Friday, September 27, 2013

The Day I "Failed" My Drug Test

The government wants my bodily fluids.

Okay, that's being a bit overdramatic. They don't want all of my bodily fluids. (Yet.) They just want my urine. Lots and lots of my urine. (And occasionally my breath, too.)

One of the "fun" things about being a truck driver is that the DOT (Dudes On Tricycles  Dogs On Trampolines  Desperately Obnoxious Texans  Department of Transportation) requires that I be subject to random drug tests. I guess it makes sense, because no one wants people who are on drugs or have been drinking to be driving trucks on our nation's highways and byways. (Although I, like most Americans, don't know what exactly a "byway" is.)

But, as a "clean" truck driver, I've always looked at these tests as annoyances. I've never worried about passing the tests, because I've never taken any illegal drugs, and I've never so much as even tasted a beer. (I've smelled beer, and that's enough for me. The smell of beer reminds me of shoveling rotted, moldy, mice-infested grain inside a windowless metal granary in the heat of the summer when the temperature outside the metal shed was over 95 degrees and the temperature inside was well over 100 degrees. And barf. So, just the smell of beer has been more than enough of a deterrent for me.)

How it works is that every so often (it might be once a month, it might be once in a couple of years) my employer will get a notice that my name has been drawn, and it's my turn for a random drug test.

It was worse when I used to work at the warehouse of a local, Utah-based grocery store chain. (For the sake of anonymity, we'll call it "Smith's.") This particular grocery store chain also did random drug tests on all of the employees at the warehouse. So, between "Smith's" and the DOT, I was doubled up on the random test list. I would rarely go more than two months between drug tests.

A woman would come to the warehouse with a list of names and a bunch of empty bottles. The names would be called, and the bottles would be filled. If the bottles couldn't be filled, then it was time to drink, sit and wait. I always felt bad for the woman and some of the things she had to put up with. No one was ever happy to see her. Those who knew they might not pass the test were often belligerent with her. (I was always amazed by how many employees were "caught" and fired due to the random drug tests. It would be, "Hey, I haven't seen Jasper around for a while. Where did he go?" "Oh, he got caught by a random last week.")

And, sometimes the woman would get stuck hearing things she just didn't want to hear. Like the time one of our more mentally challenged employees, after having to do the "drink, sit and wait" told her, "Ma'am, I've been waiting so long that now I have to go out of both ends!"

Not satisfied with just taking my urine, the DOT will occasionally also ask for my breath. I remember the first time I got picked to do the random breathalyzer test. I was at the warehouse, and did the test at a table in the break area where all the other employees were walking by. The sheer horror on the faces of some of those employees who thought that the company was now administering breath tests was pretty funny. I had to reassure them that it was special treat reserved only for the truck drivers.

Just trying to give the Government what it wants. (One cup full of urine at a time.)

So, last week when I got the notice that I had been the lucky one "selected" for a random drug test, I wasn't too worried. I had been through this before, many times. At my current job the procedure is that I will get a notice that I've "won the urine lottery," then I have to go in, either that day or the next day, to a nearby medical lab that specializes in administering drug tests.

So, I got my notice, finished my night at work (I was too busy to break away), and figured I'd go in the next morning on my day off.

The next day I went through my usual routine, except I made sure I didn't go to the bathroom after brushing my teeth. I got Roni off to kindergarten, loaded Buzz up in the van, grabbed a soda pop and a bottle of water to drink on the way in, and made the twenty minute drive to the lab office.

I got there, signed in, and went through the usual procedure. I emptied my pockets. (They have to make sure I'm not carrying someone else's pee in my pockets.) (Because, you know, that's something that I regularly do.) I was given a cup. I was shown the line to which I needed to fill the cup. (The government needs enough of my urine to fill two little vials.) I was then sent to the toilet room with the emphatic instruction to DO NOT FLUSH THE TOILET!

I followed the instructions and did what I was told. Everything was going fine until it was time to fill the cup. I didn't quite fill it up to the line!

What? This had never happened before! But, it was this close to being up to the line. Surely that would be enough, right? The lady poured from the cup into the two vials. Nope. Not quite enough. I had "failed" my drug test!

So, I was given a cup, the same size as the cup I had just tried to fill (but NOT the same cup!!!) and told to take it out to the drinking fountain. I needed to drink plenty of water and sit in the waiting area until the time I felt I could fill the (other) cup up past the government's need-for-pee line.

One immediate problem faced me: I had Buzz with me. So, I had to figure out how to entertain a three year-old boy in a doctor's office lobby. Buzz decided that the thing he would most like to do is jump up and down. He did this four or five times before I was barked at by the receptionist. "There is an office directly below us, and they can hear everything! I'm surprised they haven't come up here to see what's going on yet!" Great. So now I have to wrestle with an active, hyper three year-old, keeping him from jumping up and down, so the idiots working beneath a doctor office's lobby don't hear sounds from the people above them. Nice.

