Full disclosure: I love trashy TV.
That is not to say that I want to watch a marathon of Jersey Shore any time soon (I’ve actually never seen a full episode but the fifteen minutes I did see was confusing. I did not understand their dialect of English…) but from time to time I can really get into some Toddlers and Tiaras or Celebrity Wife Swap, or even, yes, Jerry Springer.
Last summer Manfriend and I saw this really delightful episode of Springer where this one chick was angry because her boyfriend was cheating on her (but he may have been her husband, I’m not sure. He was at least the baby daddy) with her sister. Then they bring out the sister and she is just as obese and aggressive as her sibling and she says she don’t gotta justificate herself to nobody, etc. etc. Then she kind of lunges at the boyfriend/husband/baby daddy and tries to throw a chair at him and the burly guys in black t-shirts have to hold them apart. I think at some point the sisters teamed up on their two-timing boyfriend/husband/baby daddy. When he tried to defend himself against the two of them one of the dysfunctional sisters kept yelling, “Who is you? I’m her sister! You is nothin’!”
Manfriend and I were rolling with laughter. I wish I could have recorded it.
But here’s the catch: what makes these kinds of things funny to me is that they are so far removed from my life, so outrageous and unbelievable, so completely implausible – that I just have to laugh.
Last week, however, I fear that my entertainment at others’ expense (even if they did agree to be filmed) returned to torment me and I spent Friday trapped in an episode of The Jerry Springer Show. It was NOT. FUNNY.
My company had its morning formation at the Fort Hood blood donation center instead of our PT field. A couple of units had to cancel their blood drives at the last minute, which meant that units down range weren’t going to be getting the blood they were counting on, so we were one of the companies who came to fill the slots and send some extra blood to Afghanistan. A good finish to the week, right? So as we’re standing around in the parking lot at o-dark-thirty waiting for formation, my commander comes up to me and informs me that one of my NCOs has been shot and he’s in the hospital but he’s stable.
Okay, I’m sorry, but what?
We are not in Afghanistan.
We are not in Iraq.
We are not even in Kuwait.
We are in garrison. People don’t get shot in garrison!
Here’s what happened:
He was traveling back to Texas from temporary duty to attend a military school in Virginia. On the way home, he stopped in Georgia to visit his mom. His mom and her boyfriend got into some kind of argument, and so he stepped in, and his mother’s boyfriend shot him in the abdomen.
I’m sorry, but what?
He visited his mother. His mother has a boyfriend. The boyfriend shot him.
This is not a Looney Toons short, people! You can’t just go around dropping anvils on coyotes or shooting ducks and expecting them to turn their bills around to make their faces look right again. That is not how this works!
Luckily he’s going to be all right (he texted me that he was KCCO late Friday afternoon and his wife flew out to Georgia to take care of him), but still. It was a rather disturbing start to the morning. If anything it actually made me want to give blood even more and do something positive for someone somewhere. The company crowded into the blood donation center and began signing in and filling out paperwork to prepare.
Once I pass the initial questions I go into a small, hyper-air conditioned room to conduct my interview to determine my eligibility to donate blood. Since I dropped out of that prostitution ring a couple years back and haven’t been playing with dirty needles recently I figured I’d be good to go.
I listed all the times I’d been out of the country with vague accuracy: “Um, well I was in Italy in 2008.”
“When?” asked my interviewer. She was a youngish Hispanic lady with nice eyebrows and neat handwriting.
“What month?” she clarified.
“Oh. March. For about a week.”
She copied the information.
“Then I was in France in 2010. March. Again about a week.”
She kept writing.
“Then I was back in June of the same year. Rome and Paris, then London and Edinburgh.”
“How long? Two days?”
Sure lady. Two days. It was three to five days in each city but whatever. Close enough.
“Yes,” I said. “Two days for Italy, then France, then the UK and Scotland.”
“Okay. What else?”
