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Gristmill: No Free Lunch

Wed, 02/09/2022 - 17:18

This sounds cheap, but I’d like to protest the disappearance of soup and sandwiches at the mobile New York Blood Center drives.

I’d planned Friday afternoon around donating at the Sag Harbor F.D. and then relaxing with a wedge of Italian hero, quietly consumed over a New Yorker profile of Margaret Wise Brown until, refreshed, humanitarian duty completed and plastic water bottle pocketed, I rose and strode across the linoleum and out to the parking lot just in time to make the 2:51 school pickup.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a bag of kettle-cooked potato chips washed down with cranberry juice as much as the next guy, but it’s just not quite the same. And having given gallons of nearly universally applicable O-positive at this point, I feel I’ve earned the right to complain.

Sure, there’s this virus going around, but regarding germs on food, I should be on my deathbed right now after handling those Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews immediately after the filth-smeared gas nozzle at the Gulf station the other day. What can I say, I forgot myself. But that’s the immune system for you.

This visit with the fine blood center folks was the swiftest, smoothest yet. And while I’ve come to dread the pre-donation finger stick more than the subsequent needle in the arm, both are like life — what you don’t want to do is overthink it, while directing your attention elsewhere.

I’ve given blood before in the pandemic, but this was easily the smallest turnout, a half-dozen hardy souls braving slight discomfort for the sake of a far-off hospital. It reminded me of an essay I once read about a guy’s experience getting a vasectomy, how the doctor looked at him approvingly for being man enough to undergo it, feeling obliged to offer “This is gonna bite” before sinking a needle into his gonads.

The technicians’ banter while they efficiently make their rounds is always entertaining, but what’s of note is the lack of the health professional’s trademark callousness in processing faceless patients. These are skills to be praised.

About the food, I hope its absence is out of Covid caution, not budget cuts, because we’re almost past this thing, can’t you feel it? And if the answer is no, you can’t, it’s here to stay, then let’s get back to normal anyway and reintroduce the drives’ foodstuff fortification to attract more donors.

Schmidt’s Market in Southampton, for one, makes a mean clam chowder. I should know, I enjoyed it one day in a firehouse out that way when the world was a different place.


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