I’ve been working the last 7 months as a nanny for an itty bitty baby, who is not so itty bitty as when I began the job. The family I work for is kooky, wonderful, and kind. Their most striking and impressive quality, however, is their spontaneity. On Thursday afternoon, Nicole came home from school (she is a full-time nursing student) and decided to drive to Michigan with her husband for his sister’s graduation. She called me up and asked if I could spend the weekend at their place and look after the dog, Basil. We spent an hour coordinating keys, car seats, and plans over text. I joked that the four of us could start an improv troupe, in case nursing doesn’t work out for her.
I woke up on Friday morning, took Basil for a run, ran some errands, and then decided to have my own spontaneous adventure. The American Red Cross has been calling me every day since February asking me to donate blood, and I decided today would be the day. I ate lunch, drank a bottle of water, and headed over to the clinic.
As I sat, leafing through the pamphlet, I smiled. The place was hopping. They had a great pop station playing. All the phlebotomists were happy and into the groove of things. I love donating blood for many reasons. For one, it’s such a big help to hospitals and healthcare providers. For two, it makes me feel brave. “Go ahead, jab me with that needle. It’s cool, I’m all good,” I think to myself. I used to be that girl who jumped off the doctor’s table and ran screaming at the sight of a syringe, so that I voluntarily go to blood drives is kind of a big deal. When they called my number, I was psyched to be placed on a table by an open window. The sun was shining, a gentle breeze caressing my bare arms. An older man, whom I had been chatting with earlier, was on the table behind me. At first I thought he was kind of weird, but I welcomed the distraction and the opportunity to put my phone away and interact with another person. My initial impression was correct: he was a bit odd. During his entire blood draw, he was talking to the phlebotomist, asking her what color it was (“A nice Merlot color” was her response), and if they every donated the blood to vampires. I chuckled, because I was having a great day and was saving “up to three lives” with my donation!
Though the preparation took close to an hour, the actual blood draw itself only took seven minutes. I was scrolling through Twitter with one hand and squeezing a small foam toy shaped like a propane tank in the other, all the while jamming to some Maroon 5. I hardly felt the pint of blood leaving my body. I didn’t miss it a bit; I knew someone else out there would need it. “Thirty seconds left,” the phlebotomist said. I smiled. I was almost done! I was pretty stoked, too, because I had made myself a chocolate banana milkshake as a treat. He handed me my lunchbox and water bottle, and I walked over to the snack table to join my fellow blood buddies. Though I had prepared my post-draw snack, it turns out I could’ve done a bit more pre-draw preparation…which leads me to the dangers of improvisation.
I unzipped my bag and took out my shake. I almost reached for my phone to send a Snapchat. Had I done this, the following scenario may have been less dramatic. Instead I unscrewed the top and took a sip. Delicious. But then I started to feel weird. It all happened very quickly. A man looked me in the eye and said, “Are you OK?” “I don’t think so,” I mumbled, but it was too late. It was all over. If you told me I was out for a minute or a month, I wouldn’t know which to believe. I passed out cold and quickly entered a vivid and intense dream. Unfortunately, I cannot remember the details because I was brought back to consciousness by four Red Cross attendants dousing me with cold water. Why the water? Oh, because when I fainted I took the entire milkshake with me. I opened my eyes to see four vaguely familiar faces shouting “Persephone, Persephone!” It took me a good five seconds to realize that I was on the floor of the blood bank. I looked at my arm and saw it was covered in chocolate. They helped me onto a rolling cot, and I looked down to see my entire body was covered. “You look like a chocolate rabbit,” one man said to me, trying to lighten the mood. He didn’t need to, because I was cracking up. I laughed lightly, for fear of fainting again. I had chocolate banana milkshake in my hair, on my shoes, and on the back of my calves. I was soaked in water, a true public spectacle. They rolled me into the corner, handed me my water bottle, and put a partition in front of my cot so that I could rest and regain my composure.
It’s great to live light on your toes and to follow the main principle of improv comedy: say yes. Spontaneity keeps us young and fit. But some things take preparation…like blood donations. Next time I’ll drink two gallons of water the day prior and eat a big plate of spaghetti and meatballs in the parking lot. But just in case things go south again, I think I’ll bring a banana sans-chocolate for my snack!