In between my wrestling matches with Buzz, I would take the cup they gave me (the second, non-urinated cup) to the water fountain, fill it, then quickly drain it like a shot glass. (Not that I've ever drank anything from a shot glass. Really. I've just seen it done on the movies and the television.) I would take four six-ounce "shots" of water, then go sit down and try to keep Buzz from disturbing the cellar dwellers for a few minutes, then I would get up and take four more "shots" of water. I followed this routine at least four times. (If you are counting at home, that's at least 16 "shots" of water.)

And, eventually it worked. I had to go to the bathroom again. So, I stood up and announced to the room my intentions to give it another "go." (Pun intended.) (Not funny, but intended.)

Once again I emptied my pockets. (Still no foreign urine in them.) (No domestic urine, either.) Once again I was given a cup and shown the line to which I needed to fill it.

And, once again, I came up just short of the line! I "failed" again!

Of course, if they would have just combined the urine from my first attempt with the urine from my second attempt, they would have had more than enough urine to satisfy the government overlords. But, no, that would have made sense. And been too easy. And we can't have that. (This is the government we are dealing with, after all.)

This time I was given another new cup and the instructions to "Drink some water and wait until you can go again, but don't drink more than 40 ounces." WHAT??? Umm, it's a little late for that, I'm afraid. 16 cups of water at six ounces per cup comes out to 96 ounces! (For those of you that are mathematically challenged, 96 is larger than 40.) (For those of you that are not mathematically challenged: 96 > 40.) Oops.

Besides my inability to fill the cup to the appropriate line and the fact that I drank more than two times more water than the government recommendation, I had another problem. My daughter, Roni, was at kindergarten. Kindergarten lasts half a day. And, because of my inadequacies, my attempt to give the government some of my bodily fluids was quickly becoming a more-than-half-a-day event.

I told the lab people that I needed to go home and get my daughter from kindergarten. They said that I needed to finish the test within three hours of when I had started it, but it was okay if I left and came back if it was okay with my employer. That led to a very awkward phone call from me to my boss's assistant. (I'm sure he was not expecting to have a conversation about urine when he picked up the telephone.)

So, with the approval of my work and the lab, I took Buzz and headed to the van. (Once we got out of the building, I encouraged Buzz to jump as much as he possibly could on the sidewalk.) And, of course, about ten minutes into the twenty minute drive home those 96 ounces hit me: I really had to go to the bathroom.

We made it home and waited the ten to fifteen minutes for Roni to arrive home on the bus. While we waited, I spent most of my time shuffling from one foot to another, because I really had to go to the bathroom.

I threw Roni in the van, along with some licorice and some crackers. As I attempted to make the twenty minute drive back to the lab in less than ten minutes, I was constantly stuffing food into my face to try to keep my mind off the fact that I REALLY had to go to the bathroom. 

We've all used the term "hold it" when referring to needing to go to the bathroom but waiting until the appropriate time and place. Well, by the time I got off of the freeway exit, I was literally holding it because I REALLY, REALLY needed to go to the bathroom.

And then, about a mile away from the lab, I reached the breaking point. I didn't think I was going to make it to the lab without peeing my pants. I REALLY, REALLY, REALLY needed to go to the bathroom!!! So, I pulled over to the side of the road.

Roni asked, "What are you doing, daddy?" I knew exactly what I was doing. I was going to walk around to the side of the van and go just a little bit, just enough to relieve the pressure, but not enough so I wouldn't be able to fill the darn cup. It was a perfect plan.

Until I actually got out of the van and walked around to the passenger side. I looked around at the five lanes of busy traffic. I looked at the nearby houses that had an unobstructed view of me on the passenger side of that van. I looked at the van itself, with all of those windows and with my kids staring out those windows at me. I realized the van just wasn't going to provide me very good cover to carry out my plan. (It is, after all, a mini-van.)

And so, I couldn't do it. I got back in the van and drove the rest of the way to the lab. I unbuckled the kids and herded them into the building. As I waited seemingly forever (about 30 seconds) for them to call me back, I did the two-step shuffle of my feet, not giving a damn whether or not I was making too much noise for the office crew downstairs.

And then, I went through the old routine again. I emptied my pockets. (Still no urine there!) (Luckily.) I was given the cup and shown the line. I didn't care about the line. I took that cup into the bathroom and I filled it! I filled it and I kept going. I could have filled five or six of their cups if they had wanted me to. I could have filled one of those big round orange coolers if they had wanted me to.
I did not fill this. (But I probably could have.)

And finally, it was over. Everyone was happy. The government had my bodily fluids. And I had never been so relieved in all my life.

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