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By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian
By HERB BENHAM, Californian columnist firstname.lastname@example.org
Recently I went to the Houchin Blood Bank to give blood. I have news. The snack bar is stocked with those small peanut- butter bars again, which is the only reason to give blood, and I told them so at the front counter on my way out.
The ritual is comforting. Fill out the questionnaire on the tan paper and thank God you don't have Creutzfeldt--Jakob disease, a disease so horrible it has two names and a dash.
Blood pressure and pulse taken, finger pricked so they can see if your blood is still red and not psychedelic orange, and then you answer the questions about what countries you've been in lately -- a question, if answered incorrectly, can disqualify a potential blood donor and send him out the door in shame.
"Have you visited the new blood bank?" asked the young woman who ushered me back to the main room and the chairs after I had been cleared for takeoff.
I hadn't. I'd heard about it. In the blood world, Houchin's new location is like the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, one of the seven wonders of the world, and somewhere you have to see before they put you in it.
"It's big and beautiful," she said, voice hushed as if even talking about it required permission from her supervisor.
After I gave blood, the phlebotomist -- whose husband owns Big Popy's Deli on 20th Street and whose daughter, who runs the place, has recently rolled out what she says is a fabulous lemon cookie -- asked, "Would you like a Band-Aid or a bandage?"
I opted for the Ace bandage.
"Would you like it in purple?" she said. "It will match your shirt."
I did and she did, wrapping a purple bandage around my left arm that was nearly the same color as my purple polo shirt.
"Get up when you feel good and ready," she said.
I leaped out of the chair in order to demonstrate that being shy one or two pints of blood is nothing for a guy like me.
Did I not have the purple bandage on my arm that matched my purple shirt? I'm not saying I'm a hero, but it was hard not to think Purple Heart. The Purple Heart of giving blood.
"Look at that man. He gave blood. He is wearing the purple bandage."
I had been awarded the purple bandage. The only question was how long should I wear it? Drag it out or rip it off?
Back to work, parading in front of every cubicle and pod alike with my left arm hanging loosely by my side.
Home to Sue so that she knew that my life was grander than my sort-of-a-job, lunch, a nap, but also included being awarded the purple bandage.
Do I keep the purple bandage on all night, take it in the Jacuzzi, where it might become a purple mess and then wear it the next morning to Starbucks?
The barista might say, "Herb, I see that you have been awarded the purple bandage. Please have a tall iced coffee with sweetener on the house."
I was feeling good. I was purple bandage material, I had wolfed down eight of the peanut-butter bars and I still had Houchin's new location to look forward to.
If that's not a reason to give blood, I don't know what is.