Saturday, December 01, 2007

Giving 'Til it Hurts

I went down to the local church house and donated blood this morning. Evidently, there’s a great deal more peer pressure involved with donating blood than I had ever imagined. One would think that spur-of-the-moment cow tipping or Britney Spears impersonating would carry with it a stronger pull to be a part of the group – a pull with enough power for you to abandon your senses and do something you normally wouldn’t do sober or free of any prescribed medications. (Obviously, the sobriety or state of being drug-free might impede your ability to do a really good Britney impersonation.)

Before giving blood, one of the technicians takes you to a temporary cubicle away from prying eyes to ask you 348 health questions in 30 seconds to which you are supposed to answer “no” on each one. The “privacy” of this set up is what causes me to think there’s such a strong element of peer pressure. Sure, the questions they ask are mostly personal, but if you truly answer “yes” to any one of the majority, you have bigger fish to fry than taking the time out of your day to make it down to donate blood. “Have you had in the last six months or do you currently have bodily fluids that defy description with a standard pallet of primary and secondary colors freely flowing from any natural or recently created orifices?” (They read those suckers so fast – I think that was one of the questions.)

One would think that they could hand you a laminated card when you first check in that had all of these questions, and at the bottom of the questionnaire there would be a note saying: “If you answered ‘yes’ to any of the previous questions, you may not donate blood today – you have more important things to worry about.” Instead, they bring you back to the cubicle and grill you. Some of the technicians give you the evil eye if they think you’re lying. With all of this privacy, you’re waiting for the tech to lean across the little table, look you in the eye, and say, “Look. I understand you got caught up in the moment when everyone was signing up for the blood drive – you wanted to impress everyone with ‘Hey, look at me. I’m as selfless as any of you.’ But let’s be honest. You’re not eligible to donate, so I’m going to let you sit here for a couple more minutes and gather your wits about you. When you get up to leave, if anyone catches your eye and questions you, just tell them you have iron-poor blood. Do you understand? And don’t let me catch you back here again. Peer pressure’s tough, I’ll grant you. But the business end of my size eleven shoe up your keister is tougher.”

Peer pressure or not, I do find a great deal of personal satisfaction with donating blood. Sure, it’s nice to think about the people I’m helping, and that’s all fine and dandy, but what I really enjoy about the whole experience is watching how nervous people get with the whole ordeal. I feel beholden to feed that fear.

The son of a friend of ours walked up to me and said he accompanied his dad so he could understand the whole process. Noting a look of trepidation on his face I said, “Not a bad plan, Chet. But I’m surprised it’s so quiet here today. Usually you hear a lot of screaming and moaning. They must be using some pretty strong drugs today. Better make sure they don’t slip you something – you could end up with a needle in your arm, too.”

As the boy screamed and ran to find his dad, I noticed a lot of people were looking at me. I just told them, “Poor kid just found out he has iron-poor blood.”

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