When the Drive-Thru Will Save You (#318)

I am not a fan of car culture. I believe in public transportation: trains, the subway, buses. Do not get me started on the lost and lamented Los Angeles Red Car.

But damn, cars came in handy during COVID-19. Cars were a way to maintain social distancing in drive-thru testing sites. There were Ubers and Lyfts for those who didn’t dare brave buses, even with masks. There was Instacart for those who didn’t dare brave the grocery stores. With restaurant dining off-limits, at least you could still pick up a pizza or have it delivered.

Drive-in Theaters became a thing again. Fast-food restaurants brought back carhop service. We went from Escape Rooms to Stranger Things: the Drive-Into Experience. The majority of Americans opted for road trips this Spring Break, rather than risk flying.

Aside from take out, Andy and I mostly skipped the resurgence of car culture.

Until it was our turn for vaccinations.

Andy, being part of some top-secret national defense project, and being asthmatic, was up first. Now, a lot of folks are very pro-Pfizer (the first vaccine out), which requires two shots. But since all the vaccines will keep you from being hospitalized or dying, I’m with the California website My Turn, which says, “the best vaccine is the first one you can get.”

The first appointment Andy could get was the Pfizer vaccine at the LA Forum at the beginning of March. Run by volunteers, Andy drove up on Sundays, three weeks apart. He reported that it was smooth sailing, with minimal traffic and no wait times.

The first appointment I could get was last Friday afternoon, for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. (Andy reported that his coworkers eligible at the same time couldn’t get appointments as quickly as I did, possibly because they don’t get up at 5 AM. At least there’s one good thing about having a kid who wakes up early.)

The vaccination site was a drive-thru at Cal State Los Angeles, run by the California Office of Emergency Services. In practical terms it meant the vaccination site was being run by the National Guard.

It also meant I would have to brave a fifty mile round trip through Friday afternoon traffic. In Los Angeles.

So be it.

There’s an LA-specific greeting card that says, “I love so much I’d take the 10 to the 101 to the 405 for you!”

True love has nothing on inoculation against death. For the COVID vaccine, I took the 405 to the 91 to the 710 (because the 110 had 3 accidents). The 710 was stop and go, because it was, as always, filled with big rigs hauling containers from the Port of Los Angeles. Those trucks can’t accelerate quickly and thus cannot merge for shit.

About the time I exhausted my supply of swear words, I arrived at Cal State LA. There was a ton of signage, plus literally thousands of orange cones to make sure everyone went the right way. For 5 minutes, we literally followed cones around the campus and through two parking garages.

In one parking garage, we stopped in front of a sign that offered translators in every language I’d ever heard of (yes, including Tagalog). Next to the sign were members of the National Guard (who looked like 12-year-olds-dressed up in camouflage uniforms which is probably a sign that I skipped middle-age and went straight to old ladyhood).

The National Guard member checked my ID (which was my license but could have been a library card or a utility bill) against his electronic tablet, filled out my vaccine card, and had me put it on my dashboard. A laminated card with the time went under my windshield wiper. I drove through another parking garage to the actual inoculation site.

The site had tents and about 20 rows of cars. A pair of National Guard members walked down each row, giving shots. 15 minutes after the last injection in a given row, that row was allowed to drive away, following more orange cones off the campus and practically right back onto the 710 freeway. (Spoiler alert: equally awful traffic on the way home.)

You can check out more snippets of my drive-thru vaccine experience on my Instagram account if you are so bored so inclined.

I probably spent less than a half-hour at the vaccination site, but the whole excursion was over 3 hours in the car.

Pretty much a typical roundtrip commute in Los Angeles.

No wonder I’m still a big fan of public transportation.


Published by

Autumn Ashbough

WF writing about the humorous perils of life with Chinese-American significant other.

22 thoughts on “When the Drive-Thru Will Save You (#318)”

  1. You persevered and you were victorious. Good job! At least CA has found a good use for those darned orange cones. As for the 12 y.o. dressed in camo uniforms, welcome to old ladyhood. Those kids are everywhere.

    1. There must be hundreds of warehouses with those cones. HUNDREDS.

      I feel like it wasn’t that long ago that I was dating guys in uniform. Now they don’t look old enough to drive. When did this happen?!

    1. Right? Especially when you think of how many vaccination sites there are. Except that LA has so many miles of freeways and some are always being repaired. One day I’ll ask someone involved in infrastructure about how many cones there are and where they keep them.

  2. Wow, that really is a LOT of cones. Anyway congratulations — I’m super jealous. I’ll probably be flying across the world later this year to get my vaccine, as I have basically zero chance of getting one in SA anytime soon. (I have one American friend here who is flying back to the US later this month — in business class, so she can be sure to social-distance — to get vaccinated.) So my vaccine commute will be longer than yours! Haha.

  3. The good news is that if you got the Johnson shot, you only need one! Yay! I get my second Moderna shot tomorrow. It’s a lot less hassle than your trip. About a half hour to get there and parked. Parking actually is the worst part.

    1. Yeah, there were walk-in sites at Cal State LA and other places, but I figured the parking would be a hassle and there’s social distancing to worry about. So I opted for the drive-thru.

      I was pretty stiff when I made it home, though.

  4. Congrats on being vaccinated! Here they were going super slow and suddenly in mid March they said things had to go faster. Now everybody can apply and book a spot to get vaccinated, foreigners included. I didn’t expect people to be in a hurry given that there are barely any cases here, but I heard there’s actually more demand than supply…

  5. Hurray! Now you’re vaccinated. My trip to get my two Pfizer vaccinations was also slow, three hours each time. The traffic wasn’t as bad as the LA freeways, but it wasn’t a drive-through, so I had to park, wait in line on the sidewalk, and wait in line in the hallways. It was worth it, though. Now I’m looking forward to all my daughters and their husbands getting their second shots.

  6. OK, let’s try this again:

    First off, congrats on the J&J vaccine. I’m sure it’s effective and is a helluva lot better than NO shot. Glad you were able to get it!

    And I’m amazed at how different the L.A. experience is versus mine. All I had to do was zip down to the corner Walgreens and maneuver down the chips aisle to the pharmacy. Nary an orange cone in sight. Easy-peasy.

    Speaking of L.A., we are watching Season 2 of “You” and one of the episodes mentions the “7 Totems of Los Angeles.” Supposedly you aren’t a true Angeleno until you’ve spotted all of these (and once you have, you can never leave). They are:

    1. A roller blader in booty shorts

    2. A police helicopter

    3. Two girls in same dress at the same event

    4. A pack of coyotes

    5. A dog in a stroller

    6. An off-brand super hero

    7. A palm tree on fire

    I’m pretty sure you can cross #4 off your list! Curious how accurate this is. I think it would make a great blog post if there’s any truth to these. If not, what are the 7 Totems of Los Angeles, in your opinion?

    You ARE taking blog requests, right?? 🙂

    1. I’ve been the woman in same dress, LOL. (We laughed and took a picture together.) And it’s cats in strollers now, try and keep up. Yes to everything else, of course. I think those might be a little dated, I’ll have to think about what’s really LA these days. Plant-based everything, self-driving cars, guys selling oranges and flowers at intersections and freeway entrances and a high-speed chase on the freeway for sure.

        1. Bahahahaha, have you not heard me rant about or seen arial photos of Los Angeles during the 4th of July? Or New Year’s? Or when the Dodgers win? Or when the Lakers win? Fireworks EVERYWHERE.

            1. One of my neighbors was setting off fireworks on NYE and set a palm tree on the very dry hillside above our neighborhood on fire. Another neighbor caught it all on film. Luckily the fire dept. was there pretty quickly.

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