — but that’s not immediately apparent to others around us. And since we want to stay others-oriented in our approach to the pandemic recovery, we’re going to keeping practicing standard COVID precautions for the foreseeable future.

Our trip to the New River Gorge is not intentionally symbolic. But it feels like an apt metaphor! For decades, the only way across the deep gorge in the mountains was a winding road full of switchbacks, down one side of the gorge, across the river on a ferry or (later) over an old bridge, and up the other. Even in an automobile, it took about an hour. In the 1970s, however, they built a bridge to span the gorge. And now that same stretch can be crossed in less than ten seconds, driving at 60 miles per hour. Today visitors can use either route (and we did both this afternoon!). But it’s nice to be able to have the choice.

Being vaccinated against COVID-19 feels kind of like that. We know how to do things the old, slow way. But we also have the means to go full-speed when we need to. I hope more and more people will learn how to take the quicker, easier route (our experience with the vaccine has truly been positive). But I also hope that we’ll hold onto the lessons we’ve learned this year: looking out for others, adjusting to their comfort level, and taking the long way when needed.

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