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Be Nice to Me

Sarah Barnett



I’ve just returned from giving blood, so forgive me if this is a little light-headed. I’ve been donating blood regularly for a few years now, and I always come away from the experience feeling a wee bit more connected with the rest of humanity. After all, if you’re O+ and have received (legitimate) blood products over the last eight years, it’s entirely possible that you’ve had a little piece of me helping to rush oxygen to your vitals, as it were. How to tell? You started correcting your friends’ grammar in conversation (got any friends left now? Sorry about that), or you developed a sudden, unexplained aversion to shopping at New World Chaffers (it’s because the signs on their bread bins say “please use tong’s provided.” “Tong’s provided what?” I always demand, and stalk away, assured of my own superiority yet again). You’ll be pleased to know that I’ve only eaten a very small amount of British Beef.
It seems like such a small gesture: it doesn’t hurt, doesn’t take long and is extremely restful. Everyone is tremendously nice to you when you give blood; after all, as the New Zealand Blood Service advertises, only 5% of the people who could, donate – and 80% of us will most likely need a blood product at some point in our lives.
The nurses who do the haemoglobin count finger-stabbing (told you it was restful) always laugh at my dumb joke about needing a good excuse not to go to the gym in the afternoon. The other nurses who actually take the blood are masters at reading whether you’re in the mood for a chat, or would just like to lie and listen to the somnolent tip-tip-tip of the little rocking machine that tjuzses your blood sample to keep it from coagulating. Or something. They make a cool noise (the tippy machines, not the nurses). Sometimes, there’s someone nice on a bed opposite that you can make eyes at, in a God-we’re-super-good-people kind of way. Do people pick each other up at blood donation centres, though? Ew. Tea, despite the fact that it’s in a polystyrene cup, always seems to taste extra nice there – as do crackers with margarine and cheese. I’ve tried, but can’t replicate this at home. I think it has something to do with the lovely lady who presses you to take more barley sugars and stickers, and full-cream milk instead of calci-trim girl milk. The magazine collection also cannot be faulted – all the crap that you only ever read in waiting rooms and suchlike. The Royal Family is incredibly absorbing when you’re lacking vital fluids.
Last week, the Service didn’t seem to be as rushed off their feet as they usually are. Why? Probably St Patrick’s Day. “We were expecting that,” said my nice nurse, since I was in a chatty mood. “We thought we’d be really busy yesterday [Tuesday] and drop right off today.” So who gave blood on Wednesday morning and then painted the town green? I’m willing to bet you didn’t last long. Downing a pint when you’re down a pint is an exercise in purest madness. Your pacing will be out, timing off, reactions dulled and fitness lowered, all of which means you get drunk really, really fast. And cheaply.
Not content with simply having a restful and rewarding experience, I was still curious to find out just how good I was. The NZ Blood Service website tells me, “donating blood saves up to 3 lives.” Three lives! It is, the Service reaffirms, “a good return on your time”, which has to be one of the most quintessentially Kiwi understatements I’ve ever come across. People far more important than me have taken far longer to save far fewer lives, after all. What a complete hero.
That said, I need all the brownie points I can get, if we’re going to keep publishing those cartoons…