Monday, November 22, 2010

blood: Don't ask, don't tell

The machines didn't want to take my thumb print and the guy next to me wasn't having much luck either. Finally, after maybe five minutes of entering our birth dates and pressing our thumbs into the machine, we turned and complained to the manager at the desk.

"Hey, the machines are down."

"They're fine," she said irritably. "Try a different machine."

"I just tried four of them." Some of them I'd tried a couple of times.

In a huff, she rolled her eyes and ventured out from behind the desk, looked at the machines and lectured us about their proper use.

"You have to put your thumb on them like this." She attempted to demonstrate. "The machines read the whirls."

She watched me do as she said and get nowhere, then do it again and again. Since I was doing what she told me, she left me to it and turned to the other man. She took a look at him, gulped and said, "Oh, you work with your hands."

So, the machine might not read his hands because they'd been roughed up and me... I type -- I type a lot and tend to hammer the keys. So, maybe, just maybe, my prints aren't as distinct, but I kept at it. After a few more tries, one of the machines finally accepted I was me and started me through the usual, meaningless pop quiz about my behavior and charmingly "quaint" sexual history.

The other guy took a seat and waited for the staff to figure out what to do in a case just like this. Meanwhile, I was kind of annoyed. The manager was kind of a jerk. I've seen her in action before. We have spoken before and she can get sort of shrill with just about anyone not in a lab coat.

I think she'd be happier somewhere else.

Anyway, during the usual question/answer section, I hit a wrong answer. The staff were required to ask me to clarify.

"Did you really mean you'd engaged in one of the activities listed on the poster?"

And truthfully, no, I hadn't engaged in sex with another man, had sex for money, taken a weekend trip to Africa or Haiti and come down with mad cow disease. It wasn't that I couldn't do these things. There just hadn't been time in the past couple of days. The holidays are coming up.

"Sorry, I guess the machine pissed me off. I wasn't paying attention." And like that, it was scratched. No problem. Go to booth three.

Inside, the tech was grousing about having to read to the other guy the list of questions on the computer. The machine, which was clearly working fine, wouldn't take his print and he'd left his reading glasses in the car. Based on policy, he couldn't leave the building without being deferred from donating another day. Neither he nor the plasma center wanted that. The holidays were coming up.

"So, you have to ask him if he's had sex with another guy, shoots up or likes prostitutes?"

She nodded and said, "Not that it matters. We can't check."

I raised an eyebrow. Really?

"We had a guy come in here the other day who said he wanted to donate, but couldn't because we discriminate against gays." She shook her head. "You wouldn't believe the number of openly gay men who come here."

Actually, it's not that hard to believe.

"We know they're gay," she said. "They know we know. One guy is engaged to his boyfriend, but if we ask them if they've had gay sex and they tell us no, well..." She shrugged.

Who were they to contradict them?

It's pretty much what I figured, but for a second, I considered going ahead and getting that tattoo I wanted, but they documented that my skin was free of marks, brandings and piercings --other than the one in my left ear that's been mostly closed up for the last 15 years. Eventually, they'd check. I know they're supposed to do a follow-up physical every few months and I'd want the thing on my arm. They would not miss it.

Figures... So I can have a boyfriend, but no tattoos... I don't know. A boyfriend sounds like an awful lot of work.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Plasma and blood center sure have changed since I used to go.