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 March 17, 2006.


One thing I’m particularly terrible at is giving directions. The main reason for this is because I tend not to leave the fifteen-or-so mile radius around my apartment, so people often ask for directions coming from faraway lands where for all I know they ride magic carpets and slay dragons. Another is that I have a truly pitiful sense of direction myself; I keep a Post-It attached to the wall near my phone to keep me from confusing east with west. A quick look at Google Maps can sometimes clear the matter up, but not always, and on occassion I am forced to simply point out that I have no idea where the person is, and thus can’t give them directions.

I’ve discovered there are lots of ways to give directions. First off you have people like myself, who are address hunters. The way I’ve always done things is to get the address of the place, and then locate it. If i can’t find the exact address I’ll determine whether the numbers are going up or down and then pinpoint the location of the business I want based on the addresses I can see.

Very few people navigate like that, however. Most people use a blend of cross-streets and landmarks to get where they’re going. This is problematic because, for one, I don’t really register landmarks as I drive, so it’s hard for me to determine what, if anything, in my area would make a good landmark to begin with. Secondly, there really aren’t any prominent landmarks in my area. It’s essentially just a series of strip-malls on either side of the road, no one sign really standing above the rest. The few slightly-bigger-than-the-rest signs that are out there have all failed me in the past, and what works fine for one person isn’t going to work for the next.

The best landmark to get you to my office is the apartment complex I sit in front of. That’s right, in front of. Not next to, not near, not across the street from. The apartments sit back from the road far enough for a row of businesses to sit in front of it as a buffer. You actually have to turn in to the apartment complex to get to my parking lot, but even this information fails as often as not because the rows of stores on either side of me use the exact same system.

Giving the name of my business isn’t even helpful in some cases, because not everyone is looking for that name. For one, we have two company names: one for the side of the company that does physicals and what-have-you, and another for the drug testing. All our paperwork has both names on it, but the sign in my window only advertises the drug testing. So even with the correct forms in-hand, people are looking for the wrong sign right out of the gate. To make matters worse we work with two different labs, so a lot of people are sent out looking for the name of the lab instead of the collection site.

Compounding the problem even further is the fact that employers like to give little maps to their new-hires before sending them out, which would be helpful except the maps haven’t been updated since 2000. Hundreds of clients out there each with their own little version of what the area my office sits in used to look like… not very helpful. This usually ends with me getting chewed out by the donor after they’ve driven around for an hour while needing to pee, or with someone barking at me on a cell phone insisting that a sign or business exists where it doesn’t, because after all, that’s what the map says.

To be perfectly honest, I don’t know how anyone could drive by my building and not see my sign. It’s easy to get confused with all these different factors tripping you up at the start, but five phone calls to me later there isn’t much I can help you with. It isn’t uncommon at all to finally get a person into my general area, making U-turns back and forth in front of my office, still completely incapable of locating it. There comes a point where I simply have to tell someone to slow their car down to 20 mph and closely examine every window they see, and turn at the one that matches my company name. Calls from my parking lot are fairly common too: “Okay, I’m in the parking lot… now which door are you?”

I keep hoping one day I’ll stumble across a perfect solution that will solve my direction-giving dilemma once and for all. Until then… well, at least I have my Post-It.

Maybe I could just buy some road flares, and hire a clown to set them off in front of my office. If people miss that, there’s really nothing I can do for them.

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