|What the priest said to me at my last Confession|
My grandmother was obsessed with her blood. If there is such a thing as “big-boned”, then my grandmother believed herself to be “big-blooded”. More specifically she was obsessed with the thickness of her blood. She believed that illness could be prevented by maintaining a thin blood flow. She would not eat meat in the summer for fear of thickening her blood and she would not give me my delicious Flintstone vitamins in the summer for the same reason. Instead, she would eat the Filet-O-Fish at McDonalds on Fridays, something she called “the fishy burger”. A Filet-O-Fish is a remarkable feat of engineering in my opinion. Both the patty and the bun are inexplicably smooth with an inoffensive fish odor. That’s kind of a miracle when dealing with fish. In hindsight, I wonder if her desire for the fishy burger stemmed from delicate gums and untrustworthy dentures rather than a fear of thick blood and/or mad cow disease.
I had always suspected this blood management obsession was an old wives tale but she lived to be 99 and a half years old and smoked and drank whiskey for more than 70 of those years so maybe the old bat knew her stuff. It is a known fact that thinner blood means lower blood pressure and this can be important to maintain in later life. She would never donate her blood, either. I once asked her why and she hugged her arms and mumbled “It’s mine! All mine…” staring darkly in the middle distance like an adorable Gollum. One did not question my grandmother too keenly.
I have always enjoyed having blood drawn – probably because I am secretly scared that I have too much of it – and so donating blood would be the natural evolution for a person like me. Not so fast. There is a blood cartel and it’s called The Red Cross. It’s one of the oldest gangs around. This group of soft shoes tyrants have nurse practitioner degrees and they know how to use them. Giving blood is not all it’s cracked up to be in the Calvin and Hobbes cartoons that I use to explain everything Science. My very reasonable expectation is that I lie down on a bed that is quiet, strap on the blood feed bag for the excessively pale and let it pump until someone notices my heart is barely working. Then I get a cookie, a small hospital-size plastic of Tang and maybe some cash for being a good girl. With a wink and wave, I sashay out of there, saying “I come from a long line of blood over-producers, so I’ll see you next week, Toots.”
My first and last time trying to donate went a little something like this: First you have to fill out a form(s). Apparently blood can be unclean. Not thick or thin but UNCLEAN. Holy hell, what kind of world is this? And in order to determine if they even want your blood
read: WHAT THE LIVING FUCK?!? Why won’t you take it from me?!?!?
They ask you a series of progressively personal questions. Questions like Where have you been in the world? What kind of vaccinations have you had? Have you ever used drugs? What kind of drugs? Who gave them to you? When? For how long? etc…
Here is what The Red Cross write on their website under the FAQ:
Why does the Red Cross ask so many personal questions when I give blood?
The highest priorities of the Red Cross are the safety of the blood supply and our blood donors. Some individuals may be at risk of transferring communicable disease through blood donation due to exposure via travel or other activities or may encounter problems with blood donation due to their health. We ask these questions to ensure that it is safe for patients to receive your blood and to ensure that it is safe for you to donate blood that day.
Well, in the interest of being a good-blooded Canadian, I admitted that I had been to 31 countries. Mostly in Europe and Asia. That I had been inoculated against many things, including and not limited to Malaria, Yellow Fever and Japanese Encephalitis (That vaccine cost me $250!). In addition to that I checked the box that confirmed I had - in fact - tried drugs. But it was a long time ago. And so it probably didn’t count.
The young girl who processed me read my form, looked at me carefully and then called her supervisor. The supervisor carefully read my form in perfect silence – did NOT look at me – and asked me to step into another secret room made of MASH-style fabric walls. We sat at a round table and she spoke to me in hushed tones.
It says here that you have used [insert name of really-common-not-legal-but-totally-tolerated drug], is that true?
Why would you do that? she asked plaintively
Not sure. Wanted to try it It was a long time agoI’m sureit’snolongerinmybloodstream.
Well… she sighed. It’s not the [drug] that remains. A lot of girls pay for drugs with sex.
Reader’s Note: I do not know any girls who want to donate blood that have ALSO had to pay for drugs with sex. This is also probably the most hilariously sexist thing I have ever heard. Do they turn away men for the same reason?
Nope, I paid for it with cold hard cash I responded levelly. I was now certain this woman was a lunatic and the whole blood donate thing was a huge waste of time and a way to track embarrassing info for later nefarious use. I wanted to explain further that my “drugdealer” was a woman who worked in a downtown office and wore a suit everyday but I figured the supervisor – who was wearing scrubs - wasn’t listening.
She gently explained that she would not be able to accept my blood because I had answered honestly to this question and that I should come back in 2 years when the statute of sleeping-for-your-drugs-limitations ran out. The short answer is, the blood they are collecting is from honest people who have perfect blood and lying people who are full of toxic chemicals. I am not sure which one I am and so I have never been back.
Sometimes The Red Cross makes the mistake of phoning me. I used to explain that I had been to too many countries and that they did not want my blood. Eventually they called so much that I just ended up screaming at them that I was a drug user and unsuitable. I continue to avoid meat in the summer and anything that could inadvertently thicken my blood. I have learned that getting pregnant DOUBLES your blood capacity in your body, sooooooooo I am going to adopt. But I probably won’t be approved anyway because since that time I have learned to sleep with people for everything from prescriptions to groceries to car washes.
And that is how The Red Cross helped me find my true calling as a crack whore.