Not So Bad: A day of volunteering with the Medical Reserve Corps of Eastern Washington

Journalists are widely considered a cynical lot. I don't think there's any arguing that a typical reporter, whether they've been working two years or 25, has seen and heard things that make them question humanity's need to exist.

Regularly encountering the dispiriting or horrific motivations of a shady politician, a violent criminal or an unethical businessman in your work — even through your peers' stories — takes a toll on your psyche.

Even so, I'd argue journalists are an impossibly optimistic bunch. They choose reporting as a career despite its low standing in the public's esteem because they generally do believe that humanity is good. I got a vivid reminder of this when I recently volunteered at a vaccination clinic at Spokane Arena.

I wish I could say my motivations were purely altruistic, a desire to pitch in to this monumental global effort to quash the pandemic.

There was a little of that, but a lot more of me wanting to get vaccinated as quickly as possible, since my official Washington state phase was still weeks or months away. Volunteering with the Medical Reserve Corps of Eastern Washington (as I did) or one of the other area organizations working with vaccine sites meant I could get a dose at the end of a shift if there were any "extra" that would otherwise go to waste.

My job was to filter three lines of folks toward the tables where they would get jabbed. Over the course of a few hours I got to see several hundred people make their way to their first or second Moderna doses.

And it was awesome.

Some were excited. Some were nervous. Some were wondering why they couldn't get the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine instead. (This was pre-J&J pause.) But almost all of them were happy! One woman, probably 75 or so, dismissed me when I apologized for a delay in the line moving along, proclaiming the whole process a "miracle."

It really is, right? A year ago we entered this pandemic full of questions and fears. And while most of us tried to navigate the bumpy emotional and economic COVID roller coaster, scientists were finding a way to save our butts, and doing it fast.

If the "customers" at the vax site were friendly, so too were my fellow volunteers, as were the National Guard soldiers on hand to make the operation run like clockwork.

Considering I hadn't been in a crowd bigger than like five people in a year, I couldn't have asked for a sunnier reentry than standing in a Spokane Arena hallway sharing some joy at a brief glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel. ♦

Witness to Wartime: The Painted Diary of Takuichi Fujii @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

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About The Author

Dan Nailen

Dan Nailen is the managing editor of the Inlander, where he oversees coverage of arts and culture. He's previously written and edited for The Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City Weekly, Missoula Independent, Salt Lake Magazine, The Oregonian and KUER-FM. He grew up seeing the country in an Air Force family and studied...