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Sunday, Dec. 24, 2000


Roll up your sleeve when Lance comes calling

Hospitals come and go -- especially on our island. You can always tell when the hospital comes because it's a large mobile contraption that rolls off the ferry. When it's time to go, it rolls back onto the ferry and you can wave goodbye to the hospital as it goes back out to sea. It's basically a big bus, stocked with everything you could possibly need for 10 minutes.

Recently, the mobile hospital came to our island to collect blood. Manned by women who are Red Cross nurses, they collect people's blood, then drive off. No wonder it's called a blood drive.

But to me, the mobile hospital is more like a giant mosquito that comes, sucks out your blood, then leaves. I've named this mosquito-bus Lance.

When Lance came to the island this year, I didn't even consider donating blood. I'd never given blood before because in the United States, ants can't give blood.

You see, you have to weigh at least 50 kg and I never weighed enough. I was always the one high-school student who was spared when the blood drive came to school. I was kind of glad after hearing the advisory to blood donors that they may feel dizzy after giving blood and that they should refrain from sports immediately after giving blood.

Besides, there was something slightly Draconian about a gym full of people lying in white sheets with machines siphoning blood from of their arms. I mean, what if the machine malfunctioned and didn't stop? So, I've always felt trepidation when it came to donating blood and was secretly always relieved that I was exempt from the whole thing by virtue of being such a tiny creature.

I didn't pay much attention when the giant mosquito landed on our island. It turned out, however, that Lance was creating quite a buzz. People were swarming in and out of Lance all day long. As I passed the bus, someone said to me, "Aren't you going to give blood? "I'm sorry," I replied, "I'm just an ant." "No problem, you can still give blood," he said.

It turns out that in Japan, a nation full of ants, if you're under 50 kg, you can still give up to 200 cc of blood. I quickly realized there was no way out of it -- they were going to feed me to Lance!

As I stood there looking dubiously at Lance, the nurse asked me, "What's your blood type?" Being American, I didn't know. "I don't remember," I said. Well, only an ignoramus would not know their blood type in Japan. This is because supposedly, your blood type reveals a lot about your personality.

The most common blood type in Japan happens to be A. A types are diligent and serious people. They are conscientious, precise, accurate, punctual and may be oversensitive. The most common blood type in America is, apparently, B. Type B people are self-centered, but sociable and open-hearted. They tend to do things their own way and at their own pace. Type O people, only 20 percent of Japanese, are said to be indecisive but have generous hearts and are liked by everyone. Type AB is rare, only 10 percent of Japanese. These people may be capricious and have dual personalities.

I was diagnosed as having type A blood. This was a great relief to me, as I had finally found out my blood type after nine years in Japan. Furthermore, I could now be assured that I was living harmoniously with the Japanese people, since most of them are also diligent, conscientious, precise, accurate, punctual, oversensitive types.

I suddenly knew that I was doing the right thing by sacrificing myself to Lance. Without wasting any time, I walked over and entered the giant mosquito. I offered my arm and surrendered myself to those in charge. Fearing oversensitivity, I looked away while the needle was administered. I gave blood diligently. I gave blood precisely. I gave blood as accurately as I could.

The whole process took just 10 minutes. And when Lance was finished with his meal, I felt glad I had donated my blood. The giant mosquito rolled back onto the ferry and I waved goodbye as it went back out to sea.

I walked home a very conscientious white ant.

Visit the Japan Lite home page at www.amychavez.com or e-mail comments to: amychavez@mailexcite.com

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