To Pee, or Not To Pee

“We accept the terms of your counter offer. We’d like to offer you the job.”

I restated my counter offer to verify that’s what they accepted.

“Yes, that’s what we’re offering you.”

Great, then, I accept. I gleefully offered.

“You have 24 hours from right now to complete your drug test.”

Huh? Are you serious?

This didn’t upset me because I was worried about not passing the drug test. It upset me because, ever since I was a little girl, I haven’t been able to pee in front of other people. While on road trips, driving from North Carolina to Florida to visit the grandparents, my mother would run the faucets at rest stops along the way, thinking that would somehow inspire me to finish more quickly. I’ve never been subjected to a drug test before. But, I did want this job. How bad could it be?

I BARTed to the drug testing center in Oakland with my sterile paperwork. I took the elevator to the lab and informed the young, hip receptionist with braids cascading down her back that I was there for a drug test, offering my paperwork. She shook her head. “Oh, no, we don’t do that no more. You gotta go across the street, 4th floor, room 407.”

I crossed the street and entered the dilapidated medical building. As the elevator doors creaked closed ever so slowly, my only thought was, This seems like the setting for a horror movie where a crazy intern slaughters everyone.

I walked down the narrow hall, void of any decorations. The blah beige walls didn’t welcome me, didn’t make me feel comfortable about being there. Maybe it was the color of the carpet, blah beige as well, but it seemed dirty. I wasn’t feeling any love.

I entered room 407. There, in a small window, was a sign in roster. I printed my name and looked around. The barren office decor mimicked that of the hallway. I saw a man, hunched over, beyond the window, in a corner of the main office, perhaps completing paperwork. I tried to make as much noise as possible. He didn’t budge. Maybe he was a victim of the crazy intern.

I sat down, smoothing my skirt, fidgeting, not comfortable in this stark environment. An ancient, dusty plastic ficus stood beside me. I didn’t realize leaves could droop on fake plants, but these did.

I heard my name called. The man from the corner was at the window. I met him with a smile and a good morning. He stared stoically at me with mad eyes. His black wiry hair protruded from his head in all directions. His beard was uneven. And he stared. That uncomfortable feeling of constantly being watched.

He took my paperwork without words. He asked for my drivers license. Upon receiving it, he studied it, studied me, stared at it, stared at me. “This doesn’t look like you.” I smiled. It is. I used to have short hair, I cheerfully offered. My response was met with a grunt.

He walked from the office into a smaller, narrower hallway. “Follow me.” I followed him into a large room, stark. Nothing but a table with handiwipes on it, a large box full of unused specimen cups, and 20 jugs of bottled water. I glanced around. “Do you know why you are here?” he barked. Surprised at his abruptness, I answered a weak Yes. I’m getting a pre-employment drug test. “Take off your coat,” he ordered. I panicked. Insane thoughts raced through my head. I can’t pee in front of him. And I can’t pee in this room. Surely he’s going to let me use a restroom. ohmygodohmygodohmygod.

I slowly took off my coat, folded it neatly, and placed in on the floor beside me. He eyed me, up and down. I nervously shifted from foot to foot. “You got any pockets?” No, none. “Take a wipe and clean your hands.” I did as he instructed, getting more and more nervous. He’s not going to let me leave the room. “Pick up a container.” I did as he said and stood there, waiting. He took the container from me and drew a blue line on it. “Fill it up to at least here. Here,” and he thrust the container back at me. I stood there for what seemed like an eternity. He stared at me. I stared at him. Finally, I said, Excuse me. Is there a restroom I can use? I don’t feel comfortable here.

He led me further down the uninviting hall and pointed me to a tiny bathroom. “Don’t flush.” I entered the room. The faucets were covered in duct tape so that they couldn’t be used. The handle on the toilet was taped, rendering it unusable as well. There was no lock on the bathroom door. My anxiety was building. I tried. I really did. He yelled at me a couple of times, wondering where I was and what I was doing. I offered a meek I’ll be right out…

I finally did exit my own personal torture chamber, handed him the cup, and recollected my belongings. He glared at me as I picked up my driver’s license. “What are you doing?” he demanded. I’m getting my driver’s license I explained, somewhat redundantly. Is there somewhere I can wash my hands? He pointed to the container of handiwipes on the table.

I exited down the narrow hallway, back to the waiting room. When I had arrived, it was empty. Now, however, there appeared to be a Teamster’s meeting taking place. Big, burly men in worn work clothes occupied every chair, some standing by the dusty plastic ficus. “WHAT’S TAKING SO LONG BACK THERE, BUDDY?” I heard one of them holler. The room fell silent as I walked through. I smiled, offered a Sorry it took so long fellas, and flitted out the door, never before so happy to be back on the streets of Oakland.

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