Left, Right & Center
Jewish World Review / January 6, 1998 / 8 Tevet, 5758
Suspected druggie Roger Simon jumps through the employment hoops
WASHINGTON -- I HAVE ALWAYS BELIEVED in holding two or three jobs at the same time. That way, if you strangle one of your bosses, you still have a couple of bosses in reserve to sign the paychecks.
So, last week, I found myself standing in front of an editor and accepting another job, one that would pay me a nice salary while at the same time allowing me to continue to flaunt my ignorance through my syndicated column.
The negotiations were over and the deal was done when the editor said with a sheepish grin: "You will, of course, have to take a test."
A test? I said. Not a problem. Ask me anything. Want to know how tall the Washington Monument is? Five hundred and fifty-five feet. Want to know who the first vice president was? John Adams. Want to know who played Lumpy on Leave it to Beaver?
There was a pause.
"Well?" the editor said. "Who played Lumpy on Leave it to Beaver?"
Actually, I don't know, I said. But he was either killed in Vietnam or is currently a U.S. Congressman or both. Anyway, what I don't know I can study up on.
"No, this is one test you can't study for," the editor said. "This is a drug test."
I started laughing. The Supreme Court has ruled that railroad engineers, airline pilots, firefighters and police officers can be forced to take random drug tests because what they do in their off hours can affect public safety. But I write for a living. And unless I pick up my monitor and throw it at somebody (OK, I tried this once, but it was in the days of monochrome monitors, and they were much lighter, and my boss had it coming anyway), what I do has hardly any impact on public safety.
"We don't have random drug testing," the editor said, "but everyone must undergo a pre-employment drug test."
But what about the Fourth Amendment? I asked. The one that protects citizens from "unreasonable searches"?
"Nobody is going to search you," he said. "All you have to do is go to a clinic and urinate in a cup, and that's it."
I just go to a clinic and urinate, and that's it? I said.
"That's it," the editor said. "Except that they have to watch you."
They have to watch me? There are people in this world who are paid to watch other people urinate into cups? Gee, I wonder what they put on their resumes. Probably something like "Fluid Transport Control Officer."
"It's no big deal," the editor said. "So a guy watches you. So what?"
So what? You know how at baseball games when it's between innings and everybody rushes to the bathroom and there are long lines and you are trying to go and the people behind you are throwing peanuts at your head and yelling, "Come on! I'm missing the game!"? Well, sometimes that throws me off a little, I said.
"Nobody is going to be yelling at you or throwing peanuts," the editor said. "Guy hands you a cup. He watches you, and you fill it up."
And I have to do this? I said.
"Absolutely not," the editor said. "Only if you want the job."
I know what you are thinking: Drug testing is good, it is harmless, and it protects society. But if we really believed that, we would pull people off the streets and test them at random. We don't do that because we like to think we live in a free society. And civil libertarians believe that watching people's behavior during their first three months on the job is a far better test than having them urinate into a cup.
And so I could either support the Bill of Rights and my love for America or sell out my principles for a paycheck. Which is why I drank 10 cups of coffee to ensure I could perform on demand and went down to the drug clinic.
There, they handed me a form telling me that I would be tested for "amphetamines, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, cocaine, marijuana, methadone, methaqualone, opiates, phencyclidine and propoxyphene." I noticed that much more common drugs like "scotch, bourbon, beer, gin and vodka" were not on the list, so presumably, we believe they have no serious effect on human behavior.
I showed a photo ID, and a guy handed me a tiny cup with markings on the side. "Fill it no lower than the first mark and no higher than the second mark," he said.
Nobody told me this was going to be a custom order, I said. I just drank 10 cups of coffee, and I think I may have a little surplus for you.
The guy motioned me to a bathroom and said I could fill the cup in there and pour out any excess. Nobody watched me. I just did my duty and handed the cup to him when I came out. He took its temperature and sealed it and sent it to a lab.
This was last Friday, and I get the test results Tuesday.
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