Half a Day


It’s Tuesday. (Took a while to get this post finished, settled for half a day because I wanted to spare myself more difficulty.)

I wake up at six in the morning with four hours of sleep. Why do I do these things? Getting by on that little sleep hasn’t worked out for me since my early twenties. I’m not even a drinker. Anyway, I’m sleeping on the floor because the last cheapy fold-up beds we had fell apart a few years ago. Not built for un-skinny tall dudes and I don’t have money for something better than a cruddy stopgap. Even though I sleep on the floor, I’m not someone who typically feels back pain. But I did something recently and today is horrible. Mostly just when getting up or down, so better than chronic conditions…

So I’m too tired to get up right away. Sometimes resting a little longer works, sometimes you fall asleep again. I find rubbing my head on the pillow and stretching my limbs while I languish a bit helps. About ten minutes later, I get up and take a shower. After that, feed the cats, then leave them behind in the bedroom.

Out in the living room, I get myself three cat poop burritos, three tall glasses of water, and a coke zero. We call them cat poop burritos because if I eat them in the bedroom, my partner asks if a cat pooped. Well, what comes out of a cat isn’t much different smelling from what goes in, so it’s not as disgusting as it sounds. Just means El Monterey uses cat food grade filling.

I need that excessive food because I don’t want to be deficient in any of my numbers when I donate plasma, and the water is to make sure my veins have a reasonable flow. If my numbers come up short, I could get bounced for a month. I need this money. While I’m eating I watch an episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars on Netflix, on a several year old laptop. Most of the season I’m on has been the boring kind of stuff the movies got slammed for, but this one is more magical and sabery. But is it too magical?

I get a ride to the plasma place from my partner’s mom because it’s along the way to where she transfers to go to work. On the way to the car I hear the laughing spring call of northern flickers. The car ride is seven minutes, on foot it would be forty-five. I gotta learn to drive but I can’t. Last time I tried with a friend’s help I sucked bad, wanna try a professional. But I can’t afford a car, which I’d need to get the benefit of having a license with regards to employment opportunities, which would help me pay for the car I can’t afford, so it bumps it down the list of priorities.

I get in line outside the plasma place with twenty minutes until it opens. I’m sixth in line. I hear dark-eyed juncos in the parking lot, glimpse them at a distance. For a change I actually thought to bring a book, but find that holding up arms sucks. I still read it.

I always think about white-crowned sparrows out here. This is their stomping grounds when they come to town – the vast parking lots of malls and strip malls, dotted with little decorative trees to sing from. None are out yet this summer. I don’t remember when they start.

Normally I’d prefer to go on Wednesdays and Fridays – the least busy days of the week when you have to go a minimum of two days apart. But there’s a noisy asshole that comes in on those days who finally dropped some jeezis-based transphobia that got my goat. If I come in on the same days as him, my pulse will be too fast and I’ll have to leave without earning a dime.

The book keeps me busy until opening. Usually I kill that time looking through the window at what’s playing on the TV, even though I can’t hear it and am not at all interested in the programming. When programs change, I know it’s close to a half hour mark and possibly the place opening. For the last few weeks it’s been Married With Children on TBS. That show was evil and knew it. Not my jam.

We’re let inside and every single day it’s the same thing. The first person in line goes to the first sign-in kiosk from the left, and the thumbprint reader takes twenty-five tries to work if it does at all. So the person goes to pester an intake person and they let them dab a thumb in some kind of goo that makes your finger read more easily. Problem possibly solved, possibly not. Meanwhile the two people behind them are now ahead of them in line.

The fingerprint readers strike back by the time I reach the intake person in stall one. He gives me the goo, it works. My numbers are not bad today.

Then I get to go to the floor. There are dozens of beds and machines in here. The machines draw whole blood, separate cells with a centrifuge, and return the cells to you through the same tube, keeping the plasma in a 32-ounce jug. You have to go twice a week to get the full possible financial benefit (over $250 a month if it works out), but eventually your veins will wear out. Not sure what that looks like (Requiem for a Dream?) but I’ve already been doing this several months and don’t like the look of things.

When it comes to getting the needle in I have a near repeat of the last time I came in. The same inexperienced person tries to work the same arm, can’t get it through to blood, calls over the same older person for help. The difference: Last week they gave up and stuck my other arm, this week the older person manages to tap the first arm by shifting the needle. I cannot look at my arm during this whole thing, I never have. I hate needles. I don’t have any piercings. Tattoos are different – as much as they hurt – I don’t know why.

There are TVs to watch. As I said before, they were mostly playing Married With Children marathon style in other weeks. This time, they’re on FX or some other commercial station that plays more movies. As I come in, it’s that one movie where Julianne Moore’s preshus preshus baybeh is kidnapped by alien Child Protective Services and no one belieeeeves her snotty tears, but it’s cool because human motherhood is legitimately magical vs. aliens. It’s over pretty soon. I typically take an hour do get my blood out, some people go quite a bit faster.

The next movie is a wildly offensive Adam Sandler joint. You know the one, where the public embraces the victim of child molestation as a rock star because it’s so rad he got his teacher pregnant? It is so gross that I am pretty surprised anyone dares to show it. Honestly, class action lawsuits should have shut the movie down years ago, made it too financially risky to touch. Whatever tho.

After that I gotta walk to the bus station to use the machine to add money to my proximity reader buss pass card thing. On the way I hear lots of robins (the fake US kind, migratory thrushes). I use my blood money pay card to add thirty bucks to the pass – fare is close to three bucks during peak hours.

Soon I’ll have a bit more money than the plasma sauce – a few hundred dollar settlement stemming from a contract-breaking mass layoff a few years ago, the one that led me to this sorry state. Something about having a useless bachelor’s degree or a bunch of white hairs keeps even minimum wage jobs from calling me back after the interview, so I’ve been underemployed since. I’m freelancing for little enough return that I don’t even make the minimum that requires you to file taxes in the first place.

The station was pretty empty after rush hour and before lunch. A small group of Pacific Islander teens was spread out by need – some were waiting near the middle of the station, some had to go all the way to the ends to smoke. But they didn’t bother getting up to talk with each other, they just yelled across a hundred feet like that. Should they go to the store? Who was hungry? Good stuff to consider. Apparently truancy officers aren’t a thing any more. It doesn’t confront me too much, but I hope the kids are OK in life.

The bus ride is slower than the car ride along roughly the same route in reverse, and drops me off not far from where I live. Next to the stop and the 7-11, there’s a tiny reservoir where red-winged blackbirds hang out in the summer. I usually stop to look. It’s sunny and I can see one clearly, but he isn’t flying or preening, so no pretty colors to see. I do like their call though.

I get two one dollar slices of pizza from the 7-11 and a small slurpee. The pizza is stale as hell but hard to argue the price. I’m just glad the slurpee machine is working. It isn’t more than half the time.

And then I’m home. Half a day down for the neighborhood of minimum wage. But you know, it could be worse. I need to improve my circumstance so I can care better for the people who depend on me, but for the moment? I feel OK.

-Update: Thursday, the white-crowned sparrows had arrived. Nice.

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