Two short stories.

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 January 9, 2006.

Two short stories.

A man comes into the office with four roofers in tow, all needing drug tests. “For what company?” I ask him. He replies, “SlogNat International.”

SlogNat is not a name I’m familiar with. I ask if he has any paperwork.

“I’ve done a hundred guys here, I ain’t never needed paperwork before.”

But without some sort of paperwork I can’t know whether or not you’re my client.

“Don’t worry, I am.”

Oh, well, that settles it! The word of a man I’ve never met before and who may or may not have some incentive to purposely cause a mix-up in his company’s drug testing (and yes, believe it or not, it does happen) is good enough for me. Come on in!

Except, no, not really. I don’t recognize the man’s company and he didn’t bring me anything but his word, so I’ll have to verify it. I get my supervisor on the phone and ask her to look up SlogNat in the computer.

“Nope, it’s not in here.”

You’re sure?

“Yep, he’s not ours.”

I relay the information to Mr. SlogNat and he is not pleased. “Every guy who works for me done his drug test right here!” he exclaims, flailing his arms around like a rag doll. Except I’ve been working here two years and change, and I’ve never seen the name SlogNat before. He demands to speak to my supervisor.

I get her on the phone again.

“Oh, wait, did you say SlogNat? I looked up SlogNet.”

I begin to apologize to Mr. SlogNat for the misunderstanding, but my boss isn’t done with her assessment.

“…but his account is like $700 overdue. We can’t do any more tests for him until he pays that up. Wow, last test we did for that company was 2002. No wonder nobody recognized it.”

Mr. SlogNat receives this news and turns beet red. The four employees he’s brought along with him begin to chitter amongst themselves.

One wonders what goes through one’s mind the moment one learns one’s employer is a total deadbeat. If your boss doesn’t even bother to pay his bills, what assurance do you have that he’s going to sign your paychecks?

We’ve completed Mr. Nicepen’s collection and he’s just signed his name to the form. “That’s a nice pen,” he comments. And he’s right; it is a nice pen. I only use nice pens. Specifically, nice .7mm gel ink pens. My job involves a lot of writing, and I cannot bear to use cheap, scratchy pens anymore.

This does of course mean that I have an ongoing problem keeping myself stocked in pens, since nice ones tend to disappear while I’m not looking. Mr. Nicepen isn’t a thief though. He at least has enough decency to ask me for one, in his own special way: “Hey, lemme get that pen.”

“No,” I tell him. I’m one pen short as it is. It takes six pens to keep my office fully equipped, and I’m down to five, which means one of my counters is naked as far as pens are concerned. “You can buy them at CVS, right up the street there. I think I pay four dollars for six pens.”

“Come on man, lemme get that pen.”

“No. I don’t give away pens.” Magazines, fine. Post-it notes, okay. I’ve even given away a phone book once. Heck, I’ll sell you a Pepsi for fifty cents, if I’ve got one to spare. But my nice, comfortable, smooth gel ink pens? I don’t think so.

“It ain’t yours anyway, it’s your boss’s, so just gimme it,” Mr. Nicepen insists.

“If I left it up to my boss I’d be using those disgusting Bic pens, or worse. I buy these myself.” Thinking on it a bit, I decide to drive the point home. “I buy a lot of my own supplies. That’s why I have the nice-smelling hand soap and two-ply toilet paper. I have to use this stuff too, you know, and I like having the good stuff.”

“Man, bein’ so stingy. I coulda just stole the damn thing.”

“I appreciate the fact that you didn’t.”

“I just need a pen, man.”

I go to my pen tray and retrieve a pen someone has left here. It’s a grey pen that feels like fingernails on a chalkboard when you try to write with it. “Here you go, sir,” I say, offering him the free pen.

Instead of accepting it, he repeats, “Man, bein’ so stingy…”

He leaves, muttering to himself about how stingy I am. I place Frankenpen back in the tray.

Well, so beggars can be choosers. Learn something new every day, I do.

The name of the company wasn’t really SlogNat. Since I was going to change the name anyway, I figured I’d at least change it to something hilarious and insulting.

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