Alan Clark

My dad had several words of wisdom for me while I was growing up, among them being, “Never pass up an opportunity to say ‘thank you’ or go to the restroom,” and “Let the hammer and the saw do the work,” as well as “You must be ready when it is your turn.”

This last one proved especially important in this pandemic when I was called recently to report to the Franklin County Health Department to receive my first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

I had dutifully signed in to get myself in line when word was announced that my phase group would go into effect in Tennessee on Feb. 2.

Sure, I was one who had been a bit critical of the process overall just like a majority of Americans, but I was content to await my moment when it would become available to my wife and me, just as I had learned in 28 plus years in the military, “Hurry up and wait.”

And, there were those stories of long lines at Franklin County High School, long four-hour waits at the Health Department with cars running and amenities like restrooms unavailable (refer to my dad’s guidance above), that kept me wondering just how long it would be, and would we be victims of the virus before we got vaccinated?

Two days later, at 3:30 p.m., I received a call on my iPhone from the FCHD that made me jump.  Was I the one on a wait list to receive the vaccine? Yes. Was that my wife also on the list? Yes.

Could we be there that very afternoon to receive our shots before they closed at 4:30 p.m.? Uh, yes.

I was doing some work for our sister newspaper in Manchester at the moment, but I called my wife who had been out of town that day to see if she was home.

She was, and we both cranked up our automobiles and headed for the Health Department.

Now, I was not sure if, indeed, I could make it by closing time, and what about that thirty-minute requirement if you are called on a moment’s notice in lieu of going to a scheduled appointment? My trusty Chevy Silverado and I hopped onto I-24 and headed east to find out.

Of course, my wife had no problem making it from Estill Springs to the other side of Winchester within 30 minutes, but I was dodging 18-wheeled trucks and slow-moving cars along I-24. Suffice to say that I may have exceeded the posted speed limits that day.

Somehow, with the grace of God, I pulled up right behind my wife’s car as she waited at the tent to fill out the forms and prep for the vaccine, a miracle of opportunity meeting preparation, the power of the Chevy V6 in my Silverado, and patience, man, patience.

The staff at the Health Department was friendly, efficient and meticulous after a long day of providing the vaccine to their fellow citizens, enduring criticism and answering the same long list of questions they have to answer every day.

You could almost see the smiles behind their masks.

Round One has been administered, and the second inoculation should come within thirty days. I am confident we will be notified like we are supposed to be.

It bothered me somewhat that when a staffer came out to check on us during the 15-minute wait time following the shots, she told stories of the criticisms they had endured and the difficulty of being charged with delivery of a vaccine that arrives at various intervals without prior notice from wherever in Tennessee it comes from.

Constant adjustments of schedules and last-minute changes are a part of their daily lives down there, and I admire them for their professionalism and dedication.  The local staff at FCHD is doing all they can, folks. Trust me.

I sincerely hope you and yours are safe and healthy, and that you will be ready when it is your turn, just like my daddy used to say, because that’s the way it oughtta be.

Tennessee Press Association award-winning columnist Alan Clark’s comments are available here, at the Manchester Times, online at both websites and as podcasts on Apple Music.