Thoughts from places: Carmichael Hall

Content warning: This column mentions blood/needles and HIV.

The line that usually wraps around Carmichael Dining Center in the early hours of the afternoon was missing. Last Friday, the particular buzz of a hungry crowd of college students, freshly starved by lecture halls and study sessions, was absent. Instead, there was an eerie silence, save for the blaring rock music coming from the common room (prompting the reminder that I was hot blooded, and the challenge to check and see). The large white truck boldly labeled with a red cross and the handful of signs with arrows pointing toward the front entrance, gave notice that the blood drive was coming to a painfully slow close.

After trading a meal swipe for a Red Cross Rapid Pass scan, and the aroma of freshly baked goods for a finger prick, I found myself in an all-encompassing interview. The phlebotomist asked questions ranging from my sexual activity with partners who could have potentially had other partners that might have possibly had HIV, to how I was liking my long-term stay in Massachusetts. While more than half of her inquiries were prescribed to all donors, the rest were asked with an aura of warmth and interest.

Shortly after, I found myself lying face up, with blood flowing out of my vein and into a donor bag. Occasionally, there would be instructions to squeeze the stress ball in my hand, but more often than not, there would be nonchalant references to the Rock of Ages concert she’d attended four times or remarks about the time she visited my part of the country to see Bon Jovi (prompted by the reminder that I was hot blooded, and the challenge to check and see), only for a blizzard to cancel the show. The conversation bounced around from Halloween plans to potential dinner party ideas.

Overall, the experience was summed up by its sharpness. The sting of a needle was to be expected, but it was the biting contrast that really stuck out. Of the four stations set up to draw blood, only mine was filled. There was chatter among the staff of the Friday afternoon rush, but having already seen the signup sheet, I knew that seemed unlikely. Despite the fact that less than a fifth of the Tufts population was needed to fill every single bed for the entire week and that the experience itself was brief, pleasant and rewarding, that same sense of charity was simply missing. Nevertheless, even the insipid wait for donations was approached with a pleasant sense of charity.

The vast majority of students on campus had the ability and time to form a second snaking line around Carm. A 15-minute experience could have, as the brochures love to volunteer, saved three lives. While many students did in fact go on this brief detour to help others, most did not. Luckily, there are two more blood drives this year, and the capacity to limit the stabbing sharpness of the experience lies with the general Tufts population.