Mike’s actual blood donation took less than five minutes. “Short of mugging a five-year-old,” he said, “it’s hard to think of an easier way to score free juice and cookies.”

by Mike Todd

“Aw, no,” I said, averting my eyes, but it was too late. Because of what I’d just seen, blood would most likely be spilled. Or rather, extracted.

There in the middle of the hallway sat the sandwich board that reminded me of an unfulfilled promise I’d made to a friend. I make unfulfilled promises all the time, but this one stuck in my head because it wasn’t to my dental hygienist, who must know by now that I’m never going to start flossing, despite my biannual protestations to the contrary.

This promise was to my friend and co-worker Don, who instant-messaged me one day with this: “There’s a blood drive today, and I always give, but I can’t this time because we’ve been to Africa recently. (You can’t give if you might have been exposed to malaria during the past year.) Can you give for me?”

The request would have seemed strange coming from anyone else, but Don is the kind of person who thinks you can make the world a better place by doing things to make it better. It’s an interesting theory, but one that’s really hard to test when you have so many awesome shows in your Netflix queue. Sorry, world, I’d like to help make you better, but “Sons of Anarchy, season 4” just came out.

Don doesn’t make excuses, though. He was probably in Africa digging wells with his bare hands and teaching lions how to read. One time he actually talked me into buying a carbon offset for my car, which invests your fee in enough clean energy to erase your vehicular carbon footprint. It’s a nice idea, but after a year I found an even worthier cause to invest in: our cable bill.

For donating blood, I hadn’t given since senior year of high school, when I gave two pints to get out of a couple of calculus classes. I’d gladly have sacrificed at least one toe to get out of calculating another double integral, so an occasional offering of blood seemed like a steal.

“I have a presentation to give today, and I’m going to need all my blood for it, but yes, I will donate very soon,” I promised Don.

Two years later (still “very soon” geologically), on a trip to the cafeteria, I happened across the sandwich board announcing “Blood Drive Here Today,” and I couldn’t think of an excuse (though I tried mightily) for not settling my long-unpaid debt.

The experience was even more memorable than I’d anticipated.

“Why are you putting pink gauze on him?” the guy from the registration table asked a nurse as she wrapped the arm of the guy next to me.

“We’re putting pink gauze on everyone. It’s for breast awareness,” she replied. The guy cocked his head and just looked at her for a beat.

If there’s one issue that doesn’t need its own campaign, it’s breast awareness. For most guys, if there’s a breast within a 100-yard radius, they’re aware of it.

“Really?” the registration guy asked, smiling.

“Oh, you know what I meant,” the nurse said.

Then she glanced at the bag of blood hanging from my arm and said, “Whoa, that shouldn’t be full yet. Guess you needed an oil change.”

And with that, it was over. Two years of pent-up guilt, gone in less than 30 minutes. The actual donation part took less than five. Short of mugging a five-year-old, it’s hard to think of an easier way to score free juice and cookies.

In any event, it’s nice to know that there’s someone like Don out there who cares enough to encourage others to be decent, giving members of society. Which is why I’ve blocked him from instant-messaging me.