I 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.”
I 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.