Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Blood: New Year's

New Year's eve and the plasma center was jumping. Up front, at the desk, the two techs working the counter looked hectored and weary. The lobby was half full. New bleeders were coming in and the center was closing its doors in about an hour.

Newbies are extra work for the staff. There is a whole half-hearted screening process they have to march them through. They have to get them weighed and measured. They have to get them to read things --though most people just thumb through it and go along with whatever gets them through the door and gets the money train started.

It's one big hassle for the staff. Boo-hoo.

Anyway, I am now a regular even though nobody calls me by my name. It's always William, no matter how many God damned times I say, "just Bill" or "Bill would be fine" or "I like being called Bill." Formal names are probably easier for them. It's like referring to a car by its make or a refrigerator by its brand. There is no emotional investment. It allows them to care that much less.

I put up with the forced anonymity though a couple of them do check to see what I'm reading (note to self: for the new year, time to bring some really fucked up books to the Plasma Center and see if we can make the milkers squeal). They look but seldom ask and usually glaze over if the I don't say something like, "and I thought it was even better than Dan Brown's last book."

Things went fine. I got processed to the back in record time. The whole place was motivated: Don't try to understand 'em, just rope, throw and brand 'em... There was booze to consume and booty to shake. It's New Years!

The milkers in back were harried but positive. It was a short day. The music was playing. It was Electric 102, the plasma center's favorite radio station. Ke$ha was singing about how my love is her drug while Randal was busy putting a needle in my arm. Call that coincidence? I don't think so. That is karma.

Unfortunately, Randal speared the vein and a process that should have taken about 50 minutes slowed to a crawl as the machine began sucking whatever is in between your veins. When the machine isn't getting fed. It beeps. It makes an annoying noise and everybody starts looking at you like, "What did you do?"

The floor supervisor guy noticed after a couple of minutes and tried to fix it. No luck. He brought Randal over and together they discussed the problem and tried to fix it together. No luck. Finally, after about an hour and a half and only 2/3 of a bottle, they cut me loose.

"Since this wasn't your fault, you still get paid the same." The floor supervisor guy handed Randal the bottle of my life-giving fluid and they sent me to the window.

The giant dude running the cash register wasn't having any of that. As soon as Randal told him it wasn't my fault and I was supposed to get the full amount, he got defensive and loud.

"No, he does not." He pointed to the sign on the wall. "He knows this."

The sign basically dictates prices for when things go wrong. If they get less than half a bottle, you only get ten bucks. If you give more than half, but less than a full bottle, you get fifteen. The least they can send you home with (other than zero) is five bucks for just poking your arm and getting nothing.

"Art said he gets the full amount," Randal said.

"Art should learn to keep his mouth shut." He looked out toward Art. "I know he's the floor manager, but he doesn't know what happens here. He don't control this."

Randal nodded. The giant was throwing a fit over paying me another five dollars because Randal speared the vein and the donation was screwed up, but he wasn't going to have a pissing match over five bucks. I wasn't either. I didn't give a shit. I had places to be and plans of my own.

Randal mouthed a silent apology while the big guy started entering the information into the computer. His supervisor came through the back door. The big man looked up from the computer and began angrily explaining what had happened, how the floor supervisor had decided this donor (meaning, me) was going to get the full amount because it wasn't the donor's fault and he ought not to be doing that.

The supervisor nodded thoughtfully, agreeing with what he said up until he mentioned that it was not my fault then he said, "Art is right. He gets the full amount. The policy was put in place because we had people who wouldn't agree to a second stick or whatever to complete a full donation, but demand we pay them the full price. If it's not his fault, he gets the full amount."

Everything got quiet. The big guy sort of gathered that he'd just made a royal ass of himself. He looked at me then tore up the check he was about to give me and entered new information into the computer. He was obviously flustered and angry.

He never said he was sorry. He never said he was wrong. He handed me the check and said, "He still shouldn't be saying that stuff on the floor."

I can appreciate the guy's predicament. His turf had been invaded and his feelings were hurt. Of course, I can't say I cared for this new level of detachment from what is being done. A dude is selling his blood. Something goes wrong. Even if you can't make good on the loss of income and time, just say, "Sorry" or my favorite bullshit apology "I'm sorry this happened to you." The guy selling the blood is human. He's a little down on his luck because nobody is coming to sell their blood because it's a good career move or it helps them get chicks.

It's about the money and it sucks.

But no apology, no even acknowledging that he'd almost unnecessarily cheated somebody out of five measly bucks. He printed out the check and pushed it across the counter.

I headed out. Outside the door to the parking lot, I noticed the check was for $31. He'd overpaid me by ten bucks. I turned around. The front door was closed and locked. I couldn't get back inside.

For about a second I thought, maybe this is his way of making it right. It didn't seem too likely, but either way, I cashed it.