Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Paranoia Strikes Deep...

Last Thursday I got called in for a random drug test.

I have a CDL driver's license, which for those of you who don't know, is just short of being the federal driver's license everyone has been worrying about for years. It was mandated by the feds, administered by the state. I've had this driver's license for 10 years, and it's been totally unnecessary for me to have it to do my job, but my employer requires it.

Why? Well, I work for a large school district. I take mail to schools. I've been doing this for almost 30 years in various size vehicles. When CDL licenses became mandatory for drivers in certain categories, like semi-truck drivers or school bus drivers, then those folks became subject to random drug testing.

See, over the years interstate truck drivers have had this reputation for being high on speed, highballing from state to state in a semi-comatose state, kept awake by chemicals, babbling inanities into CB radios. I guess when they started regulating this some truck drivers had licenses in several states and if they lost one license they still had several more. The feds stepped in and in their way put an end to this sort of thing.

I don't know what schoolbus drivers have a reputation for except for putting up with a lot of bullshit from the students. Of all of the things I'm glad of by working for the school district, it's that I don't have to have a bunch of screaming kids behind me.

However, when OUR schoolbus drivers were forced to get CDL's and it made them subject to drug testing they got downright testy! They claimed that other District drivers should also be forced to participate and so I got dragged in with a new job description requirement, gotta have that CDL.

So I've been eligible for random drug testing since '95, but for 10 years managed not to get called in until last November. What happens is that a list comes down from the state and the driver is notified first thing in the morning. They must have my number, because I got called in again last Thursday.

For the record, I don't take drugs except for the drugs prescribed me by my doctor. I had a bad car crash in December and was prescribed Lortabs, which I took a few times for the pain from my broken sternum. My boss drives me crazy enough that sometimes I need to take a Valium, kindly provided for me by my friendly family doc.

First thing I noticed Thursday morning when I was pointed toward the men's room of the District Transportation Department was that a young woman was standing waiting for me. She looked to be 21, stocky, with spiky hair and a Misfits hoodie sweatshirt. I thought, "This is the person administering the test to me?" Yikes.

Drug testing is pretty sophisticated nowadays. They don't want you pulling out a vial of someone else's clean urine, so they make you take everything out of your pockets. After some preliminaries I was handed the cup and told to go into a stall. Misfits Girl had drawn a line on the cup about 1 1/2" up from the bottom. "Fill it up to here at least," she said. "Go quick."

Luckily I had three cups of coffee pushing at my bladder walls just waiting to shoot out of my urethra into a receptacle. The toilet was full of a blue dye. "Don't flush if you have to use it," she also said. Yes ma'am. Considering the firehose-like pressure of my urine I thought I might need to use the toilet after all for the spillover, but amazingly I filled the cup just short of the top. Good job, I thought.

I handed the cup full of warm piss to Miss Fits and she looked at a numbered strip along the bottom. "It's 96ยบ," she said. I guess that meant I passed that part of the test.

OK, that was over. I resisted the urge to tell her, "When they test it they'll find it's 99% Starbucks." I collected my pocket junk...a comb, hanky, coins, a pen, and headed out the door. I was 40 minutes late for my route so I did what I shouldn't do: I broke some speed laws trying to get back on schedule.

I was actually pretty happy with the whole situation, thinking I was done for at least a month in case I got called back in randomly, but then the ol' paranoid doubts started filling my brain. The night before I'd taken some Sudafed for a stuffy nose. That stuff has pseudoephedrine, and that's a component of meth. I started sweating. What if they check my pee and find traces and think I've been taking meth?

I had a coworker a few years ago who tested positive for THC, the active ingredient of marijuana. There was nothing he could do. His District career was over, and he was never able to get a CDL license again. The paranoid thoughts raced through my brain but as is usual with me my brain also started figuring out contingency plans. I thought, "I have 2 1/2 more months and then I'll have 30 years in with the District. If they fire me I'll just buy that time from the state retirement system and retire with my full 30." Problem solved.

Despite the warm, fuzzy feeling that gave me I don't want to get fired. I don't want anyone accusing me of using drugs.

The usual M.O. of the drug testing company is to call the person first, confirm that he or she has a prescription for what is found in the urine, or if it's a strictly illegal substance like THC, lower the boom on the guy and tell him the bad news. Then they contact the employer.

When we sat in on our initial meeting, telling us we were going to be subject to drug testing, the guy lecturing us told us not to eat poppyseed muffins because that would show up as an opiate. Was he just bullshitting us? I've heard both ways, one that stuff like that is too minute to show up in urine, and if it does they have a way of knowing it's not heroin, or that yes, it does show up and no, they don't have a way to tell if you're slamming H or ingesting muffins.

I'm leading up to nothing so far. It's been 6 days, and how long does it take to process the pee anyway? My coworker was tested on a Wednesday and called that Sunday night to be told he'd flunked. I've got one eye on the calendar, folks, wondering if I'll hear the phone ring.

I don't know about you, but I'm paranoid about all of this government required stuff. Look what happened in '66 when I innocently showed up for a pre-induction physical thinking there was no way I'd pass. I got my ass drafted! I found out then that sometimes what seems right or logical to you doesn't pass with the feds.

And especially nowadays, with President Ronald McBush in the White House, looking out only for his rich cronies while the rest of us surrender civil liberties, some of us willingly and some, like me, not so willingly.

'Bye! Postino

No comments: