A Circus of Pain and Misery

The following events really did occur, and are also greatly exaggerated for your enjoyment and my protection.

I like to act like I'm famous even though I'm not. That way, when I'm invited to all the famous late night talk shows and asked how I became such an indisputable genius in the eyes of nearly every human on Earth, I won't have to deal with the subsequent culture shock and learning curve. I'd already know how to be an insufferable jerk or an egotistical super genius. I'd have been practicing it for years; it won't be anything new.

When acting famous, these are things you live by: Keep up good appearances at all costs (shave, go running, comb your hair, wear awesome hats, don't leave the house in a GAP sweater, etc.), act like you're the coolest human being on Earth (it helps that I actually am), and finally, don't let on how disastrously financially insecure you are.

But these last few experiences warrant a breaking of one of those rules. Particularly last one. Let me enlighten you:

I'm so poor, I literally exchange bodily fluids to buy my coffee.

I'm so poor, my grocery list used to contain groceries I can afford to buy, and groceries I can easily shoplift.

I'm so poor, I look forward to when the trash compactor at the grocery store breaks down so I can finally get back to dumpster diving.

As amoral as you might think stealing is (not that I do it any more, of course), I've got to eat somehow. But not every necessity in the world can be solved with big pockets and , and that means getting physical real dollars some way, and that means donating plasma.

Here's how that works: You go to a surprisingly clean medical facility. Then they weigh you, take your blood pressure and temperature, prick your finger, test your blood for AIDS, all the usual stuff. Then comes a circus of pain and misery.

The thing about donating plasma is that there's exactly one person on the entire premises that knows what they're doing at any time. The rest of the time, it's barely trained phlebotomists, underpaid college students, and LOTS of needles.

“Are you allergic to Iodine?” they ask you a half minute before driving a two inch piece of steel into your vein (or right next to your vein, usually). Then they swab you for thirty seconds (you know, just to be sure), then, brace yourself! Somebody's about to stab you and then pay you for it.

The plasma extraction process is thus: They put you in a nice pre-reclined pink chair. Then they place an arm rest down (as they're not attached to the chairs) They place your arm on an arm rest and an inflatable cuff on your arm. Then they work your arm over like a couple of thugs working over a deadbeat that owes them money.

The needle has to be in exactly the right spot, or they can't extract your blood, place it in a centrifuge, separate the plasma from the blood cells, and then return the blood. So naturally, the girl in training in charge of sticking me misses.

“Oh! I'm sorry! I've never missed before!” she says.

“Oh goody,” I said, wincing in pain because she managed to shove the needle straight into my scar tissue, “I'm glad I was your first.”

She then grabs the needle and starts wiggling it, trying to get it into the right spot. So now I've got a piece of steel lodged in my body that's being removed and reinserted with the precision and finesse of a jackhammer. But she can't seem to get it into the vein, so she calls over two more untrained interns to help her ruin my arm.

“No, grab it like this...

“No, try this angle...”

“Here, let me try...”

“Jesus Christ,” I say.

By this time you're probably asking, “So, there was a needle, there was a vein, there were untrained interns... why isn't there any blood?”

Well, I haven't gotten to that part yet.



(Artist's Renditon)

One of the interns removed the needle, and with nothing to plug the flow, my arm started bleeding all over my new shirt. That itself wasn't the problem. The problem was the reactions of my caretakers.





So as my three interns competed in a shouting match, the manager came over to my bed, plugged the flow, wrapped my arm with gauze and told me that I could come back some other time, and sorry for the inconvenience.

But my problems didn't stop there... I still needed the money, so I DID come back later... the next day, in fact, because apparently I'm a masochist.

That, of course, was not the end of things.

It turns out that due to a clerical error on their part, they had me in their system as making a full donation the previous day, (and therefore ineligible to donate for the rest of the week) even though they didn't take a single drop of my plasma. But there was nothing they could do because, quote, “It's all digital.” Either way, I wasn't getting payed for the privilege of being stabbed repeatedly, bleeding on my shirt, and watching interns scream at each other. They did give me a small “inconvenience fee,” I suppose, but I couldn't collect it until I came to donate the following week to once again repeat the circus.

So there you have it. That's what I have to go through to get money for such insane purchases such as food or groceries. What do you have to do to get money?

Oh, you have a job?

Lucky bastard.

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