Tuesday, August 10, 2010

blood: those who wait

A young woman called after me just as I was coming out of the plasma center with check in hand.

"Sir? Sir?" She said nervously.

One child squirmed on her lap, while two laid sprawling in the back seat. The oldest appeared to be about six or seven. The youngest was maybe three. All of them were like their mother, dark-skinned and sweating like bottles of cola.

I turned and stopped.

"My husband is in there," she said. "Or he should be. He's a light-skinned black man? He looks kind of Hispanic maybe?"

I thought I knew who she was talking about. Seated across from me had been a man matching that description. While we'd all been sitting around, watching the much beloved Bernie Mac play a washed up baseball player, his cell phone had gone off several times.

I'd noticed him because he had a cheap, pay-as-you go cell phone just like mine. I recognized the completely unfashionable, annoyingly fruity ring tone because it's the one they start you with.

You're not allowed to talk on the phone while they take your blood. It's one of the minor rules. There are endless minor rules, but this one sort of makes sense. Nobody wants to have to listen to someone yell at their boyfriend, beg their girlfriend for a blow job over the phone, or try to talk their way out of having something repossessed (these are all things I heard when I used to ride the bus to work).

Sitting there, he'd very gingerly fumbled for the phone and turned it off, careful not to jostle the needle plunged into his other arm.

The woman was worried. She'd been waiting for a while, apparently. Maybe the kids were hungry.

I smiled and told her, "There were a whole bunch of us who finished up at about the same time. I think I know who you're talking about. You're in the right place," I assured her. "Just wait another minute and he should be coming out that door."

She thanked me and went back to watching the door.

I see that a lot. Girlfriends and wives bring their husbands and boyfriends. They drop them off then wait patiently (or as close to it as they can manage) for their significant others to bleed and collect a check. The cars get hot and at best, it's dull waiting anywhere from an hour to two hours for the husband or father inside to fill a bottle. Some of them, I've seen, with their bare feet propped up and hanging out an open window. Sometimes, there are kids and watching them can't be easy, not in a parking lot with nowhere to play.

I'd never ask anyone to do that, to wait out in the parking lot, but it occurred to me not everyone who does wait was asked to do so. Some choose it. Who is to say why?

Selling some plasma is hardly going for chemotherapy or even a trip to the dentist, but despite the big screen televisions playing continuously, the air conditioning and yes, the little bit of money at the end, this isn't for fun. Some people are more all right with the process than others, but it can be a little demoralizing. Some of the time I come out of that place and all I want is a God damned hug.

On the upside, if you start your day by selling a chunk of yourself for just a few bucks, it really can only get better, right?

Anyway, I envied the guys who had somebody waiting.

No comments: