Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Blood: Field Trip

An old woman and her mother made their way to the entrance and I slipped ahead and grabbed the door. The older woman moved slowly and with great effort, while her daughter waddled behind her. They took seats in the second row facing the counter and watched Charmed on the big screen television on wall as I did the Tuesday morning Q&A with the computer.

No, I have not injected anything into my veins. I have not had sex with a transvestite, been locked up in the regional jail or visited Cameroon in the past few days. Thanks for asking. How is your mother, the toaster?

The women were still there when the computer said someone would be with me shortly. I grabbed a seat and waited.

"So, how long does this take?" The old woman asked and for a brief second, I thought, fuck. Has it really come to this? Has it gotten that bad?

"I hear it can take six hours," she said nervously and I shook my head.

"It's usually about an hour," I said and wondered if both of them were going. There are no age requirements to do this, but hell, you'd think at 80, they might just give them 20 bucks and send them home with a juice box and their blood still in their veins.

"Sometimes it takes a little longer," I acknowledged. "On your first time in, they'll want to do a physical and that adds some time. It could take you two hours, I guess, but usually I'm out of here in about an hour."

"How much does it pay?"

I shrugged. Not great.

"Twenty bucks on the first one of the week. Thirty on the second."

She frowned. Her mother was staring at the semi-naked actresses portraying unemployed witches on the television. I wished her luck in discovering the plot.

"That's not much money," the old woman told me. "That's barely enough to go out to eat with, not enough for two, even if you order the cheapest thing on the menu."

But enough to get by, I wanted to remind her. I use my money to buy groceries, usually. Occasionally, it's gone to put gas in my or my wife's car. It paid for her to get a haircut and a couple of times for cat food and cat litter, which is incredibly depressing.

This isn't fun. I don't love this, but it's 200 bucks a month, which helps a lot.

"It could be more," I told her. "None of us would complain."

She sighed.

"Well, I'm not doing it. I'm just waiting on someone --not that I have anything against it." The nervous laugh was like nails on a chalkboard. "I would, you know, if not for my medical problems."

I'd never been so glad to have one of the techs call my name.

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