The first time I gave blood it was a directed donation. Someone in my family needed blood, and he wanted blood from people he knew. I don't know why blood from people you know would be any better than blood from strangers, but that's what he wanted, and that's what he got.
I found out that I'm O positive, which is apparently the most ordinary common blood type. That figures. That also apparently means (as I understand it) that I'm a universal donor. I can give blood to almost anyone.
At the site, they greet you pleasantly, and then they start filling out a form. They want to know where you've been, and how long you lived there. This is partly because one strain of HIV is hard to detect with ordinary testing, so they do not take blood from people from areas where it is common. The interviewer is friendly, but completely serious about the questions. They ask about relationshiips, and tattoos, if any. The interview is done in a cubicle, in private, to encourage openness. They test your blood pressure and your pulse, take your temperature, and weigh you. You have to be over 110 lbs, and I am.If you wore short sleeves you dont have to remove any clothing. I believe you have to be over 17, but there is no maximum age.
After the interview and "physical", you semi-recline on a sort of modified dentist chair, and they swab your arm in the inside of your elbow and stick you. They're pretty good at it, they do it all day. Then they attach you to a sort of transparent coil and you watch your blood drip away. You do not feel anything in particular, physically. Although I was expecting to feel faint or dizzy, I never did. Many people read or listen to music. I just sat.
It's said to take ten minutes or so, but my donation took about seven and a half. Then they put tape on my arm, and thanked me, and gave me juice and cookies. I could afford the calories, because I'd just lost a little weight.
Eventually you get a plastic card that declares you to be a hero, with your blood type on it. You're not really a hero, but it is a better feeling than, say, putting a buck in the Salvation Army kettle, because it is slightly harder. But not really much harder. It takes an hour, tops, start to finish. It is certainly more personal. My uncle tested to donate bone marrow, though. Donating marrow is really difficult and unpleasant I hear, so he's way ahead of me. I have to go back and give more blood, to try to catch up.