The tiny, dark-haired woman with the blood colored highlights in her hair escorted the two of us to the back.
"Right," answered the other bleeder.
"Left," I said and have always said since that time weeks ago when I offered up my right and got to hurt for a slow hour and a half. Apparently, the preferred vein in my right is a bit crooked. You learn...
She seated us side by side, which puzzled me. Left arms are on one side of the row. Right arms are across. The machine she wanted to plug me into was the on the wrong side.
"Um, I meant left," I said.
"We'll cross you over," she said. "Thank God for long tubes."
I could think of no God who'd want to be thanked for such a grisly thing, but I took my seat while she worked on setting up the machine for the other bleeder. She took a long time getting him sorted. She fidgeted and tugged at the machine, trying to familiarize herself with the contraption.
Fuck. I was next.
Since the new company took over the plasma center, they seem to be training everyone to be able to do each step of the process. The tiny lady with the punky hair had performed my physical when I first started making deposits. I remembered her because she seemed lobotomized. Her expression seldom changed from a cold mask and she never raised or lowered her voice. She spoke in a kind of monotone. Yet, she had her nose pierced and wore clothes and occasionally make-up that suggested she was a party girl --though she also seemed a bit old for the scene.
I'd never seen her on the floor, except to bring somebody to have their veins checked. Here, like this, she seemed lost and unsure what to do with her hands.
I hoped somebody got to me before she did. Otherwise, I reckoned there was a good chance she'd kill me.
Another milker, Greta, stepped up, looked at me then frowned.
"Why are we doing crossovers when we've got free chairs over there?"
There was no explanation, but she went along with it and had me stuck and draining (with a long tube pumping blood lying across my crotch) while the woman on my other side was still futzing with the machine.
"Hey," Greta muttered to another passing milker. "You want to check..." She nodded in the direction of my neighbor.
He nodded then slipped in behind the dark-haired woman, looked over what she'd done and without saying a word, began to repair the lines she'd haphazardly mashed together. The woman never said anything about it, never even acknowledged his presence or what he was obviously doing. She did her part then walked away.
"I got the kinks out of it," He told Greta, which probably eased the mind of the bleeder to my left.
"Watch her," she said.
"I have been," he replied wearily. They had a long day ahead of them.
I felt like I'd dodged a bullet.