“March 2011, Rome and Paris again. Four days each.” I thought about it for a minute. “That’s all.”
Then the room was quiet for a while as she flipped through a gigantic white binder. I zoned out briefly. When I looked back over she was still consulting her binder, looking between her notes and the typed page in its crinkly plastic page protector. I got curious about what she was looking up, but just as I leaned over to creep, she looked up and asked, “Rome. Now… is that…in…Romania?”
I blinked rapidly several times. “Um. Italy.”
“Oh.” She crossed something out on my form and wrote “Italy.”
She looked up at me again. “And Paris. Where is that?”
I looked around. This had to be a trick. “…France,” I said.
“Okay,” she said. “Well I don’t see any issues. You can go get your vitals taken now.”
Um. I see an issue. The people who are in charge of determining whether or not it is safe for blood to be transfused do not know where the hub of Western Civilization lies.
But because I am shallow and materialistic, I quickly forgot my reticence because they were like “and YOU get a car! and YOU get a car!” Well, not exactly. But there was a counter where they gave you small snacks before donating blood, and I got to pick out a t-shirt (there were five designs to choose from! oh the consumerism!) and they gave me a free tumbler and stuff, which I thought was pretty exciting.
Finally it was time for me to give blood. The medical professional (I use this term generously. You’ll see.) asks me which arm I prefer. I tell him it doesn’t matter. He puts the band around my arm and sort of thumps the skin experimentally.
Now, I’m not a medical professional. But I do know that you’re supposed to put that band on pretty tightly because then the veins will stand up and you can figure out the best spot to stick the needle to start the IV. Not the scientific explanation, but that’s pretty much what happens. Not with this guy. He thumps around for a moment, then switches the band to the other arm and repeats the procedure. Now I get it that I don’t have huge veins, but I’ve given blood a couple of times before and I’ve never had issues getting my blood drawn. You should have seen the look on this guy’s face as he studied my arms. You’d think there was some kind of equation on my arm and he couldn’t solve for the third variable.
But then he began to very confidently swab my left arm with iodine. Swab swab swab. And he kept swabbing. And swabbed some more. Then he threw away the first iodine cotton ball and opened another so he could swab again. My arm was definitely sanitized at this point. Looking down, however, it was my untrained medically professional opinion that I had no freaking idea where he was going to stick that needle.
Apparently he wasn’t sure either, because he JABBED IT INTO MY ARM LIKE HE WAS TRYING TO POP A BALLOON AND HOLY CRAP DID IT HURT. And you know what happened? Nothing. Of course. Because he’d missed. So what does he do? No, gentle reader, he did not remove the needle and try again. HE STARTED JIGGLING THE NEEDLE AROUND INSIDE MY ARM. LIKE HE WAS GOING TO GET LUCKY AND HIT A VEIN.
Excuse me, sir, but my arm is not the Yukon Trail. STOP PANNING FOR GOLD INSIDE MY ARM.
After unsuccessfully drawing blood from my now ravaged left arm, he wraps it up and says,
“Well, I won’t put you through anything else today.” Then he turned away and began writing on my form.
I looked down at the hot pink wrapping on my left arm, then looked at my unmarked right arm.
“Um,” I began articulately. “Would you like me to change chairs so you can try the right arm?”
“No,” he said. “That’s all.”
So now that the not-so-professional medical professional had turned into Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada, I realized that I was not going to be allowed to give blood after all. I ate their free cookies and drank their free juice for breakfast and ranted to my NCOs who were also enjoying a balanced breakfast of juice and cookies. No wonder they were short on blood! They’ve got blind guys mining for gold in the Yukon! Because no joke, my blood type is O-positive, which is basically blood gold, and I can’t believe those fools turned me down.
Let me tell you what my day in the life of a Springer guest taught me: you is nothing, Rome is in Romania, and I am feeling pretty grateful that Friday was a frightening anomaly and not the norm.