Friday, February 11, 2011

Blood: Stop

Of all the things I've done, regularly visiting the plasma center has been the least favorite among my family and friends. People hate it and I can't blame them. The process is inherently creepy and dehumanizing (something, I hope, I've accurately portrayed here). The money is lousy, especially when you consider the psychological trauma of what is being done and the fact that you're a commodity in a buyer's market. The company only pays what they have to for the plasma, not what it's worth. Bleeders in other parts of the country (even other parts of the state) are paid more, which also means there are some who are probably paid less.

Caveat Emptor or fuck you. Whatever.

Also, despite what they say about it being safe, they're not particularly concerned about anyone's overall well being. Otherwise, they'd do more than the obvious, legal minimum required for screening, would cast out the characters they can tell are drunk or high and maybe try to see a few more of the bleeders as people, not bags of blood to be drained.

Sure, they're clean. Everybody uses fresh gloves and fresh needles, but the process is an assembly line of disgruntled workers, some of whom are more interested in what's happening on this morning's episode of "Charmed" than what they're doing to your arm. How safe does that sound?

About three weeks ago, I stopped going. It's easy to fall into a routine, but I agreed not to go in. I opted to stay home and I just haven't been back. It was weird at first. I felt like I should go, that it was part of my routine. I kept saying, "You're going to need the cash. You're going to need it," but so far, I haven't.

Instead of watching the clock on Saturday morning, waiting for my wife to come home from her studies so I can go and "sell blood," I've mostly goofed off. I've read or cleaned house or if children permit, worked on my writing (the job is endless). On Tuesdays, when for the last six months I've had a standing date with the needle, I've been going to the gym.

Here's what I've noticed. My diet, for the first time in six months, is working again. The weight is quietly sliding off. The jeans I bought two weeks ago are already starting to feel loose. Following the same workout routine that I have for almost a year, my muscle tone has improved. I'm getting stronger, too. I've been asked about it and I can see it on the records I keep. I'm also recovering much faster from workouts, don't get as sore as I did a few weeks ago and don't stay as hurt for as long.

Is this because I stopped selling plasma?

I don't know, but it looks like it to me.

Mentally, emotionally, stopping is probably a good thing. Paying for cat litter or for a cell phone or even a biscuit with "blood money" is relentlessly demoralizing. You can't help but feel angry and resentful. It's easy not to feel appreciated --and that, folks, is the soft spot in my scales. It's the hammer that batters my ego and feeds the little revolutions of my life.

Will I go back?

It's been some laughs, but I don't know. I haven't gotten around to collecting my notes, printing out blog posts and writing up a book proposal, but it's coming. All of this, I'd like to think, should add up to more than just a few bucks and some weird memories.

But whatever is whatever. Some of you have stuck with me through this and my weird cinema verite view of the experience. You might be disappointed if it ends. Not to worry. I can't help but find things designed to cause me pain and distress. I need the punishment and I need to laugh about it as loudly as I can manage. Sometimes, I can't, but that's fine, too.

But maybe for now, it's time to let the scar inside my arm heal. The vein is closed.


eclectic guy said...

Fuck it if you don't need it. I've enjoyed the squeamish stories, but think of your body.

The body may not be a temple, but it's where we live. ; )

Karin Fuller said...

Even my long-time fear of needles (passed out once when my dog got a shot)hasn't kept me from enjoying your Blood Bank stories. I think it's a fantastic book idea. Hope you pursue it.