One of the first things I did when I walked into the gymnasium was pull aside three male nurses or doctors and reveal to them a harsh, scary secret from my past.

"When I was 6 years old, a doctor and a nurse broke into our house and tied my mom and dad up and took blood from them until they died," I said. "And the nurse and doctor were both dressed like clowns, so you can see I'm a bit nervous about this. Do any of your people dress like clowns?"

"No, sir," one said seriously. "We don't do that."

I felt bad that they took me seriously, but I say some very strange things when I think someone is going to deliberately poke me until I bleed. And that's what was happening to me that night.

I had good reason to be grumpy and delusional. After a long, draining day at work, I remembered, just before I was about to eat a late dinner, that I had agreed to go to a Red Cross blood drive to be drained for real that very night.

I was pressured into this by this guy at church. He's very annoying because he knows so little about the importance of pontificating on the importance of service. When such topics come up, he just raises his hand and offers everyone the opportunity to go serve with him. It puts a real damper on the discussion.

He and his wife will take you with them, at your expense, all the way to Peru to help distribute eyeglasses to the poor. Or he'll enlist you in an effort to help the needy at Christmas or Thanksgiving or ... on Tuesdays. There is no time when he and his wife are not helping and lifting others. He was the one who roped me into giving blood.

I don't like blood drives because I'm worried about deflating. I know this rarely happens, but what if I'm the guy they accidentally puncture and deflate just because they think if anyone is going to lose some girth, it might as well be me? And what if they look at my weight and decide that clearly I can afford to give more blood than another person because there is so much more of me to be giving?

So when I arrived, I kept trying to find a way to be honestly excused from the upcoming ordeal. I pulled two people aside at different times and in quiet, embarrassed, serious tones, said, "Did you know I once voted for a Democrat?"

That didn't work.

(I will pause here to give you the opportunity to insert you own joke about people in Utah being used to being overtaxed by "blood-sucking Democrats." I'm not going to do it.)

I managed to slow the process down so much that by the time they led me to my lawn chair stretcher, the rest of the nurses and doctors were packing up. I was the last person to give blood that day.

When I was a kid, if I had done something brave like that, my mother would take me out for a milkshake. I couldn't hope for that, so I started lobbying for a cool Band-Aid with happy faces or colorful balloons on it. They had no such things, and the only woman nurse-doctor type who was there finally came over to me and drew a hip happy face on each of my arms just so I'd be quiet. These weren't the kind of boring 1970s happy faces we saw in the movie "Forest Gump" but the kind of happy faces young women put in notes to their boyfriends. I was pleased and proud.

Even though I cried out in pain as if I had just received our phone bill while the blood-letting was going on, the guy nurse-doctor who poked me gave me this really cool, bright-red gauze bandage that he wrapped around my elbow several times so I looked like Dennis Rodman with an elbow injury.

I drove home proudly, despite the fact I was missing most of my blood, secure in the knowledge that my wife would greet me with great sympathy and treat me like a returning war hero. When I proudly showed her my bandage and happy face tattoos, she just laughed at me and told me that when she gave blood they never had to bandage up her entire arm.

"Were you afraid your arm was going to fall off at the elbow?" she said.

Our new puppy was interested, however, and would have eaten the bandage if I had let him do so. That's pretty much how he shows compassion, concern, happiness, joy, boredom and grief. He just eats whatever is closest to him. I guess I can relate.

So, the Red Cross has my blood now. I never looked, so I'm not sure how much they took, but I think it's safe to say they drew at least four gallons out of my deflated body. I lay in bed last night imagining I was a wounded tough guy like Bruce Willis and even considered getting up, taking my shirt off and taping a gun to my back but, sigh, I knew my wife would just laugh at me.

The happy faces won't wash off. The nurse-doctor used some kind of serious Red Cross permanent tattoo marker. Not that I've tried that hard to get them off. I wear them like happy badges of honor. I'm sort of like a tattooed Blood Biker riding wild and riding free. People respect and fear that.

Want proof? Since I earned my ink tattoos, I haven't seen a single clown with a needle. Not one. They don't dare show their faces.

Coincidence? Oh, I think not.