Monday, December 20, 2010

Demeaning

Three times in my life I've had to pee in a cup for a job -- the two most recent ones for the same job -- teaching at a local university.
The first time I encountered peeing in a cup was when I went to work at The Tampa Tribune. One of my friends, SK, put up a stink about peeing in a cup, proclaiming it would violate her rights. All the bosses assumed she was doing drugs. I can't remember if she ever peed in the cup.
Then, back in the late 80s, the person administering the test had to come in the bathroom with you while you peed in the cup. As if it isn't hard enough to pee on command alone.
Some things have changed, I got to go into the actual bathroom alone, but others haven't -- the whole place felt slightly grimy and squalid. The place I went on Friday claimed to be an urgent care facility, but everyone who walked in while I was there came for a drug test. I couldn't imagine this was a place I would take one of my kids if they needed stitches. "We can run a drug test after we stitch that up," the "nurses" would offer. "See what he was on while operating that skateboard."
All of the drug testees filled out paperwork then were sent to the next waiting area in the inner sanctum.
The Mexican guy who finished his paperwork before me was waiting, along with a woman sipping a cup of water and reading a magazine. I immediately began to wonder if she had failed to pee in the cup so was forced to remain in this limbo, drinking water until she could produce the necessary urine.
I hadn't gone all morning and was in danger of needing to ask to use the facilities if they didn't speed things up a bit.
The businessman who came in after me joined us in the back room. He had been accompanied by another man who announced that the guy was there for a "random drug screening." The guy asked his escort: "Oh, we're only screening for random drugs?" The escort did not laugh.
So I immediately assumed this businessman must have a drug problem and be forced to return for random drug tests.
It was getting crowded in that back waiting area, but the "nurses" continued to chat around the corner. Finally, one came and took the Mexican man to the testing room where we could all hear the instructions. Gulp!
I'm not sure what kinds of people need drug tests. Maybe bus drivers, pilots, people who have the lives of other people in their hands. Probably not news reporters (unless they're driving the helicopter) and probably not part-time English teachers.
The cup had a little thermometer on it, one of those strips, and I was instructed to pee above the thermometer. I guess that insured that I hadn't snuck in someone else's urine.
Remember that Seinfeld episode where Elaine had eaten poppyseed bagels and her drug test came up positive. She finally got someone else to pee for her and they wouldn't let Elaine go on her work safari because the pee of the woman tested positive for menopause.
That made me smile as I washed my hands then entered the toilet cubicle. I had to keep reminding myself not to flush. Flushing is just a natural step that I will take without thinking. I chanted to myself throughout. "Don't flush, don't flush."
What is with the rule about not flushing? What evidence do they miss if someone flushes?
I gave the woman my cup. She sealed it and I signed my initials on it before I was permitted to exit the sordid walk-in clinic.
The businessman with the escort was still waiting, his leather jacket folded across his lap. The woman with the blonde ponytail was still sipping water and leafing through magazines.
The snow began to filter from the sky and I took it as a cleansing sign and shook off the grubbiness.

2 comments:

Linda said...

I went through the same thing for a blood test that I didn't want to have at a Doctor's office. A room full of very strange people.

You Know Who said...

You take an ordinary day in my life and turn it into such a funny story.

Peed in many a cup and but never have I laughed about it so hard.

Ps. A friend who recently changed jobs, is working at a place that does this In House, Randomly, all year round. How about that. I'm picturing the Public Address announcements, Jane Doe please report to the drug testing area, immediately.

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