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There will be blood: Me vs. me (and Jason)

Every couple of months, I go to the Bloodworks Northwest office in Olympia to get a vein tapped.

I enjoy these visits. I get to check the “no” box to the extensive list of circumstances that can befall humans, including “Have you ever received a dura mater (or brain covering) graft?” and “Have you ever had a positive test for babesia?”

Before the blood flows, you get a little medical check — an employee tests your blood pressure and the iron level in your blood, and feels your pulse to ensure your heart isn’t going clickety-clack. Then, after you’re done, you get all the refreshments you can fit into your pockets and you’re out the door.

I treat these visits as cursory medical checkups, kind of like how a potential customer sizes up a used car — me in this case — by kicking the tires and listening to the engine rev. And all it costs is blood.

What I don’t like is sitting still for several minutes while my blood flows, so last year I started timing how fast I could fill the pint blood bag. This kind of competition against myself has become a substitute for constantly competing against others, which in the past has occasionally turned out badly. It’s mostly me vs. me now, and no one’s feelings get hurt.

Most people take about eight minutes to fill a pint blood bag, according to what a Bloodworks blood extractor told me. On Oct. 21, 2021, I broke 5 minutes, clocking in at 4 minutes, 49 seconds. I was thrilled.

I’ve since asked people who donate blood how fast it takes them, and can you believe this: Many of those people don’t know and don’t even care to know. What are they thinking about instead? Blood oranges? The execution of Saint Sebastian? Dracula?

I got a text Saturday morning from Jason, a fellow in his 30s who moved to South Sound a decade or so ago from Vermillion, South Dakota. Jason wondered whether I wanted to check out his new workplace. It was a slow day, he wrote, adding that he was considering donating blood during his lunch hour.

“Do you donate blood?” he texted.

“I do,” I texted back. I then shared my bloody record.

Thirty seconds later, Jason texted back. “LOL. I’ve gone faster!!”

And I thought I was the only one who was keeping track of such things. Jason said he remembered his time was around 4 minutes, 35 seconds.

“It’s amazing we both do that,” I told him over the phone.

“It’s because we’re both crazy competitive,” he replied.

OK, so I compete at yoga. Is that really crazy?

People have accused me of being too competitive, but I rarely react to the comment. It seems similar to noting that I’m 6 feet tall or have blue eyes. Being competitive seems to be an attribute I have little control over. I’ve even been told, “You’re the most competitive person I’ve met” — like it’s a contest!

But they don’t know Jason. I’ve been in close pingpong games against him and the focus and intensity I feel across the table hollows me. I know I’m going to lose. He has the presence I imagine I present to others.

I could let Jason’s blood record stand, but I am a weak vessel, so I made an appointment to donate Monday. That morning, I drank a gallon of water over two hours before checking into Bloodworks. I explained to my blood extractor, who was just two years out of high school, that I wanted to break my friend’s mark of 4 minutes, 35 seconds.

“Ooh. That’s fast,” she said.

“I’ve done 4:49,” I replied.

“That’s really good. My mom did it in 4:07.”

Great. Now mom’s on the list.

“How many people keep track of how long it takes to fill a pint bag?” I asked.

“Maybe 10%, but I don’t think a lot of them turn it into a contest,” she said.

During the extraction, the woman was encouraging, updating me on my progress, giving me time and volume numbers, and tossing slang like “You’re killing it!” I clocked in at 4 minutes, 59 seconds. I blamed an inferior needle insertion. Next time.

I am competitive, and as you can see, mostly about inconsequential matters, but I’m not as mindless as I once was. I was playing pingpong Sunday afternoon when my opponent tweaked his left knee. He had to take a few minutes to get his knee straight before returning to the table. The old me, at that point, would have reacted to the fellow’s infirmity by hitting shots to his backhand side, which would have further stressed his weakened knee. But I didn’t do that this time.

I’ve matured, plus he wouldn’t have beaten me anyway.

■ Contact Kirk Ericson at [email protected]

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Kirk Ericson, Columnist / Proofreader

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Shelton-Mason County Journal & Belfair Herald
email: [email protected]


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