Blood donors and don’ts

I had one of my most brilliant and most heroic ideas last week immediately after finishing a grueling bike ride.

Normally my brilliant and heroic ideas come during grueling bike rides, rather than after. After grueling bike rides, all I usually think about is drinking chocolate milk, eating a sandwich made with whatever’s most accessible in the fridge, taking a hot shower, and then mounting my bike on the wall like a trophy moose head and never ever taking it down again.

During rides, however, my most genius ideas fly out of my mouth even more often than bugs fly into my mouth. Tragically, I don’t remember many of these ideas. Even I, a seasoned writer, am not skilled enough to slip my notebook out of my coolness-enhancing fanny pack and write them down with any sort of quality penmanship while maintaining momentum in the desired direction.

So when this brilliant and heroic idea struck after my ride, I still did not write it down, because it was an idea I could act upon immediately.

Now, I should mention that I am sympathetic to people who don’t give blood. Other people don’t donate blood because they’re afraid of needles, or they have fresh tattoos, or they just found out their spouses have been receiving money or other forms of payment in exchange for sex. Yet I’m also sympathetic to them because I also had never given blood. I abstained for years for the simple reason that my blood does its best work, generally speaking, inside my body.

But here was a sign from the universe. Whatever you believe about signs — heavenly messages or strange auspices or whatever you want to call them — this sign was pretty blatant and impossible to ignore. It was about three feet high, and it called on me to be a hero. It was an A-frame sign, and it read: “Donate Blood Today.”

And in case I missed the sign, a woman stood next to it, an angel waiting to ask me — me! — if I wanted to donate blood today.

In words I will remember forever, owing to the principle of repetition, this angel said, “Would you like to donate blood today?”

My first thought was: It depends. Do heroes ride bicycles? I genuinely wasn’t certain. I mean, maybe Batman never rides the Batbike because it prevents him from donating blood at a moment’s notice. However, I was still wearing pretty blatantly bicycle-related clothing, and this angel had asked me anyway. I deduced that helmet-haired heroes are still eligible blood donors.

My second thought was of the postride smorgasbord awaiting my sandwich bread. “Do I need a big lunch first?” I asked.

“It’s helpful to have eaten, yes,” she said.

“I have a banana in my fanny pack,” I said in a completely #MeToo-compliant way.

And five minutes later, I was on a blind date with a blood-drawing tech — let’s call him “Chad” because I didn’t hear his name over my banana-chomping and he looked like a Chad.

Chad spent enough time asking me questions that I burned through my banana and got hungry again. He also now knows more about my personal life than both my parents put together, including my weight and my mailing address. But I had no problem supplying him all the answers. After all, the questions he asked gave me fascinating insights into the kinds of things people must sometimes say “yes” to.

For instance, there’s that, “Have you ever received money or other forms of payment in exchange for having sex with an iguana smuggled from Guam since 1986?” question. Now, I’m a pretty good test-taker, and it’s clear to me that saying “yes” means I fail the test and don’t get to donate blood. It’s also easy to lie on this test, because they don’t even check to see if your fingers are crossed behind your back. So the only plausible reason I see for people answering “yes” to this question is that they really want a divorce but don’t have the cojones to tell their significant partner in person.

When Chad finally finished grilling me, he sat me in a chair and tied a band around my arm.

“How long should this take?” I asked, gauging my gnawing hunger level.

“Maybe ten or fifteen minutes,” he said. “Depends on your blood flow. Here, squeeze this piece of foam every five seconds.”

I squeezed it every three, because math tells me that I’d finish faster that way. And when I woke up, these nice people had put ice packs down my shirt and on my neck and turned all the fans on and they were asking me how I was doing, and even though I didn’t really know where I was anymore, they fed me pretzels and water and I didn’t have to go back to work for a full extra hour.

But they got their full donation in record time. Don’t thank me. I’m just a hero.

Zach Hively writes from Durango, Colo. He can be read and reached through http:// and on Twitter @zachhively.

From Zach Hively.