Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Urine test po amerykańsku czyli my medical exam to work in Baltimore

My medical exam to work as a teacher in the US looked a little bit different than the one to work in Poland – not better, not worse, just different.

First, I had to show up to a municipal building (if I remember correctly) on a Saturday with all necessary paperwork. I could not get the physical done by my own physician which was problematic as I did not live in Baltimore yet. Anyway, I showed up early in the morning with at least 150 other people who were to be employed by the city of Baltimore and proceeded to wait and wait and wait. What? You have to wait for stuff in America?!? Yes, you do. Did I burst your bubble? ;)

image Finally, it was my turn to see the doctor. Maybe he was a good doctor or maybe not. It was hard to tell because the physical exam didn’t involve much physicality. The doctor didn’t really even look at me, let alone put his hands on me. I could have had leprosy for all he noticed. The doctor asked me to turn myself around a few times and I twirled accordingly as if we were 16 year old girls and he was checking out the prom dress I was trying on. Then he asked me to turn my back to him and he whispered, “Can you hear me?” to which I whispered back, “Yes, I can”. Believe me, the ability to hear whispering was not a skill most needed to work in the Baltimore City School District. The doctor scribbled and stamped something on my papers and instructed me to go for my urine test. I wandered around until I found the line for the urine test, the very long line. I found the last person in line and like everyone else in line I sat down on the floor. I guess we were in for a wait. All the better to produce some more urine, I supposed.

By groups of 6 the ladies were corralled into the bathroom by a large and gruff-looking lady who had two other large and gruff- looking ladies to help her. I couldn’t blame them for their gruffness. They were spending their Saturday processing urine samples. When it was finally my turn along with 5 other ladies, I noticed we were going to do this “drug test” style, in full view of witnesses to prevent any urine-tampering. This urine test, unlike the one in Poland, was not to check if we, candidates for employment, were healthy. It was to check if we were clean. As I am, was and always have been squeaky clean, I didn’t really mind. I mean I had already given a set of fingerprints, what was a little urine among friends?

We filled out our labels, stuck them to the containers we had been given and headed for our stalls. We were instructed to fill our containers at least to the halfway point and not to cap them until they had been checked. Checked for what, I didn’t ask. Doors opened, we did our business and waited. The head gruff lady held my urine up to the light, looked at me disappointingly, threw my urine back into the toilet bowl and declared, “That’s not enough.” I exclaimed, “Well, it’s not like I’ve got more!” To which she laughed and directed me to the nearest soda machine.

I bought a Coke or two and drank and drank and drank. I drank so much that I could no longer wait at the end of the line and begged someone from the first group to let me go ahead. Once inside the bathroom, I was grateful to receive my container and proud to hand it over, filled to the brim. The gruff-looking lady had a laugh saying it was the clearest urine she had ever seen and instructed me to put the cap on. Ahhh, it was done and I could go home. I had a long drive ahead of me, made even longer by all the potty pit stops on the way.

PS In the company where my mother works, all employees are subjected to random urine drug tests. All names of all employees are in the potential pool of people to be tested at all times. I mean passing a previous test does not exempt you from the random drawing for the next one. My mother, quite possibly the cleanest lady on the planet, wouldn’t even eat poppy seed cake at Christmas for fear it could show up in her urine.

What happens in my mother’s company if you fail the urine drug test? You get a blood drug test. And if you fail that? Easy, you are fired. So, what to do in my mother’s company if you are less than clean and you are called up randomly for a drug test? That’s easy, you quit before you get fired. My mother says that record “quitting” days are on Mondays after big weekend football game parties.

Stay clean!

7 comments:

Kasia said...

The only times I had to do the urine test was ages ago when I was in the eye hospital in Poland (one might ask why on Earth they needed my urine if they were actually treating my eyes) and it was pretty much like in previous urine-themed post, including jars (it was in mid-eighties in Poland). Then I had it in UK twice (it's basically done every time you change your GP), but they would give you a container and instruct you to bring it back with urine sample next time you visit.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Chris, I am Zzo from Poland however in Scotland just now, bagging a nice Scotsman. I was asked here quite a few times for samples of my urine, more often than they wanted it in Poland but as Kasia said, in the UK they let you bring the sample from your own bathroom. Have read Barbara Ehrenreich 'Nickel and Dime' recently. She writes about people in a very poorly paid jobs and presents this way of checking if employees are 'clean' as a kind of humiliating experience. Now I see it's a kind of routine and all ( ? ) employees are made to urinate in public. She writes moreover that it's not a really efficient way of checking if a person is a drug user. Reading her book I've got the impression that it's rather a way of 'controlling' poor people, taking away their dignity... So it was interesting to get to know that it isn't limited to poor and low paid - anyway I'm glad it isn't like that here :-)

ucieczka said...

I quite don't understand. You pee by this gruff-lady, and with other 5 ladies or you can have some privacy? ;) You know, many things are said about USA ;D Hm. I didn't add my comment to the previous post, and that was about my gross feelings about all the urine tests, even in Poland (so I don't take them If I don't have to for some work reasons), just imagining myself going by bus, with my urine sample in my bag makes me disgusted. And USA tests with 5 ladies, even with closed doors..brr... no. never :D...

(but I can give blood, lots of it even without any problems. Watching programs about ER with bloody fragments, no problem. Strange :D)

Chris said...

While not pleasant, urinating in front of an observer was not humiliating for me then and certainly would not be humiliating for me now either...I've given birth in Poland so my tolerance for humiliating situations is quite high.

For my job, the urine drug test was given only once at the start of employment so I agree it was not the most effective way to determine if someone was a drug user. In my mother's company, however, there is the constant threat of testing at any moment which is supposed to deter drug use.

I haven't read 'Nickel and Dime' but in my case, my job as a teacher was definitely not well paid.

ucieczka said...

Yeah, you got the point about giving birth in PL. I was in hospital in gynaecological section and this trauma won't get out of my head. If I ever would change my mind about having children I will pay any sum of money not to be humiliated.

Chris said...

I have spent a lot of time in the hospital in Poland and I have found that as a patient I had a lot of control over the way I was treated by doctors and nurses. Of course, some situations were beyond my control, ale da się wytrzymać.

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