Hilda Jones: Everybody should donate to the blood bank. What type are you?
Melvin Jones: Oh, the quiet type. I go to bed at nine o’clock, see a movie now and then, read some books, play checkers…
Hilda Jones: No! I mean what kind of blood have you?
Melvin Jones: Red.
—Sailor Beware (1952)
Today, despite it being my last vacation day for the time being, I went to the Puzzle Palace to donate blood.
I’d made the appointment awhile back, not realizing that it was also going to be a day that I wouldn’t be at work. Ah well, what are you going to do. Fortunately I’d set the appointment as being first thing in the morning, so the rest of the day would be available to me (even if I was working).
Donating blood is a goodness, it’s an act of kindness, it’s a mitzvah. And the Red Cross Blood Services people are glad to have you come by and make the donation. Some quick facts:
- A single pint of blood can save three lives.
- Every two seconds, someone needs a blood transfusion.
- 5,000,000 patients need blood every year. That’s just in the United States.
- Less than 38% of all people are eligible to donate blood. If you’re giving blood, you’re special!
- Making you more special: only 3% of eligible donors actually give blood.
- Despite what they say on that HBO Show, blood can’t be manufactured. It can only come from donors.
OK, lecture over. The bottom line is, they usually go to some effort to make you glad you came. However…
…I’m on a phone list somewhere, so if it’s been awhile since I’ve donated, the blood bank will call and ask me to come in and donate. There are blood donation centers all over the place, so location-wise they’ve always been pretty convenient to me. The bad news is, when I make an appointment over the phone, it’s rarely kept. I’m treated like any other walk-in. So my expected one hour “door-to-door” time is usually two hours, or occasionally even three, which is totally crazy. Therefore, when the call comes, the conversation usually goes like this:
Blood Bank: There’s a critical shortage and we need your help blah de blah…
Me: I’m happy to donate; find me a blood drive please.
BB: Oh—well, uh, there’s a donation center in White Marsh and they’re open—
Me: No no, you don’t understand. When I go to the donation center, they don’t keep the appointment. Find me a drive, please.
Some of them are surprised by this, but they do find a blood drive and I go wherever they send me, which is its own brand of fun.
Baltimore City Schools has a drive every few months, and unless there’s a good reason I can’t, I’m usually there to donate. Oftentimes there’s practically a welcoming committee there, and you’re shepherded through the process and generally pampered, where they bring the beverage to you while you’re still bleeding out into the tubes. And usually someone from Central Office is around to make sure all is well and to give out some random token goodies, like some pens, or Post-it notes, or some such. This would be in addition to whatever the Red Cross happens to be giving away to the donors that day. It’s not a big deal but it’s a touch of nice.
Today, however, was a little different. When I got there, they were still setting up a little bit; that’s okay, it’s early. Then the computer they use to check people in and do the health survey got a little wonky with the person ahead of me, then there was some other weird wait and I wound up being the only guy in the actual donation area while a half-dozen people piled up behind me. And at the end, the person taking my blood ran through the usual perfunctory speech in a perfunctory manner and pointed the way to the table at the end of the room. So I sat there alone, munching the chocolate chip cookies and watching them get other people started on their donations. Beverage? There was none. Nobody offered me one, nobody told me where one could be found (I’m a big boy; I can get my own if you tell me where they are). And nobody from Central was on hand.
Which is fine, given that I am, after all, on vacation and don’t need to talk any more shop than I have to.