I was woken up at around 8:15 by my father calling on my phone. I talked to my father briefly and when I was done Richard asked me the time and I told him. Richard had asked his roommate Louis to call at 8 am to wake us up, but apparently he forgot. We started getting up.
I had slept in the night in one of the big comfy leather chairs, leaning back and propping my legs up on my normal chair. I had a blanket over me, thanks to Robin, who had given us blankets and pillows last night after finding out we were crashing in the office.
I suppose I should go back and start with last night, then. Let's try this again.
When Richard showed up last night I marked myself away in AIM, we got ready, and then headed out. We were planning on checking the blood bank at 67th and 1st avenue (the New York Blood Center). We walked over to the 6 train on 23rd street but found to our dismay that it was closed. So, with no better way of getting there, we straightened our shoulders and put our feet to the pavement.
Blocks in NYC aren't the longest, and we were mostly walking short blocks, but let me tell you - walking 46 blocks uptown and then another 4 blocks across town is not a small hike. Add that in to the fact that I already had racked up an hour and a half of solid walking earlier and I might as well have entered into a marathon yesterday. Walking the blocks in the city is even harder, as you are often stopped by traffic or forced to dodge people. With cops patrolling and in some cases blocking some roads it was even longer. Time and space are stretched in New York; if you don't believe me, come visit here sometime and see how long it takes you (and how much it tires you out) to walk a single mile in the city. You'll be surprised.
There was a short line when we got there, but there were signs posted saying what they really needed was type O positive and type O negative blood. Richard fits the bill; I don't. We walked up to the administrator and asked if we could give blood. He said they were filled to capacity and simply couldn't accept any more tonight, but that they would need more tomorrow and would be reopening at 8 am. He gave us cards and also handed us tickets which we could show the next morning to show we had been there already and get bumped closer to the front of the line.
We pocketed our tickets and walked off with a sigh - we had just schlepped 50 blocks for nothing. We started walking back, discussing what we were going to do now. On 62nd Street, I saw a sign.
No, not a vision from God - someone had taped up a sign saying to give blood, and had little tear-offs on it with the address of two local blood collection facilities. Yes! I ripped one off, showed him, and we looked at each other for a moment and discussed it - and then headed over to the closest one. It was up on York, near 66th. Richard remembered the way so we turned west and headed there - but fortunately one of us (not sure which one anymore, honestly) thought to ask for directions just in case and it turned out his memory was wrong - York is to the east. We turned around, me ribbing him about his directions, and then headed on over. When we got to the Hospital we found signs on the door saying to go to the blood bank on 67th to give blood. We almost gave up, but Richard asked someone walking out of the hospital if they were still accepting donors and he said that if we went around to the other side he thought they still were. Again, we looked at each other, and then headed over. It was now after 6, we had spent around two hours on this quest, we weren't going to give up now.
We got to the 1st Avenue entrance, and walked in. There was a line, but it didn't seem that long. We went to the woman with the clipboard and asked if we could give blood. She said they'd be happy for it, but that the wait was about an hour and a half. We looked at each other again, sighed, and asked for the paperwork. After we filled it out and turned it in, we headed outside and decided to get some food while we waited.
Now, it's perhaps worth noting at this point that we were both a bit scared. Ok, we were both very scared. Richard shares at least some of his sister's fear of needles, and my own fears had gotten amplified over time with her and especially at his description of the act of giving blood. He had done it in Arizona a few times and had really hated it, but still did it anyway, which I do really respect. He described how they took a huge needle, 4 or 5 inches long, and sunk the entire length into your vein. He said getting stuck with it hurt like hell, and on top of that there was an anticoagulant on the needle that burned like a mofo. He said it was rather agonizing and would hurt and burn the entire time the needle was in you. On top of that, in order to pull a full pint they had to take it at a much faster rate then when pulling a vial or two, which is all I've ever had done, so that you can actually feel the blood getting sucked out of you. All in all he described it as an absolutely horrific event, and I will admit that I was scared before he described it and honestly rather terrified of it afterwards. Yes, I am a coward.
(I stopped there as I had to go. I'm picking it up now to finish it.)
We got back in and were told to come back in another hour, as they were running even further behind. The first time we had come a woman had come in saying she needed to give platelets for her cousin who was in critical condition and needed the blood. She was turned away because there were so many people waiting to give blood, and told to come back in a day or two. They told her they had a large supply of platelets on hand and would be glad to take hers in a couple of days once they would be better able to handle it. She seemed somewhat shocked. We left before finding out the resolution.
We left after being told to come back in an hour the first time and went looking for dinner. First we looked at a place called Peter's, right near the hospital, but seeing that a plate of spaghetti was something like $12 we figured we could do better for the price. We checked a McDonald's after that, but it was closed due to the tragedy. Next we checked out a pizza parlor, which I first declined but then decided to check out when I noticed the signed picture of Spider-Man in the window. We saw other signed photos, though, from celebrities we were less fond of, and almost moved on, but then a signed photo of Pavarotti tipped the scales so we headed in. Inside, though, they had no meaty foods (they had no more meatballs for meatball parms!) so we moved on. We wanted the meal before our blood donations to have a little heft and iron content to them.
We settled on a small diner called the Starlite Cafe or something. It was small and a bit dark and a bit dingy, but ok. We each got burgers - he got a deluxe beefburger with cheese on the fries, and a I got a deluxe cheeseburger. For those not conversant with diner food, the "deluxe" plate means it comes with fries, lettuce, tomato, and a pickle. I gave him my pickle.
