I can be extremely charming (even my wife will attest to this). I was once told that I was effortlessly charming. That’s true to an extent, I wasn’t trying to be charming so I wasn’t expending any effort. That’s the problem. When I do expend effort and try to be charming, I am not charming at all (my wife will attest to this as well). I knew this long before I was married, but always forgot when it was important.
I used to be able to give blood regularly. Even though I’m afraid of needles, I never really had a problem with donating. I gave often enough that I could quote all the questions I was asked as they spoke them (they really loved it when I did that), quote the directions after giving blood (they seemed relived they didn’t have to go through that spiel), and came to know the staff of the Clarksville Red Cross pretty well. I never exactly liked giving blood, but I enjoyed the interaction with others it produced, especially talking with the volunteers that offered snacks afterwards. I appreciated the perspective that the (usually) much older individuals had. I would listen in fascination as the men dispensed unsolicited advice and playfully flirt with the retired grandmothers (they thought I was charming as well).
I started donating when I was 17. For the next five years the same nurse always took my blood at the Red Cross. Well, she took my blood those five years except for one particular day.
I was 19 and attending college at Austin Peay. I drove from campus to the Red Cross (this was when it was on Madison Street near the hospital – they’ve both since moved), looking somewhat forward to the process. I walked in the door an noticed something immediately peculiar. Instead of the normal sweet blue-haired ladies that offered up delicious Little Debbie snacks after, there was a young, attractive blonde. I was actually disappointed until I realized I was the only donor and she was the only there at the time. Once I gave my blood, it would basically be the two of us at the snack table. I would have the opportunity to lay on the charm.
I quickly signed in, but then noticed something was off. Few of the normal staff were there. I wasn’t going to let that deter me though, I had it all worked out. I would do whatever it took to make sure I was the only donor at the snack table. I had charming to do.
I passed through the initial health screen and started answering the questions they asked at the time.
“Yes, I am over 17. Yes, I have donated before. I am not a native of Africa or the sub-Saharan African isles . . .”
“What are you doing?” asked the woman filling out my paperwork.
“Um, I’m answering the questions before you ask them. It, uh, saves time.”
“Well, stop it. I’m supposed to ask them. You can answer after I’ve asked them.”
A little chagrined, I made no jokes until we got to those questions.
“Have you ever used a needle, even once, to deliver illegal drugs?”
“Have you ever had sex with a prostitute?”
“Have you ever accepted money or drugs in exchange for sex?”
“No one’s ever offered.”
The scratching of her pen stopped and she set me with the type of glare that most people would cower from (the only reason I didn’t is that I had it all worked out and I needed to get past this to get to the snack table). “Is that supposed to be funny?”
“Actually, yeah, it is.”
“Well, it’s not.”
We made it through the rest of the questions without incident. The health check went well even though I;m sure she pricked my finger harder than necessary for the iron test. I made my way into the donation room where something was completely amiss.
“Where’s Diane?” I asked.
“She’s not here today.”
“But she has to be here today. Diane always takes my blood. No one else has ever done it.”
“Then I guess you can just come back next week. She’ll be back then.” I admit it was tempting, and I had actually done that in the past, but the thought of sitting at the snack table with an attractive woman close to my age was a powerful motivator. Besides, I had it all worked out, I would get stuck with the needle then squeeze the little rubber cylinder more often to donate quickly so I could get tot he snack table sooner.
I settled into one of the four empty chairs as the nurse asked, “Are you right- or left-handed.”
“Right,” I answered. She walked over to my left side and was about to scrub the disinfectant on my arm.
“Um, Diane always uses my right arm.”
“Well, Diane’s not here.”
“No, but you could use my right arm. It’s the one we always use. It’s better.”
“Your left arm is perfectly fine. Do you want to donate or not?”
I thought about the snack table and answered, “Yes I do.”
I don;t know if it was my imagination or not, but using my left arm hurt a lot more. I refused to focus on that of course. I kept looking through the door. I couldn’t see her, but I could see the curved edge of the snack table and that was enough. I had it all worked out. I was almost there. I would go out there, be witty and charming, subtly mention how often I gave blood and sweep her off her feet.
The blood bag finally tipped the weighted lever and the nurse began undoing everything. She seemed to take forever to fill the test vials with blood. When she finally pulled the needle, I quickly raised my arm and recited, “I’m pressing with three fingers and keeping my arm elevated. Keep it clean and dry. No heavy lifting or exercise for six hours. Drink plenty of non-alcoholic liquids and call if redness, rash, or irritation develops.”
“Wow, you’ve got that down pat,” she laughed, “Are you in a hurry or something?”
“As a matter of fact, I am.”
“I almost jumped of the chair and made for the snack table.I had it all worked out. I’d break the ice with a flirtatious joke and go from there.
I sat down at the table. She offered and I accepted a non-alcoholic liquid and an oatmeal cream pie. She pointed to the two rolls on the table and asked, “Are you going to get a sticker?”
One of the stickers read “Save a Life! Donate Blood Today!” I took one that read “Kiss Me! I Gave Blood Today!” inside a red heart. I had it all worked out, and it was about to fall in place. It was time to turn on the charm.
I peeled the sticker from its backing and placed it on my chest over my heart. I gave it a little pat, locked my eyes on hers and said, “Just in case.”
She gave an adorable little laugh and partially covered her mouth with one hand. This is going exceptionally well, I thought as I smiled back. Then sound got strangely muffled. Her smile changed to a look of concern as dark, empty blossoms bloomed around her. Ok, maybe not so well, I thought as I put my face in my Hawaiian Punch. I was the only time I ever passed out after giving blood.
When I came to, they had me laying on the floor with my legs propped in the chair. They were taking my blood pressure and hovering over me in a way that probably did not make me seem like a good prospect. I started to get up when they finished.
“No, you have to stay like that for twenty minutes. Just lie back down.”
I was mortified. This was not how I had it worked out. Having utterly failed at charming her, I gave up and decided to just talk.
“Well, so much for impressing you, huh?”
“You already had my attention when you walked in. You really didn’t need to go through all this trouble.”
“Yeah. But if something’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing.” She laughed.
“Maybe. Or you could’ve just asked for my number.”
“Yeah but I was too busy face planting in my punch.”
“I’d still give it to you.”
“But it would be covered in punch and I wouldn’t be able to read it.”
We continued like that until she had to leave. We had a good laugh. They were finally letting me sit back up when a car pulled up at the front.
“That’s my ride,” she said, “I guess I need to go. Unless you need to faint again. Maybe I can catch you this time.”
“Maybe.” I said.
She slowly walked to the door. She was about to walk through it when she turned and said, “Well, I guess this is goodbye?”
“Yeah, I guess so,” I said. She gave me a strange look then left.
As I finished my oatmeal cream pie, I was happy I saved myself from looking like a complete idiot. Then I replayed our conversation. “. . . had my attention when you walked in . . . could’ve just asked for my number . . . still give it to you . . . maybe I can catch you.”
Oh. Oh! I was a complete idiot. That didn’t work out at all.