The Lady of the Flake
Then, the nurse interviews you. You're sure you haven't had unprotected sex with prisoners or used IV drugs with a needle you found under a bus-stop bench or borrowed a kidney from an indigent sex-worker? It's okay, they won't judge you; they just want to know. And you insist to all and sundry that you're good. And then, finally, just as they are inserting the line to grab your fluids, you're given a small slip of paper to sign, wherein if there is any reason whatsoever this blood might be dodgy--some reason you are holding deep in your possibly-tainted heart-- you can just put a little check there. No one will ever ask you any questions, you'll never have to say anything out loud, they'll even take your blood so you don't feel shunned. They just won't use it. Of course, the entire blood-supply is tested anyway, but I just love that idea that the Red Cross has found a way for people to participate without doing harm.
Could we please create this system for people who are going through a flaky time in their lives? Note how I didn't say flaky people; I think while some people will be flaky from the first thermos they lose in pre-school to forgetting to attend their own funeral, the vast majority of flakes are going through a phase. It's a month, or a year, or the better part of the 20th century, but it's a time in their lives when they honestly will miss more than they hit. I've had these times, I suspect you've had these times. These people might be having fun doing whatever is distracting them, but they also spend a lot of time getting yelled at, or iced out, or losing out on future opportunities because they've irritated the people around them. Or, in the case of this morning, they promise to volunteer at a local shelter I work with, they confirm with me last night, and then they miss their shift this morning, leaving two people with a three-person job. One of those people was me, the one with the allergies and the asthma; it took two showers before my trachea was speaking to me again. And, of course, the terrible irony is that the very nature of flakiness renders the person in its thrall incapable of being able to predict that they're completely no good to anyone right now. You can be as flaky as a well-made pie crust and all ignorant outsiders see is a reasonably articulate person vowing to take you to the airport.
And then you miss your plane.
So, here's my suggestion. If you have missed more than 33% of your promised appointments in the previous two weeks, and the reason is not "My chemotherapy is really cutting into my day" but "Man, I just couldn't get going this morning," you are now in a flaky phase. We who monitor such things will put a ring on your finger, something impossible to take off so you won't be tempted to forget it someplace or wash it in hair-dye or throw it at a pigeon or something else kind of flaky. And then, whenever you promise someone you will be somewhere/do something/marry someone, people can look down at your hand, see the subtle yet unequivocal marker which says "That thing I just said will never happen." And the person can smile and thank you for your kindness-- for the part of your brain which is good and decent and longs to be sprung from the incoherent fog which is flakiness, without having any expectation of your assistance. When your attendance rate in life finally rises above 80%, we'll come by and pick up the ring again.
(We'd just ask you to mail the ring back to us, but you could relapse, and we want the ring.)
As with the Red Cross, this series of checks and balances won't completely eradicate the problem; flakes will slip through. Special dinners will sit uneaten. Laundry will remain in the washer until it's as green as Ireland. Younger brothers will still arrive to celebrate Christmas on the 28th. But I believe we need to begin letting the world know who cannot be expected to bring the yams to Thanksgiving. Or the turkey.