Last Friday was blood donation day at work. The blood transfusion service came in and set up in the big hall on the third floor of the building.
After lunch, I went down to give blood. This was partly motivated by my general policy of trying to experience many different aspects of life in Japan, partly because it’s a good thing to do, and partly just to get away from my desk for half an hour.
I went in and sat down at the registration table. The sudden and unexpected arrival of a foreigner caused some visible alarm to register on the faces of the 4 staff members on the other side of the table. A foreigner? What do we do now? This won’t end well.
One of the young doctors asked me 初めてですか “is it your first time?” I replied, 日本で初めて ”first time in Japan”. So far so good.
Then, one eyebrow raised, he asked me この問診表が読めますか ”can you read this?”, holding out a sheet of paper that appeared to contain hundreds of complicated questions. I looked at the first one for a minute or so trying to puzzle out the meaning. Bizarrely, it appeared to be asking whether any of my teeth had fallen out in the last three days.
At this rate, it would take me hours, with a dictionary, to get through the full questionnaire. I gave in to reality. 読めません ”I can’t read it.”
With apparent relief, he informed me that if I couldn’t read it, he was very sorry but I couldn’t give blood. Thank you and good day.
But I wasn’t ready to admit defeat. 同僚に手伝ってもらいます “I’ll get one of my colleagues to help me”.
I looked around and saw Mr Matsumura in the recovery area. I asked him if he would help me. He said he would be delighted to, and sat down beside me. We got through about 5 questions, about teeth falling out, recent infections, and prescription drugs, when we came to “have you spent more than 1 month in England since Showa year 55”. No, I had not.
At this point, the young doctor interrupted. What country was I from? Ireland, I explained. Some brief discussion followed, and a couple of white-coated assistants carried in this comically large list of rules. I mean, it was a board about 5 feet high and 3 feet wide, like a prop for a public lecture or a TV programme.
To their credit, and to my mild surprise, they were sufficiently well-informed not to think that Ireland was part of Britain. But Ireland was on the list of countries that represented a risk of CJD (mad cow disease), and the threshold was 6 months. So they asked me if I had spent more than 6 months in Ireland since 1980. Yes, I had. Slam dunk, you’re out, thanks for playing.
Well, they didn’t say that. In fact they were hugely (and unnecessarily) apologetic and offered me a free carton of apple juice as a consolation even though I hadn’t actually given blood.
So, the whole thing worked out well from my point of view: I got away from my desk for half an hour, I had an interesting Japanese experience, and I got free juice!