The waitress was in a bad mood. Richard made a comment about it being a long day and how we walked up over 40 blocks to get here. She growled about having worked for 18 hours and at least we got some fresh air. He made a comment about it being not all that fresh, and then shut up and she stalked off. Oh well.
I went into the bathroom and was greeted by the oldest automatic hand drier in the known world. It looked like it was designed (and manufactured) in the 30's, with a cheesy name like Sani-dry or something, and boasted of disinfecting your hands while it dries them with ultraviolet light! Yeah. It had a little beam of light that when broken would kick it off. Very Buck Rogers.
We ate our burgers, and he grudgingly tried the gravy the waitress suggested for his fries. He didn't have any more after that. We had a final glass of water and then headed back to the hospital. We got back and were turned away again, told to come back in an hour. We went outside and sat on the benches outside the hospital, both becoming obviously more nervous. Richard struck up a conversation with the woman sitting next to us on the next bench, who talked with him for a while and then got up and went inside. We sat out there for a while longer and then went in to check. They were still backed up but we decided to wait inside in case they called our names. They were calling names and then handing each person they called their paperwork and ordering them. As each person's turn came up they were checking their vitals and making sure they were ok to give. A few were turned away due to bad blood pressure - mine apparently was actually pretty good once I my heart rate calmed down (I was very nervous - Richard said my heartbeat got over 104 for a few seconds, but the nurse said to calm down and so I tried to focus meditation-style and apparently it worked as my heart rate dropped quite rapidly and they were able to accept me. I suppose the martial arts were good for something. I have no idea what the normal heart rate is for a 24 year old male that's been sitting still for 30 minutes, but I have a feeling it's somewhat lower than 104 bpm.)
After passing the initial test, people were called into the back in the same order for the 2nd round of tests, where they prick you and check your hemoglobulin (I think) levels to see if you're anemic or normal, basically. You need to have a 12% level to pass, and a surprising number of people failed that test. I "scored" a 17.9% which is apparently very good, so I was perfectly ok to give blood.
After filling out the questionnaire (no, I haven't had gay sex recently nor have I engaged in acts of prostitution, or even used intravenous illegal substances, sorry) they took me to the back room and sat me down in the chair. The guy taking my blood (Ruben) smiled and asked me if it was my first time. I said yeah and he told me he could tell, but just to relax, it wouldn't be that bad. I laid back, he checked my arm, "painted" it with iodine and tied off my upper arm, and told me to squeeze on a ball. He then took the needle and stuck it in and set me up, taped it down, and then told me to relax and I think took off the tourniquet. I watched the tv and spent a few minutes trying to calm down, and then I took a look. The needle was 3 inches long, I'm guessing, and was stuck the entire way into my arm. It actually hadn't really hurt, and didn't really feel all that bad to have in there, but it did make me nervous. The thought of having it in my arm was very disturbing but not for any rational reason. Hey, I did say I was a coward. I watched it for a minute, but there wasn't much to see - you can't actually see the blood getting drawn or anything. After maybe 10 minutes (I'm guessing, I don't actually remember how long it was) my bag was full, so he clamped me off - and then proceeded to fill something like 6 large tubes full of blood, I suppose so they can do the testing and such to make sure it's clean and whatever. Good lord, adding that to the pint that they draw, they really sucked a lot out of me. I've never had more than 3 or 4 tubes worth of blood pulled at a time.
After that we sat in the break room drinking our juice and eating our cookies. Richard struck up a conversation with a girl (woman, female, chick, whatever, I'm tired) who had also given blood - the three of us had been the last three they took (it was now something like 8:30 or 9 pm - this is around 4 or 5 hours after we initially left my office to go looking for a place to donate blood. We had covered something like 4 miles on foot, perhaps more, walking in circles from place to place trying to find a place to donate blood or lend our help). She was a freelance writer who lived a little bit uptown, named Robin. When she heard we were going to be sleeping in my office she offered to lend us blankets and pillows. We thanked her and then walked up to her apartment with her - swanky place, I have to say. Obviously she's a successful writer. She brought down a huge duffel bag full with 2 pillows and 4 blankets. She was awesome. He arranged to meet her tomorrow for a date^H^H^H^H to go looking for places to volunteer. (Yeah, he was honestly going to volunteer, but if he managed to hook up with her at the same time I know he'd be quite happy with that too. So don't think poorly of him, it wasn't just a way to pick up a chick, he really did intend to do good today - and did.)
Anyways, after that we headed back - walked to the subway, then rode it down to my office. When we got back we spent a while chatting with the guard, and her husband, who had come out to stay with her until they let her go. She had been there since the morning shift and was told to stay until midnight as it was the soonest they could get someone to cover for her. That sucks, I hope she gets some nice OT or something for that. After that we went upstairs. That was around 10:45 pm.
We settled in, realized the T1 was down so we were cut off, and went wandering around looking for a way to find out what had happened. I remembered a tv in the conference room so we went upstairs and watched the news for a while and then took showers in the CEO's shower. (Yeah, he has a shower, and no, I don't know why. It's been said before that if we ever had to work overnight we were welcome to it, so I took advantage of it.) We also went looking for any sorts of towels or anything and didn't find any - but we did find the promotional t-shirts they give away to certain members and at certain events, so we each took one. Screw it, if need be I'll pay for them, but we were hot and sweaty and exhausted and weren't going to sleep in our dirty clothes. So we showered and put on clean shirts (yeah, the rest was dirty, but you take what you can get) and watched the news some more and then went to sleep. I slept in a chair, he slept on the floor.
The next morning, we were woken by my phone ringing.
(To be continued.)