Right now I owe AT&T $150. That may not sound like much, but when you only make $300 bi-weekly, $150 might as well be $1,000. Now, Iâ€™ve reached three months delinquency and my service has been mercilessly suspended.
So, with my only communicative tool nixed, last week I was on the gig hunt to make some quick cash. When my roommate came home with a bandage around his arm and $50 in his pocket I had to know what witchcraft heâ€˜d been dabbling in.
â€œI gave blood plasma,â€ he said.
My search was over â€” CLS Plasma donation center was to be my next cash cow.
Picture the DMV, add needles and nurses and youâ€™ve got CLS Plasma. Dirty chairs sit in rows in a lobby where people wait to be called into a booth, tested for defects and, god willing, shipped to the back room for draining.
An annoyed woman handed me an information booklet and instructed me to sit and read. I grasped the key points in minutes: Donating can kill you, donâ€™t donate if youâ€™ve shared needles with someone, yadda-yadda-yadda, you will be compensated for donating. Bingo, thatâ€™s all I needed to know.
I returned the booklet. The annoyed woman snapped my picture, then sent me into a little room where I received a physical â€“â€“ without the â€œturn your head and coughâ€ part.
A lady in a white apron pricked my finger, I blushed, she smiled evilly and escorted me to the back room and handed me off to a man who sat me in a chair shaped like the crescent moon and stuck a needle in my arm.
â€œSit down,â€ he said handing me a small section of plastic pipe. â€œSqueeze the PVC pipe when the thing around your arm is tight, donâ€™t squeeze when itâ€™s loose because thatâ€™s when your red blood cells are being returned to you â€“â€“ per contract.
He could tell that I was a first time donor and so could everybody else as I was the only one without headphones or a novel. I sat awkwardly squeezing my PVC pipe, looking around the room. I noticed one woman reading a novel entitled â€œDo Not Be Afraid.â€ I laughed at the irony.
Technicians meandered about, attending casually to the 20 people in the room. They were like robots: stick, pull, pay, thank and repeat. I felt like a product on an assembly line. Marxist ideals like â€œincreased quantity breeds decreased quality,â€ filtered through my head. I looked at the needle in my right arm and contemplated its cleanliness â€” how capitalistic is this, I thought.
The fact that I was saving a life or helping a suffering patient somewhere never crossed my mind. All I could think about was how much I was being paid, and I think thatâ€™s all they wanted me to think about.
An hour after I was poked, a new tech came and pulled the needle out â€” I winced a bit and he abruptly started giving me his well rehearsed exit speech.
â€œGo home, eat a big meal, drink lots of water, donâ€™t smoke or consume alcohol for at least six hours and avoid heavy exercise. Thank you for donating at CLS plasma today,â€ he said robotically.
I fumbled out of the room with $50 in my pocket and a bandage around the bleeding hole in my arm.
Itâ€™s a week later; the hole is surrounded by a fading bruise. When I look at it I remember how uncomfortable and cold the saline solution was when they pumped it into my body before pulling the needle out, but then I remember my phone bill and check my schedule to see when I can go back again.
Shane Rohleder is a senior communication studies major. His column appears Wednesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.