Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Pointless Stupidity, Brought To You By The War On Drugs

Can we all agree that bad things happen when we start declaring war on abstract ideas?

I had to pee in a cup today. It's not the first time I've had to submit to this particular indignity; I've more or less come to expect it as a condition of employment. But today, for some reason, I found myself getting unusually depressed by the entire process. It seemed to signify, in one tiny little experience, how life in America has become utterly permeated by stupidity.

Without showing too much of my hand, suffice it to say that the company I work for subcontracts for a well-known computer company. My company, I suspect, doesn't give a rat's ass about what I do in my free time. I've worked for them for almost 2 years and this is the first time they've asked me to submit to a drug screen. Not because they care, mind you, but because they've got to bring themselves into compliance with the policies of their corporate masters.

Which raises the question of why, pray tell, our mega-computer-conglomerate-overlords care about my drug status? Good question, I'm not quite sure I know the answer, though I suspect that somewhere along the line it became good business practice. Again, I suspect that CompuHyperGlobalMegaTech really has no issue with illicit drugs per se, but rather that the consequences of not screening employees outweighs any arguments to the contrary. Liability an all, ya'know.

Let's just dispatch with that argument right now, shall we? Recreational drug users aren't a threat to workplace health and safety any more than any other section of the population. The caricature of the stoner driving a forklift is just that, a caricature. The folks you really have to worry about are the ones who are high on codeine all the time because they've got chronic back problems. The drug screen may catch them, but you sure as hell can't fire them on account of chronic back pain being a disability and all that.

But back to my story. Word comes down from on high that I have to get tested. Which is dumb, and kind of insulting. I'm a professional; I should be judged on my performance. My recreational habits are nobody's business. Not that I'm recreating mind you; I've got a Top Secret clearance, which means that Uncle Sam has already crawled in and out of every orifice in my body to verify that I'm neither a communist nor a cabbage. My employer is well aware of that fact, but they made me go through with a pro forma test anyway.

So I drive my ass 64 miles to the lab. Yes, that's right, the closest facility where I could take my test was 64 miles away from Rochester in Auburn, NY. I go to the lab, pee in the cup, all that business. You know what really annoys me? The test is a joke; they don't observe you peeing, you get to close the door and everything. The only thing they test for is whether the specimen is between 90 and 100 degrees F. Can anybody in the room think of a way to beat the test? I know I can.

That, more than anything else, was what put me in a foul mood. The test itself is totally meaningless; its only going to screen out the incredibly stoopid. You have this huge, bureaucratic apparatus in place ostensibly to screen out all the dope fiends, but the entire edifice rests on the insubstantial foundation of an easy-to-beat urine screen. The powers-that-be are, I'm sure, well aware of this. The entire process, from start to finish, is all about appearances. It looks like companies are taking proactive steps to increase workplace safety, but all they're really doing is making employees jump through hoops in an elaborate game of CYA.

Un-fucking-believable.

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