"This Shouldn't Hurt A Bit..."

I gave blood yesterday. I'm fortunate in that a church two blocks up the street from where I live holds a blood drive every three months. It's the most convenient thing to just walk to the church, give, and walk home.

The doors opened at 3 and I arrived about 3:10. Still, I was#8 in line. Not to worry--I'd brought a book of Truman Capote essays to occupy my time. I selected a metal folding chair at the end of a row and opened my book.

"Oh, you brought a book! That was so smart." I look up to the eager smile of a middle-aged woman. When she sees me look up, she turns to her husband and daughter on either side of her. "We should have thought to brought books! They should make books available. Books make the time pass by so fast. What book are you reading?"

Needless to say, I didn't get much reading time in. Still, she was sweet.

After the screening process (Have you ever had sex with an HIV-positive, gay, drug-using, tattooed prostitute who may or may not  have or been exposed to the Hepatitis A virus while living in Europe for longer than 3 months and reusing needles? Um... no. Not to the best of my memory.), I hop up in the blood-donating chair. The technician looks at my left arm. No good. He sends me to a chair on the other side to give through my right arm.

There are two women techs on that side. One is buzzing right along while the other, M---, hangs about shy and unsure, like the new kid on the playground. "Should I start her?" she asks the older tech, nodding towards me. "Why yes, honey," said the tech. That's all I need to hear. I have a newbie.

M---- had an electronic check-list she consulted every few seconds. Tape my blood bag to the chair--check the list. Swab my arm--check the list. It was cute how she tried to make conversation with me ("Where are you from?") while having to ignore my replies in order to focus on the proper order of the list.

She marked a vein on my right arm with purple marker. The older tech checked behind her. "Uh-uh," she said. "See here? This other vein is much bigger. That's the one you want. Plus, it's got tracks in so we know it's been used before." (For the record, I looked closely at my vein and couldn't see the tracks but then again, I'm not a professional.)

Finally I'm properly marked and swabbed. "Ready?" asks M---, pulling out the needle. She looks reluctant to proceed.

Oh God. "Ready," I said. "But I'm just going to turn my head to the side, if that's okay."

"Oh that's fine. It's better not to look." Oh MY God.

But I have to give Melinda her props. The needle slid in and I barely felt a thing. I told M--- she did a great job and she seemed appreciative. She shared with me how the day before, she'd gone in too far on a man and punctured the vein.

The only slightly painful part was when she withdrew the needle. I don't usually bleed, but my arm gushed blood for almost a minute.

And that was that. Blair gave blood later that night and I asked if he had M--- for a tech, but he'd landed with the older tech. Or maybe M---was just done in for the night. Until you really know what you're doing, that's got to be a stressful job--sticking volunteers with a needle. She did well.

As for me, let's hope I never get arrested for anything serious.

I don't know how I'd explain those track marks.