I sat up straight, both arms out, two cotton balls already taped to the inside of each elbow. He came at me with the needle again.
I was giving blood.
But unfortunately I'm not very good at it.
I am, as they say in the phlebotomy business, a "tough stick."
I inherited many qualities from my father. Among them apparently were very small veins. After trying to get blood from both arms they were going to go for a hand. Fortunately although I am an easy scare in the movies I'm as stony as a Roman Stoic when it comes to people sticking me with needles. I'd have been a fabulous junkie if I wasn't too lazy and too chickenshit. (Liquor stores and bars are just so much more convenient! But I digress.)
Ordinarily in these situations I suspect the medical personnel keep a running patter going to help distract people and keep them calm. In this case I was the one pattering as my sticker was getting more upset and apologetic that he couldn't get me stuck.
His associate walked in. I know her from previous visits.
"Hey Mr. SponsorPants. Nice haircut."
"Thanks. New year, new hair I figured. Plus, well, as a gentleman of a certain age, maybe it's time for me to permanently give up the 'I'm growing my hair long' fantasy. Gandalf? Heroic! Dumbledore? Indubitably! Me? Maybe not so much."
"Ugh, I should give my father your email." This from the young man desperately, gently, probing the back of my hand for someplace to poke me again. "He wants to be a musician so he's grown his hair long and wears it in a ponytail. It's like this long, white... thing hanging off the back of his head."
"Oh, no. No, don't do that to him." I said. It just slipped out! Honest!
He looked at me, more curious than insulted. (Thank God. He was, after all, holding the needle.) "What do you mean?"
In for a penny...
"Well, it's... it's not easy getting older. And he's reviving a dream, being a musician, right? Reinventing himself. Don't make fun of his ponytail. Maybe it's a symbol for him of his youth, or being an artist. Maybe look at it as a brave thing your dad is trying. Tell him it'll grow on you."
He shrugged. "Well, that's another way to look at it. Listen, do you want me to keep on trying or..."
"No, no, it's cool. Next time I'll come earlier and I'll drink more water."
I gave them some coupons for my restaurant -- enough for themselves and the rest of the volunteers and staff (marketing!) and headed out.
I thought about what I'd said and I was a little aghast. Where do I get off? I replayed it all in my head and it sounded either pompous or crazy or some horrible combination of both.
Walking down the sidewalk, I thought about how different my drummer is sometimes. I'm doing more writing lately and it seems to have given a new tint to the lens of my self examination. I'm not being critical, exactly, but the distance between my reactions and my attitudes vs. those of my fellow humans suddenly feels pretty wide, on occasion.
But also that same newer viewpoint is showing me (I think) the result of a life in AA. (It's been half my life now, roughly speaking). How AA has shaped me. I know for a fact that my knee jerk reaction to what that guy said about his dad, about being supportive rather than not, is the direct result of sponsorship. Of trying to help people see the recovery -- the good -- in themselves, and not just the addiction.
I like that. I like that guy -- even if sometimes that guy has things unspool out of his mouth in these unasked for, grandiose little nuggets. But who knows, maybe he'll give his dad a break. It's a little thing, and nobody asked me, but it's not a bad thing, either.
I'll be coming up on a sober anniversary soon (not very soon, but soon) and around this time I usually become more aware of how AA has shaped me. Sort of like "It's A Wonderful Life" but in reverse.
It keeps coming back to gratitude, I guess.
And, even with a new tint on the lens I'm using to look at myself, that's a nice place to keep coming back to.
There are more stories like this one in "Mr. SponsorPants: Adventures in Sobriety and The 12 Steps for AA's and Others." Available as an eBook on Kindle via Amazon. Download the Kindle reader app for free on any device or platform, from PC to Smartphone, and enjoy eBooks anywhere you have time to read.