Last week at work, my cell phone rang. It was an unfamiliar number, out of my area code. I let it ring. Ten seconds later, it rang again. I figured it might be important, so I answered. It was the American Red Cross, asking me to make an appointment at a donation center, because blood supplies were critically low. I sighed at being tricked into answering the phone and thought that they always say that their blood supplies were critically low.

In case you were wondering, yes, I do believe that mine was about the most selfish possible reaction to a plea from the Red Cross. I realized it immediately, and as penance, I made an appointment to give blood the following morning.

They call me, because my blood is magical. Know how? Well, they can take my blood out of my body, and then if someone else loses a lot of blood, they can put my blood into their body, and that person will then not die from lack of blood. See? Magical. What? You say your blood is magical, too? Well! You should get on down to the Red Cross!

I've given blood bunches of times, but I've never actually gone down to the Red Cross for it. My donations have always been a part of a blood drive. In the last few years, all of my blood donation has taken place on a bus. I consider myself to be committed to blood donation. I always sign up for the blood drives, even though I sorta hate doing it. I don't mind the weird questions about trips abroad and I like the cookies at the end, but I will never get used to the part where the needle goes into my arm. However, there doesn't seem to be any way around it.

But it occurred to me that if I only give blood when it's convenient to me, as in when the blood bus comes to my door, then that is not very committed. Only driving out of one's way early in the morning implies commitment. Or something. Once, I worked at a blood drive at church, and an old man came in who had donated multiple gallons over the course of his life. It takes eight donations to make a gallon, and you can safely donate about six times a year, so it takes a while to rack up gallons. That guy was committed to giving blood. Someday, when I am an old lady, and I go visit the Red Cross, the volunteers will be amazed at my lifetime giving record. They may even clap, while I smile modestly. No, no, it was nothing. Extra cookies? Well, maybe just seven one, to be polite.

Unlike the blood buses, which have little room for decor, the Red Cross' walls are littered with art meant to inspire your bleeding. Once, at that same church blood drive, one of the sponsors had her fourth-grade class draw artwork for placemats. There were a lot of pictures of syringes and blood drops. The American Red Cross chose a different route, displaying framed posters featuring women in WWI era nurse outfits. One of these nurses was holding her arms out plaintively, begging you to either join up or take her blood. She looked a little like a zombie. There was also a set of Disney posters, featuring Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and Donald working for the Red Cross. The Minnie poster was particularly striking - Minnie comforts a little girl while a tornado pulls apart a house in the near background. That's great, Ms. Mouse, but shouldn't we get underground now?
The nurse asked me if I was here for a double donation. I'd never heard of such a thing, so I said no. In fact, that sounded kinda dangerous, since they're usually pretty strict about how often you can donate. But they were talking about a double red blood cell donation, where they take twice as many red blood cells, but give you back the platelets and the plasma. They use a special machine. I said no, but decided that I would look into it later, because I am committed to blood donation. The double donation is something they ask only of people with type-O blood (~90% of the population can receive O-positive blood, while everyone can receive O-negative).

It was really cold in the Red Cross, just like it's always cold on the blood bus. That's intentional. Because there is already a danger of people passing out (you know, from having their precious bodily fluids taken out of them), a warm or even comfortable temperature would only make that worse. If you do feel like you're going to pass out, they point an oscillating fan directly at you. Sometimes they put an ice pack on your chest (guess how I know these things!). Anyway, the cold is a necessary nuisance. When I was waiting for my turn with the nurse, a lady sat beside me reading a book, with a folded blanket in her lap. It was clearly not her first time at the Red Cross. She was committed to blood donation.

Finally, I was sitting in a right-arm bleeding chair, shivering but otherwise comfortable, considering that I was having my life-force drained out. The TV was set to CNN, which was reporting that someone had shot a bunch of people at the Empire State Building. Though it sounded sensational, it turned out to be just another of the awful things that happen every day. I guess that's why the Red Cross always says their blood supplies are critically low.

I always feel upbeat after a blood donation. It's a very easy and very good thing to do. But I felt better than usual that day, the difference being that I had gone and done this, not that I had happened across it and said okay. I am committed.

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