A little privacy, please?

From 2005 to 2008 I maintained a blog about my experiences working in the drug test industry. Every Saturday I revive one of those experiences here. The following was originally posted November 8, 2006.

A little privacy, please?

The layout of our office is simply genius. And by “genius”, of coure, I mean blatantly idiotic.

Previously, my drug test area was a semi-isolated area outside of the bathroom. I could stand in the hallway and see the bathroom, the drug test area, and out into my main lobby. I could ensure nobody was going to sneak back into the drug test area and violate the donor’s right to privacy. Since there were no other employees other than myself and keeping donors corralled was as easy as barking, “Please wait a moment, sir, I’ll be right with you,” this was never an issue for me.

If you scroll down a few entries you can see how even the tiniest infraction, imaginary or otherwise, can blow a collection wide open and cause huge problems for everyone involved. I don’t think we need to go over that territory again.

The drug test area in the office I now work in is actually a hallway in between the medical area and the staff break room. The two bathrooms still branch off of the hallway, but now the drug test area (that is, the place I stand and do all my paperwork, and where the urine sample is actually handled and stored) is the hallway itself, in between the two bathrooms.

Apparently, some months back, a donor complained that several office employees walked through the drug test area to the break room while his sample was being secured. The solution: my boss put up a privacy curtain. You go back to do a drug test, you pull the curtain closed behind you.

The problem? The curtain may as well not be there.

Outside of myself, my bosses, and a couple of the other employees who don’t do drug tests anyway, everyone ignores the curtain.

Need to heat up your coffee? No problem, just open the curtain and sneak through. Lunchtime and you absolutely positively cannot wait another four minutes to dig into your leftovers? Just pretend the curtain isn’t there. Pretend the drug test victim in question doesn’t have a right to privacy at all.

You can see the look on their faces, too. They look confused. Some look annoyed. Most don’t mention it, but a few do. “Should she really be back here?” they’ll whisper to me underneath the hum of the microwave or the din of the faucet.

Part of it, I know, is that we are just desensitized to pee. Really, it’s not the unbelievably disgusting thing that society tells us it is. Remove all the taboos and the all-encompassing “ick” factor and it’s just a slightly smelly yellow liquid. We get that, of course, but the donors don’t. They’re embarrassed enough as it is that one person has to bottle their pee, let alone a parade of other employees nonchalantly traipsing through.

In simplist terms: the average donor wants as few people to look at their bodily waste as possible. This is a totally understandable feeling.

So this puts me in an awkward position. I know how important it is that a collection be done correctly. Remember, I was on the front lines for three years. I would not define drug testing at office as “the front lines.” If there’s a problem here, or the donor pitches a fit, you can go and get a supervisor. Someone with authority can put him in his place. There’s a wall between the collector and the donor here. By the time I see donors, their paperwork is already done. Their ID is already checked. Any complications that could lead to the collection not taking place has already been handled.

In other words, collectors here are just a cog in the machine, not the machine itself. I think that causes complacency among the other collectors. “Oh, well, if there’s a problem, someone else can handle it.” I, on the other hand, learned to be self-sufficient. “Well, if there’s a problem, I’d better know how to handle it because there’s nobody else here to do it.”

Which is why I’m such a rules nazi: the best way to clear up protential problems is not to cause them in the first place.

That brings me back to the privacy curtain. When people skulk around while I’m trying to do a collection, that is a problem for me. If, like, Becky runs through the curtain to heat up her mac and cheese and the donor I’m working with comes back positive, I’m the one who will catch the fallout, not Becky.

So now I’m kind of a curtain whistleblower. My bosses back me up on it, of course, but I can tell the other employees are sick of it. No fewer than three people (and maybe more) have gone to the bosses with complaints like “Ricky yelled at me today.” That doesn’t reflect well on me, even though I’m technically right and even though this is a matter where being right is actually important.

Each and every time someone parts the privacy curtain and sneaks through, thinking it isn’t a big deal, they are jeapordizing someone’s drug test and they are jeapordizing my job. I hate that, and I wish I knew what to do to make it stop once and for all.

There isn’t really anyone in my office named Becky, nor is Becky meant to personify any of my co-workers. I just chose that name because everyone, at one point in their lives, has had an absolutely insufferable co-worker named Becky.


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