N’awlins.

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 September 13, 2005.


N’awlins.

Last week I received a phone call from one of the local factories who use my company for their pre-employment drug testing. She requests Gold Service, which is my two-hour turnaround test, because she wants to hire these two individuals right away. She explains that they just arrived here from New Orleans and desperately need work.

The individuals in question arrive a few hours later (just before my lunch break) and do not speak English. So I have to call the woman at the company up and tell her to send these two applicants back with a translator some time after 2:00 pm.

After lunch, I fill out the Gold Service forms in anticipation for their return. They don’t make it back until a little after 3:00. Both collections are complete by 3:15 and their test strips are sitting on my counter. Almost immediately they come back non-negative for marijuana. One comes up for cocaine, as well.

I give these test strips the 90-minute grace period I give all my Gold Service collections, but to no avail. These people have quite clearly been using illegal substances, and very recently at that.

I leave the results on the factory lady’s voice mail. It’s too late today to send these samples to the lab for formal testing; that will have to be done the next day.

I call my courier first thing the next morning to pick up the samples, and no sooner am I off the phone with them (or, rather, their recording service) the factory lady calls me back.

She wants to know if I can just call them negative, and not send them out.

I give her a very large, firm, boldfaced “no” and that’s the end of it. I couldn’t even believe it. Of course I know a lot of these employers hire people who come back positive. A lot of these employers do the drug testing just for show. I’m convinced several of them don’t even bother to check the results they’re given. I envision a filing cabinet somewhere labeled “Employee Drug Test Results”, full of unopened envelopes.

But to ask the drug test guy to falsify results? And for what? To hire a couple people to work a crummy factory job?

Then, I started feeling lousy about it. There’s a good chance those two people had just lost everything they had, and need to make a new start of it. This job could have been the difference between them getting back on their feet and them being stuck in a ditch somewhere. Now I’m envisioning a couple of drifting refugees hitchhiking their way across the southeast, and sharing a joint somewhere to help ease their tensions. Who am I to decry these people of what may well be their last chance at livelihood?

Well, I’m the Peemeister. Just doin’ my job, man.

I spent the weekend mulling over this particular story, because it’s not a funny story and it’s not a happy story, and in fact it’s pretty chilling. After two weeks of shock over all the bureaucratic red tape there is stretched up between dispossessed hurricane victims and their supplies… I realized that I am a part of it. Wasn’t exactly a charming epiphany.

But, life goes on. My opinion before Katrina was that dire circumstances don’t give you the right to act lawlessly. Though shaken, that opinion remains firm now, during the aftermath. There is of course a blurry line somewhere in there; taking food and water from an abandoned store is one thing, doing a few lines because there’s no one around to stop you is something else.

This couple will probably get hired at their factory job regardless of what the results say. This is one of the companies I’ve long suspected of disregarding results, anyway. Were it a regular test and not Gold Service, they’d probably have never known the difference. Maybe that will make her think twice about requesting Gold Service in the future? Hmm…

For the record, I’d have evacuated on foot if I had to. I’m just sayin’.
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