My kingdom for paper towels.

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 August 9, 2005.


My kingdom for paper towels.

Working in an office by myself is essentially a dream come true for me. Virtually limitless peace and quiet, no supervisors breathing down my neck, no annoying co-workers I have to pretend to like. I decide what needs done and when. I’m free to handle the rigors of my day-to-day operation in essentially any way I see fit. Aside from the schedule and the rules directly relating to collection, I’m my own boss.

Except when it comes to supplies.

Pens and soap, forms and kits, toilet paper and bluing agent — these are things that, despite my best intentions, will eventually run out. When I’m low on something I have to send a fax up to my bosses and pray they don’t ignore it. On one occasion where I was without on-site collection kits for three days my supervisor apologetically explained, “You do such a good job up there that nobody complains about you. So sometimes we forget you’re even there.”

Isn’t that touching?

Currently I am involved in trench warfare concerning, of all things, paper towels.

Let me explain something to you people. It doesn’t take a fistful of paper towels to dry your hands. There’s enough real estate on two towels to cover the average pair of human hands, including in between the fingers. Maybe three sheets if you have exceptionally large or exceptionally hairy hands. Maybe four if you’re the missing link.

The reason I run out of paper towels far faster than any other commodity is because people tear them out of the dispenser like they’re going out of style. Five, six, seven towels — gone in a flash. Double that if the person washes up after the collection as well. Donors descend on paper towels as though a hunger consumes them, raw and primal.

While I find this practice irritating, another block of paper towels is usually only twenty steps away in my back room. I can get the key to the dispenser, acquire a fresh block of towels, and have everything stocked and ready to go in the time it takes the donor to squeeze out a sample. They emerge from the bathroom, none the wiser.

This assumes, of course, I have the towels to begin with. Right now, I have half a roll of generic kitchen towels to cover both bathrooms. This is because, for some reason, my supervisors can’t or won’t send me a box of my usual stuff. Imagine my chagrin when I send another desperate fax up top, pleading for paper towels, only to have the boss’s wife come skipping up a half-hour later with a single roll of kitchen towels.

It won’t last me the day.

This story is about two weeks old now, and has not concluded yet. Until I get a box of those lovely, beautiful brown bricks of paper I will be on edge.

People absolutely hate having to dry their hands on their pants. Absolutely nothing in the drug testing procedure solicits the kind of verbal abuse that asking someone to wash, but not dry, their hands does. I still vividly remember an occasion where a man was so irate about the lack of paper products in my office that he actually reached out to dry his mitts on my shirt.

I wonder if this is something the powers that be over at the main office do to remind me that, yes, they are the ones still in charge. “We’ll let him stew a bit,” they say, “and we’ll send him his paper towels when we are good and ready. He will receive the pittance we give him and he will be damn grateful for it.”

Time to send another not-so-polite fax upstairs, explaining the situation. It’s war, man. The lines have been drawn and the stakes have been raised. It’s Towelgate 2005. There is nothing short of a worldwide communist conspiracy in place keeping me from my paper towels.

The current record of paper towel consumption for a single collection is nineteen. That guy had the driest hands on Earth once he was through.
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