Tough Economy

brokeI went down to the plasma center this morning. It was an unusual Sunday activity, to be sure, but I had to get down there today or I would lose my bonus for a second plasma donation within the calendar week. Being broke, that doesn’t really work for me, so I made the trip
down, pedaling furiously down Glisan Street at 6:30, enjoying the cool of the morning.

Although the cool temperature was nice, my reason for going down early was to beat the rush. On a given day, five hundred North Portland residents show up there to give plasma. Naturally, the crowds get thicker as the day progresses. But unfortunately, I got there quite early only to find that there were fifty other early birds already sitting in the waiting room, many looking hapless and bedraggled. Donating plasma is not something mainstream Americans do. Donors are usually destitute fringe dwellers, and most of them aren’t there out of kindness. They’re there because they need the money. On one of my first visits, I talked with a young woman who’s been doing it for a year. She told me, “I wouldn’t recommend it as a career choice.”

waitingI understand why people don’t give plasma for the right reasons. On the best day, it requires a sacrifice of two and a half hours, standing in long lines, shoved into tight spaces next to people who have long faces, possess few social skills and tend to neglect bathing. There are multiple layers of identity verification and medical questions, tests, etc. When you finally get to the donation area you endure the ignominy and discomfort of getting stuck with a thick needle. You lie on the cot and repeatedly clench your fist for a minimum of forty-five minutes while the fluid is extracted. Not a lot of fun.

But I don’t care. I have this semi-petulant attitude about the whole thing. If I’m going to get stuck working for minimum wage in this hard world, I’m going to do whatever I can to get money rolling in. Today at the plasma center I tried to trick one of the orderlies into putting a second line into my free arm just to see if I could double my money for the day. She said no. I may go down next week to a different center to see if I can get processed as a new donor. It’s worth a try but will probably not succeed. They have safeguards. Whatever happens, I won’t tell them that the other day I cut myself shaving and nothing came out but air. They might cut me off.

Today it was extremely difficult to stay put for the whole thing. I may have to liven up the event. I thought about how funny it would be to go in with a pump and some fake blood and start hemorrhaging all over the floor and screaming.

My mom was concerned when she learned I was selling my bodily fluids. She sent me an e-mail: “Are you sure that’s safe? Your plasma is there for a reason. You need that!” She’d really be worried if she knew I was looking around for a kidney broker. 

At any rate, while I was at the plasma center today, I ran into a guy named Charles, whom I’d met on a previous visit when we ended up in adjacent cots trying to hear the cheesy movie they had playing for the donors. He told me he was worried about his mother. She had been in the hospital for two days, and they didn’t know what was wrong with her. I asked him if he was a praying man. He told me he was, at which point I assured him that his mom would be in my prayers. When I saw him today, he told me it was pneumonia and that she was doing better.

So that was my morning. What follows is another day in this big world. At nine o’clock I go in for another graveyard shift selling beer to strippers and drug dealers. I’m not overwhelmed; I actually enjoy my job much of the time. It’s like a roulette wheel; I never know who’s going to come into my store, and I try to find common ground with everyone I meet. I’ve always enjoyed working with people. Lately, though, I can feel the dissipation pressing on me, and I question the value of what I’m doing 30-40 hours each week. Am I wasting my time? I see so little of God in it, but perhaps this is training of some kind. Help me to pass my exams, Lord. I’m ready for a promotion. 

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About Douglas Abbott

I am a freelance writer by trade, philosopher and comedian by accident of birth. I am an assiduous observer of humanity and endlessly fascinated with people, the common elements that make us human, what motivates people and the fingerprint of God in all of us. I enjoy exploring the universe in my search for meaning, beauty and friendship. My writing is an extension of all these things and something I did for fun long before I ever got paid. My hope is that the reader will find in this portfolio a pleasing and inspiring literary hodgepodge. Good reading!
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4 Responses to Tough Economy

  1. Sarah Willems says:

    Doug,
    You’ve been given an incredible “stay” among the least applauded layer of society. I pray you can see yourself as a missionary to that strata of our culture — where most of us never get. Fully understanding that this is not exactly voluntary on your part, I see it as a God-ordianed assignment for his boy — an extension of Jesus, who, were he on earth today, would head in that diretion to live out the gospel among the strippers & druggies. Think Philippians 2:5-9, the ultimate “laying aside” of privilege — but done purposefully & strategically to rescue those at the bottom of the pile.
    No, no; you aren’t a “product” of your calling. Don’t let it suck you into its feeding trough. You are called (for this season of your life, however long that may be) to be Jesus to that hopeless element found in every neighborhood. Keep taking the high road. You have the precious seed — the TRUTH — to share with all who happen across your path.
    We pray a hedge of protection around you as we pray for a firey vision to regard your present calling as a “city set on a hill.” (Matthew 5:14-15)

  2. Robin says:

    I can share that my honey actually sold his when he was a young man in the military. I’m not clear on how many times, though. Not sure he had it down to the science you do. 😉 We can certainly say you’re finding unique things to do as you adapt to your situation. Perhaps your book will be a handbook to surviving – Making the Max of your Minimum.

    We’re thinking about you but not worried. Looks like you have things under control. It’s all about attitude. Hang in there.

    PS NO fake blood. With our justice system lately, it would seem you could be locked up longer for a prank than you might a serious crime. Not the way to get your 3 squares.

  3. Don says:

    OMG Doug! Your blogs are becoming even more poignant. I agree with Sarah that you are living among the natives perhaps to be their missionary. And I love Robin’s book title. I am managing 83 apartments in what amounts to the projects sort of. I forgot how so many people (probably the majority) live with so little in America. And these people complain less than my well to do friends. If you do the fake blood thing, be sure to video tape it for You Tube or maybe you could sell it to a reality tv show or something.

  4. Thank you, Auntie Sarah. I did get a bit bogged down, but I’m seeing things from a much better perspective again. I didn’t mean to imply that this was an imposition; just that it was perilous. I felt myself getting sucked in, but I keep having to face another round of choices, forks in the road. Somehow even in the midst of the most insane mental states, I see the futility of pursuing the carnal path. I am long past the season of “pleasure in sin.”

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