Return to ballpark, bars worth reliving childhood phobia

Friday, January 29, 2021, Vol. 45, No. 5

I’m no fan of needles. This aversion was perhaps most vividly demonstrated the time my grandmother and two aunts had to pry me out of the car after I saw that we were parked at the Jackson County, Mississippi, health department. Once extracted from the car, I tried to climb a tree to escape my fate.

Age 5, I’ll say.

By age 10, I was marginally better. We were scheduled for shots at school. (Fittingly, it was a Friday the 13th.) Desperate for some sort of confidence builder, I asked Daddy the day before how deep the needle would go into my arm. He assured me it would barely break the skin.

The next day in the principal’s office I watched the guy ahead of me in line get his shot. The needle slammed ALL THE WAY IN. Along with Santa Claus, these were just two of the subjects Daddy willfully misled me on. (Remind me someday to tell you the tale he spun about how to turn a bunch of wildflowers into a pet monkey. I tried it several times.)

Decades later, it’s still a rare occasion when I will voluntarily submit to being punctured. But this is definitely one of those occasions. I have visions of going to actual baseball games this year. Going to a bar and shooting pool. Eating ?inside? a restaurant.

Mass vaccinations give me hope that might happen. The more the better.

So far, it’s slow going. As I write this, 438,500 doses have been administered in Tennessee, the Tennessee Department of Health reports.

That doesn’t mean 438,500 people have gotten shots. About 90,000 folks have had two doses, the number required to be fully vaccinated. So almost 350,000 Tennesseans have had at least one shot. There are 6.8 million Tennesseans.

And good luck figuring out when you might join those numbers. Tennessee has prioritized vaccinations according to risk and exposure level, and rollout also varies by county procedures and the number of doses that each county receives. Which has not been a lot.

You can go to this website and follow the prompts to determine when you might be eligible. Just for fun, I tried. This is what I learned:

“Based on your responses, you will be eligible for a vaccine when your county begins to vaccinate your age bracket.” The last I read on that, it’s predicted for some time in March, ?since I’m not 75 or older.

Those folks are among those eligible now. Appointments are required.

A more significant question than whether you’ve gotten your shot, perhaps, is will you take it when you can?

Like you, I suspect, I’ve seen objections from people who vow not to submit to the needle. They mistrust the government, chiefly, along with the arguments of “science” (they add the quotation marks, to indicate their own superior knowledge). They’ll stick with their zinc supplements and vitamin D, thank you very much, and take their chances with infection.

If a virus could laugh, this one would be rolling on the floor.

Tennessee legislators – recently reassembled and ever vigilant to thwart any perceived assault on personal liberty – have introduced legislation that would provide an out for people who want to forgo a vaccine.

One states that no government official or entity shall “force, require, or coerce a person to receive an immunization or vaccination for COVID-19 against the person’s will.”

Another by the same sponsor would prohibit government entities from making the vaccine a condition of employment.

A third, by a different legislator, would change state law and allow parents to object to vaccinations for their children EVEN WHEN (emphasis mine) there’s “an epidemic or immediate threat of an epidemic.”

Which there jolly well is. Right now.

Still, what can you expect from a state whose leaders basically believe that health measures for the public good ought to be optional? This is from a recent The Associated Press account:

“In the GOP-dominant General Assembly on Tuesday, neither the Senate nor the House speaker was requiring masks for lawmakers and few were wearing them.”

Will the no-maskers take their shots? I feel a little guilty for it, and it undercuts my argument, but I kind of hope not.

Joe Rogers is a former writer for The Tennessean and editor for The New York Times. He is retired and living in Nashville. He can be reached at