The Screen

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The indignity of grovelling to work.

I sat at the table. The man on the other side examined my application, resume, credit apps, personal references, DMV print out, police report and FICO scores. He was gray haired, fairly stiff, officious. He glanced at me over his glasses, down a little on the bridge of his thin nose.

“Everything seems in order. Your expertise meets or exceeds our requirements for the position offered. Congratulations, Mr. Newhouse, you are now employed by the Global Mega-Com Division of Post, Pink and Bellow – Main office, sub-level B — Facilities.”

Seemingly out of nowhere, the small sealed, green-capped harbinger of total control: the Specimen Cup. Our eyes looked up from it at the same time.

“Of course, after the standard urine test.”

I sat back comfortably.

Standard?”

“Yes, Mr. Newhouse. A blood test is required for all new hires.”

“I’m not clear, perhaps you can enlighten me. Is that for blood or urine? Because if I had that much blood in my urine, I’d likely be applying at a hospital.”

“It is a drug test, Mr. Newhouse.”

I leaned forward. “Now we’re getting somewhere. Does this esteemed corporation discriminate against cigarette smokers?”  The man, a Mr. Smith I believe, looked at me with a pained expression. “No, Mr. Newhouse. While there is no smoking on any company property by any employee, those who smoke away from work have no fear for their jobs.”

“That’s good. You can understand my concern—cigarettes have 400 different chemicals, most of them deadly and I would hate for any of those toxic compounds to deny me gainful employ. Were I to have them upon my person, that is. Which I don’t. Kill almost half a million Americans a year. Alcohol?”

His glazed eyes perked at a break in my soapbox. “No. While there is no drinking of alcohol on any company premises, employees who drink when not on company time are not forbidden their imbibings. Can we proceed..?” He pushed the cup toward me, very deliberately.

“That is instructive. No penalty for the off work drinker. And who doesn’t need an eye opener from time to time. Curious that you wouldn’t screen for a drug that is the major cause of workplace injuries, fights, accidents, error and which kills the user to the tune of about 80 thousand of your fellow citizens every year.” Simmering beneath his stoic demeanor, I could tell he wanted to take that cup and extract his objective directly. 

“Pharmaceuticals?” He inhaled very slowly, deliberately, it seemed almost interminable. “That would depend upon the condition.”

I shifted; he interpreted it as a move toward the cup. He humored me, watching my right hand as I moved it ever so slightly toward it. I leveled a stare at him and he looked up from my hand.

“The condition?”

Another deep inhaled sigh. “The condition of the patient relative to the job required. There is an expectation of coherence.”

I laid my hand flat on the table next to the cup. He trembled slightly. “As I would expect from an employer as well. That’s why I choose to clear up any questions regarding policy in advance. It seems a quality one would prize in an employee. So employees on medication that doesn’t impair their coherence or impede their performance are not discriminated against in this urine test?”

“Post, Pink & Bellow does not discriminate and employees under a physician’s care are not exempted from employ here. Can we proceed?”

“Most assuredly.” I grabbed the cup. He settled back, victorious. “Properly prescribed pharmaceuticals kill tens of thousands every year, improperly prescribed ones well over a hundred thousand, close to two. SSRIs are noted in a significant number of school shootings, post office shootings, job shootings. As you don’t screen for those, how do you monitor those employees who are on them? From an employee confidence perspective…you understand. 

As I slowly unscrewed the lid, he inhaled again (very predictable). “At Post, Pink & Bellow, we provide employees on the health plan with counseling and performance evaluation, while monitoring them in constancy so any deviancy is rooted out before it spreads.” He considered me hard as he emphasized the last bit.

“This is very good to know. I appreciate your taking time to acquaint me with the details of your policies in regard to how they govern my private life.” I hesitated, the lid almost free.

“What percentage of your employees are on the health plan?”

He was starting to crack, a vein in his forehead becoming prominent. “The majority of our full time employees who have passed the probationary period are covered under the generous company health plan…”

Before he could further impel me to the business at hand I cut him to the quick. “What percentage of your employees are full-time and meet that criteria?”

“I’m not at liberty to discuss such details.” Before he could continue I jumped in again. “I see. Well, as most illicit drugs are out of one’s system within hours, beyond being a heroin addict, is the real purpose of this urine humiliation to screen for cannabis?”

He leaned forward, seething contempt. “Yes, Mr. Newhouse, it is. We screen for marijuana use. Is that all?”

I smiled and removed the top. He seemed a little puzzled. “Cannabis is legal in California.” 

“We operate under the federal guidelines.”

“Under the federal guidelines this would be a Fourth Amendment violation.” Slowly I rose, pushing the cup toward the middle of the table between us, toward him. I still held the top.

“Just to be clear: you don’t employ people who legally use a non-lethal, non-narcotic, naturally occurring plant owing to guidelines set by a government that imports illegal drugs, siphons them to the streets to fund terrorism and bombs people who might not like them.”

Fully standing my voice rose, causing him to look at my face and not at my hand on my fly.

“Instead you employ people who are suicidal, self-poisoned, loaded with toxins, prone to outbursts of irrational behavior and homicidal fury with even a slight alteration of their dose that you can’t regulate – you monitor them all, while providing medical to the very few executives who qualify.” I unleashed my fury, blasting the specimen cup across the table, onto his lap in a wild spray of his much coveted piss. I finished and returned junior to Trousertown, tossing Smith the little green cap, sitting there soaked and seething.

“Much as I’d love to sweep up around here, 30 hours a week, for seven bucks an hour, I’m just concerned about the stability of your staff under pressing conditions. As you can see, mine works just fine. But your policies seem to leave you wide open to abuses.” I shook my head.  “Clean yourself up. You disgust me.”    

© 2013

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