The other day I went to my office with the full intention of donating blood at the Red Cross drive on campus. The moment of charity makes me feel good, and I always enjoy cookies and juice. Really, I just do it for the food (which is true in so many cases). The first time I gave blood at the office, I felt physically drunk for the rest of the day - I ran into doorways with my shoulder, I tripped over my chair, I couldn't type very well. It was one of the best workdays I've ever had, so you can understand my eagerness to give blood again.
So that day I strolled into the room with a sense of ease, ready to watch my lifeblood make its unexpected journey from my veins to a surprisingly warm plastic bag. My blood type is B+ and they usually want my platelets, too. They always call me up a few weeks after the appointment and try to get me to make a special trip to offer my platelets, but I don't know. They're mine, you know what I mean? I filled out the questionnaire - "Have you had sex with a drug user? Do you currently have avian flu? Have you ever made love to an animal?" - and waited my turn. The guy was friendly. He asked, have you traveled outside the US in the last year? "Yes," I said firmly. "I went to Costa Rrrica." "When was this?" he asked. "Two months ago," I said, filling the first stirrings of apprehension. "Where did you go? Rural areas?" I nodded dumbly. "We rented a car..." I began. "I have a t-shirt from the mountain we climbed..."
"I'm sorry, we can't take you," he said. He made a series of violent slashes and circles on my form. "You can give blood again in a year." He handed my back my copy of the form. You don't even want my platelets? My next donation, it noted helpfully, would be in March 2006. "Thanks for trying, though," the guy said. I looked forlornly at the table of cookies and juices. "Yeah, good luck with everything," I replied. I stood and tried to walk out of the room with my head held high, feeling like the most recently dismissed contestant on a mediocre reality show - The Donor ("Who will be eliminated this week: Michael (25, education administrator), who stupidly went to Latin America mere months before trying to donate blood, or Kelli (19, model/bartender), who is showing the early signs of hepatitis?").
The shame, the shame.