My life last week:
Tuesday I braved the insanity that is Whole Foods two days before Thanksgiving. Wednesday I hosted a latke party for nine, brined the turkey, made the beds for the first wave of houseguests, and cooked the pastry cream for the Buche de Thanksgivukkah (pictured below). Thursday was Thanksgiving for 13 (15, really, but two didn't show up), including two turkeys, stuffing, cranberry sauce, buckets of veggies of all sorts, two kinds of homemade bread, a couple of pies, and of course, the Buche:
Friday I woke up early to make muffins for the crowd, washed the sheets and towels after the first round of departing houseguests, served lunch for six, drove to the train station, served dinner for four. Saturday I woke at 4:45 am to drive my older daughter to the airport, worked out, helped out at synagogue, took my younger daughter shoe shopping, and hosted a leftover fest for eight.
By Sunday I was exhausted. So I did the most relaxing thing I could think of: I went to the local Masonic hall to donate blood.
Not exactly a day at the spa, you say? Oh, but it's so much better! The Red Cross folks put out a narrative about how noble and helpful it is to give blood, as if it goes right from your veins into the arms of some lovable accident victim down the street whose life is thereby saved, thanks solely to your largesse. Not really. RadioLab did a great program on blood recently, in which they revealed that while your blood might eventually make its way into some needy vein, it will be bought and sold like the commodity it is along the way, making great big profits for many of those who handle it.
But who cares? I have no illusions about the nobility of the thing. I love giving blood because it provides an excuse to lie still for half an hour. And because they have people working at blood drives whose sole job it is to be nice to the donors. They bring me cranberry juice (cold! as much as I want!!) and ply me with pretzels and cookies. They give me swag, usually coupons for crappy coffee, but occasionally really great athletic socks. And if I look a little pale, they fuss over me and make me lie down some more and bring me cold compresses and even more cranberry juice. For decades now, I have been the fuss-er rather than the fuss-ee. Except when I give blood.
It's a pretty good deal, overall. But because we all have room for improvement, I would like to offer the Red Cross these helpful suggestions for how to make the experience even better:
- Bake sales and blood drives are a bad match. Free food is at the heart of the blood drive experience; it's awfully hard for the paid version to compete. Sunday's kids were at an even greater disadvantage, two days after Thanksgiving, when at least half of the donors had come to give blood as a weight loss strategy.
- Explain why women have to be 5'6" to give double red blood cell donations, but men only have to be 5'. This rule is written on a giant poster at the check-in desk of every single blood drive, and it makes no sense to me. I find it particularly irksome because I was 5'6", once upon a time, but I seem to have misplaced one of my inches. I would appreciate it if the Red Cross would stop rubbing my face in it every time I show up to donate.
- Santa has no place at blood drives. I was somewhat alarmed to see Santa at last Sunday's blood drive. Fact is that Santa is a divisive presence, appealing to only one part of the population. I'm talking about children, of course; and children are not the target audience at blood drives. Now, I'm Jewish, so maybe I'm missing something; but it is hard for me to see how Santa could cause anything but anxiety for your average adult. He devotes every December to upping the ante in terms of gift expectations. And then he steals all the credit. Honestly, if I choose to buy my children's love, I would like that love to accrue to me, thank you very much, and not to some bearded guy in fake fur with an overactive thyroid.
These are all good points, of course; but if the Red Cross wants to really hit one out of the park, they'll take me up on my last suggestion:
- Allow people to donate fat instead of blood.
They'd line up around the block for that one. Even Santa.