I went to donate blood recently. I'd like to say this was for the pure unadulterated altruism, since I like that feeling of superiority I get telling people I did something exclusively to be nice. You know you get this bandage you're supposed to leave on for six hours, and I leave it on a couple of weeks. One time I took it off as I was going for the next donation. But that wouldn't be true. I had selfish reasons too. For instance, I figure the less blood in me the less I can find in my urine, so the less time I have to spend rationalizing why this probably will go away on its own and there's no reason to do something about it. Plus my car insurance is coming up again, and my insurance company gives me a discount for donations because they figure it reduces the number and severity of vampire attacks. It's not a very good insurance company. They tried for years to buy me X-ray glasses until I said I'd just pay the Invisible Man waiver. I wrote my check in disappearing ink.
My donation site starts out with them asking if you made an appointment or if you just walked in. Since I never remember to make an appointment they say they can take me now. The question doesn't seem to accomplish much; maybe the screener just wants to talk to people more. And you fill out a little form asserting that you have a name and you don't remember your blood type but you're pretty sure you have one, and you don't have any diseases like hepatitis or being British. The Red Cross is the only organization I know still upset about the Jay Treaty. But, heck, UNICEF is still riled up over the XYZ Affair, and the Humane Society keeps writing angry screeds about the Peggy Eaton scandal.
They do this quick little physical since they can't just take anybody's word that they've got blood. There were terrible scandals in the 70s where it turned out people were sneaking in blueberry juice and getting the cookies and fruit punch for nothing. They would've noticed the blueberry juice didn't look anything like blood sooner but 70s lighting was awful. When they changed bulbs it was a revolution.
The nurse is supposed to take your fingers and jab the end of one with a needle, only this time the nurse felt my hand and yeeked from how cold they were. I thought they were chilly, but it felt excessive how she jumped back and jumped up on the chair and started rubbing her hands together close to the fluorescent light for warmth. I didn't think this was too weird since it's been a cold winter, the kind you don't thaw out from until about June of two years following. It was the kind of cold where I could ask, what's objectively crazy about setting my toes on fire?
I figured against setting my toes on fire for the good reason of my socks. I have enough trouble keeping socks intact. Left to themselves they grow all sorts of holes. My theory was they were being hit by tiny meteorites that somehow penetrate my sock drawer. Actually, tiny alien spaceship find their way inside the socks and use their disinto-beams to get back out. But the point is the toenail-fire plan would burn through my socks, so I accepted it was a really cold winter.
The nurse put on mittens, and rubbed my fingertip to try pooling some blood in, then pricked the skin to draw out a little drop. What they do with this drop is put it in a little tube of blue fluid and see if it falls down. If it does, then you have heavy blood and they put the donation bag underneath you for the donation. If it doesn't sink, you have light blood and they hang the bag from the ceiling. My drop went in and it turned into a little ice cube, and the nurse dropped a paper umbrella in the vial and served it up to a vacationing vampire mouse. Strange experience.
Trivia: The ground on which the White House would ultimately be built was purchased in 1703 by Colonel Ninian Beall. Source: The Grand Idea: George Washington's Potomac And The Race To The West, Joel Achenbach.
Currently Reading: The Misenchanted Sword, Lawrence Watt-Evans.