The Humor and Life, in Particular Web site
author:  Margie Culbertson

The Price I Pay for a Good Story


Kelli Mutchler

Sept./Oct./Nov. 2008 Humor Writing Contest Winner

Best Very Short Humor

Donating plasma is painless.

"Like giving blood," I was told by my roommate, a registered nurse, "only they put the red platelets back into your system."

She checked my elbow for veins, while I pondered my generous social conscience and the meaning of the word "platelet." My understanding of the process was limited to the exciting $25.00 payment.

Jab me up!

I innocently believed that the only fortification required for this physical test was a well–hydrated body and an indifference to sharp medical objects. As it turns out, it would have been wiser and less traumatic to just bleed on a street corner and busk for the same price.

Walking tentatively into the donation center, I was handed a binder and told to read the chapter on HIV/AIDS. After perusing 15 pages, one of the attending nurses asked me to read aloud from the same information.

"It’s a literary test because, like, a lot of patients might just say they don’t have AIDS," she assured me. Oddly enough, the fact that this came from a high school drop–out, with a lower reading IQ than the patients who fibbed about carrying contagious diseases, was not assuring at all.

Luckily, the doctor who reiterated this information was a bit more serious. When I failed the pop–quiz, (Should I not share heroin with a prostitute born in Ghana between 1970–1975, or was that a trick question?), he shrugged and said "It’s not really important anyway."

If I had been a loose woman living in Central Africa during the disco decade, obviously it might be.

After fudging a few more details about the dangers of blood transmission, the plaid–shirted doctor handed me a plastic drinking cup (Kmart special, 3 cents) and nodded toward the bathroom. "I’m gonna need a urinary sample as well, which we’ll check for drug traces and stuff."

And stuff. Like liquid protein run–off from last night’s dinner? Backing into the toilet, I couldn’t help wondering if this was another trap — this one to catch sly drug dealers with an ounce of cocaine wedged up their rear end. More harrowing than the thought of setting my bare derriere on a drug–encrusted seat was the realization that Dr. Awkward waited directly outside the door and could hear, with porcelain–pinging clarity, my 2.3 milliliters of pee.

Bereft of all necessary bodily fluids, I returned to the first nurse. Clacking fingernails eagerly on her keyboard, she made me recite my social security number repeatedly.

"Because, like, a lot of patients might just say they’re legal citizens."No illegal aliens, no junkies, no human immunodeficiency virus? If it weren’t for the convincing verbal demeanor of the medical specialists here, I might actually be worried.

Luckily, there was no other reaction to take when my nurse proved to be even more inept than I’d suspected. When an older nurse questioned her ability to process my personal information, she responded ponderously, "Um, sure, this is, like, my fourth time!"

Four is coincidentally the number of certified, female healthcare providers it took to insert a needle into my left arm. Each one poked, squealed, and squirmed like it was the appendage of a leper and called eagerly to coworkers, "Come look at this!" After the third round, other patients were straining at their plasma machines to glimpse my 207 freakishly small veins.

When the head nurse finally found an appropriate inlet, there was a party of applause and cheers from the staring crowd. I was about to give a wave of appreciation when colors began exploding in my eyes. I barely managed to raise the other hand before slumping over in darkness.

"Oops. Think we had the machine turned up too high," a voice crowed from above. If the state of my mental and physical well–being has been regulated to this — abandonment in a room of hung–over hobos, prodding by bubble–gum–chewing teens with sewing utensils and ultimate death — for a few extra bucks, then I won’t make the "oops" of giving plasma ever again.

Besides, when I finally came to, they wrapped my wound so tightly it wouldn’t bend, and I had to drive home using my head, shoulder, knees, and toes.

©Kelli Mutchler
After an allergic reaction to the Real World, left Kelli with an unsightly rash and the inability to sit still. So she gave up her Creighton University cubicle for the 180–degree landscapes of Australia. Hungrily — but amusedly — surviving, Kelli rarely says no to a cash–earning opportunity. From simulated medical patient to plasma donor to motorcycle t–shirt saleswoman, these travel stints inspire most of her stories.

Never sure what antics or locations she’ll land in next, Kelli’s only attempted routine is a blog update. To visit the site Click Here . Eventually, she’d like to pen something worthy of a Pulitzer or the Colbert Report. Until then, she’s living out of a backpack, on carbohydrates and last week’s dirty laundry.

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©Margie Culbertson

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