A little after noon Saturday, my wife got an email notification on her phone that we could make an appointment to get a COVID-19 vaccination. We were quite surprised, even though we had registered with not only our physician but every possible hospital in the area, the state of Missouri, and the St. Louis County health department. We had even signed up in several outlying counties, figuring there would be more vaccine deniers there, and thus less demand — even if it meant we’d have to drive 90 minutes each way, as some of our friends had.

On top of that, we’d heard Missouri wasn’t going to make the vaccines available to people under 65 (our demographic) until April 9th. Thus, we were resigned to not even being able to officially enroll for a couple more weeks. We were fine being patient, unlike a friend of Martha’s who somehow had snagged an appointment in Florida, flew down from St. Louis one morning, waited in line for three hours, got the shot, then flew home that night.

But there it was, a link to the appointment schedule at a hospital a mere 18-minute drive from our house — and we were certainly not going to look a gift needle in the eye. When we clicked it, we were stunned to see slots available that very day! We looked at each other in disbelief, then signed up as fast as we could, figuring those slots would go quickly, like tickets for a Beyoncé concert. To our amazement, we weren’t shut out — we were signed up! It was hard to contain our excitement.

We weren’t sure if the vaccinations were being done inside or in the parking lot, or even exactly where to go at the hospital. Again anticipating a lot of demand, like a line of cars snaking through the parking lot, or a queue of people waiting at a door, we left a half-hour early. Upon our arrival, we were shocked to see neither and, following signs to the The Covid Clinic, we walked right in and saw no one ahead of us. We walked up to the check-in desk, verified our information, and were immediately led into another room, where we each sat down with a nurse who informed us we’d be getting the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, then asked a few more questions, the last of which was, “Which arm would you like the shot in?”

We each chose our left side, then thanked the nurse with huge smiles on our faces. Next, we went to another area to schedule our second shots for three weeks later. Then we were told to sit in a large waiting area with a dozen or so others (all socially distanced) for 15 minutes or so to be sure there wasn’t any immediate negative impact. Not only did we have no side effects — other than a very mild soreness at the injection point, akin to banging into a doorknob — we both said we hadn’t even noticed the needle being inserted into our arms.

When that time period ended, we walked outside and high-fived before getting back in the car. Total time from the email notification to getting back into our car with that beautiful scientific serum already flowing through our bodies: four hours.

After texting our daughter (who got her own vaccination last night), we emailed our physician a few questions. We wanted to know whether, after we’ve received the second shot and then waited through another two-week period after that, we could begin to travel by air again, or eat in restaurants, or have vaccinated friends over. He replied that, although we’d still have to wear masks when not eating or drinking, we’d be free to do all of those things.

Needless to say, Saturday was one of the best days we’ve had in the last 54 weeks, only to be surpassed, I’m sure, by returning to that same hospital for our second doses in mid-April. Our long nightmare may not be over yet, but that light at the end of the tunnel sure seems a lot closer.