Let’s take it from the top.

From 2005 to 2008 I maintained a blog about my experiences working in the drug test industry. Every Sunday I revive one of those experiences here. The following was originally posted May 18, 2007.


Let’s take it from the top.

One of the services my company haphazardly provides is hair testing. The deal with hair testing, essentially, is that the lab can trace your drug usage history back as far as you hair has been growing. I guess, in theory, they could take a 30-year-old woman who hasn’t had her hair cut in 16 years and find out what kind of substances she used in high school. I’m fairly sure there’s a cap on how far back various agencies are allowed to look into your drug history to consider you for employment. In any case, this is why Brittney Spears recently flipped out an shaved her head. No hair, no drug test history.

Hair collections are generally a snap. Snip snip, fold the hair into a foil strip, seal it up in an envelope, and now it’s the lab’s problem. It’s so easy, in fact, that interviewers can do it literally right there at the interview — no need to send the applicant out for a costly urine collection. Unless, of course, the applicant has no hair on his head… then they send him to us so we can take the hair from elsewhere.

In my day I’ve skimmed chests, snipped underarms and clipped napes. It has thankfully always been our company policy to not use pubic hair for testing, although there is a spot on the form for it, so it’s definitely an option. So, easy as they are to conduct in theory, you can see why I’ve always dreaded doing hair collections: it means I have to go into some bald dude’s pits. And, since it’s tricky to get the requisite one-by-one-and-a-half inch patch of hair from even the shaggiest of chests, it likely meant that the lab wouldn’t do the test at all and the guy would just be sent back for another try. I’ve had several cases where, after three failed hair tests, the company broke down and just settled for a urine test instead.

I mean, even bald guys have to pee.

I was overjoyed about two years ago when the hair testing regulations were changed to only allow hair from the head, and nowhere else. I never knew the reason for the change and didn’t much care… my days of doing hair tests were over. Huzzah, etc. It meant, of course, that once every six months or so I would have an irate bald man in my office screaming at me, but I nonetheless considered it a bargain.

So imagine my disdain when I sit down at my computer today to see a message from my boss: “Can you do a hair test?”

Crap.

I put up a halfhearted fight and pointed out that, really, I’d rather be doing anything but hair testing… but in the end it wasn’t going to work and I knew it. Nobody else in the office is trained to do them. I have no idea who was trained on them before I started here, put it’s kind of a moot point now; some clown was on his way to get a hair test done for a car dealership.

(I’ll point out here that of the thirty or forty hair tests I’ve done, they have all been for car dealerships, to the very last man. I don’t even have a vague theory on why this is.)

In any case it doesn’t take long. By the time we’ve scrounged up our hair test supplies, Mr. Tattoo is waiting in the lobby. I snap his form out of the box and look at his ID.

He’s entirely bald.

Thank heavens.

Of course now I have to explain that he made the trip out here for nothing, but again, I consider it a bargain.

“Mr. Tattoo? You’re here for a hair test, right? There’s a small problem.”

“No problem,” he says, lifting up his shirt. He has hair on his chest, but not nearly enough to get the required amount for the lab.

“I can’t take it from your chest. It has to be from the head.”

“No it doesn’t.”

“Sorry, Mr. Tattoo. They changed the regulations on hair testing a few years ago. Nothing we can do.” I hand him his ID. He snatches it and whips out his cell phone to call whomever it is that people always call on their cell phones when they’ve been denied service for something.

So I get out of having to do a hair test and Mr. Tattoo doesn’t have to work at a car dealership. I think I’ll call that a win/win.

We offered to do a urine test instead, but Mr. Tattoo had already failed one. Go figure.

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