Recently, I have become engrossed in Lindy West’s gripping, giggle-inducing, excessively relatable memoir Shrill. In it, she so graciously admits to the reader that she once urinated on herself in first grade; it ends up being third grade, which is much worse, but still okay. Unknowingly, I preemptively took a page from this book and applied it to my own life one week before I checked it out of the West Hollywood County Library, with its grandiose wooden staircase and plethora of homeless people getting plush and cozy on the couches throughout. Also recently, I obtained a part-time job that was contingent on the results of a medical exam. If you’ve ever had a medical test for a job before, you know perfectly well that that’s just Newspeak for “drug test”. If you’ve read this blog before, you know perfectly well that I could never pass such a test on a mere two weeks notice—an excellent amount of time for a budding romance betwixt Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant, but bad pour moi.
I live in a constant state of heightened anxiety, which I both abhor and embrace: without it, the self-deprecating humor that is my actual spinal fluid would dry up and leave me sans personality. My unceasing pontification on the mortality of those around me and the impending end of my existence has allowed me one lifeline: jokes. In an unrelated bodily sense, I possess a bladder that possesses many of the same characteristics as the trope of the hysterical woman: it is sensitive, irrational, and prone to overreaction (i.e. four pees to one beer). So with that in mind, I present to you my most recent rock bottom moment, in which I peed on a blanket and a pile of tissues in the drivers seat of my car, in broad daylight, in downtown Los Angeles.
After being notified about the test, I forced my boyfriend to call the office and inquire about it, so that even if they figured out that someone in my position was calling to see if it was a drug test, they would never know it was me because they would think it was one of the guys they hired calling. I am James Bond, international spy, mastermind, and sensual sensation. Unfortunately, the office would give no details, so I began to spiral into catastrophic projections regarding the rest of my life in the event that I failed the test and was no longer hired: homelessness and unhappiness were inevitable.
Because I wrote a thesis, I am a superior researcher. (Read: I have an Adderall prescription). To quote directly from my cover letter, this is because: “the work entailed by the thesis writing process demonstrated my ability to produce high-quality work under pressure in a timely manner, to conduct and synthesize mass amounts of research effectively, to clearly present complex arguments, and to work independently with the upmost efficiency and effectiveness. This process also illustrated my acute attention to detail, as well as my exceptional organizational skills.” And so, I figured out a foolproof way to pass the drug test. It was a product called Toxin Rid, and it cost $129.95 for a seven-day detox kit. There was just one snag: I did not have $129.95 to spend on Toxin Rid. So, I spiraled again, bought a more-price-friendly-but-less-reliable day-of cleanse, obtained a guest pass to LA Fitness where I spent a lot of time in the sauna, and talked about my fear of not passing incessantly, to anyone who would listen.
The cleanse I decided on was Mega Clean: a 32-ounce bottle of chalky, faux fruit punch liquid to be ingested in full a few hours before the test. You then wait 15 minutes, fill the 32 ounce bottle back up with water, and drink that quickly. Then you continue drinking water throughout the day until your test, to prolong its detoxifying effects. Once you have peed 3-4 times, you’re good to go and your pee is as clear as Lake Pukaki. Lake Pukaki is an alpine lake in New Zealand, ah-doy. However, because of my research (shout out to thcclean.net), I opted to take some supplements to saturate my urine just in case the tech found it too clear and decided I needed to re-test. Add pop to your pee: I am the Andy Warhol of urine. Sidenote: am I failing the blog-Bechdel test right now? Three out of four of my character references are men, my bad. The future is female, both in the remainder of this post and in our democracy. Which, by the way, democracy: why you out here drug testing us fools? LET US LIVE. STOP CRIMINALIZING THE DISENFRANCHISED FOR A MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR INDUSTRY THEY CREATED FOR US, YOU MONSTERS.
I drank the liquid, started peeing like there was a fetus bumping and grinding in my uterus, and then a new fear set in: I was not going straight to the test, but first to get fingerprinted in a different building. I then had a small break of time before the medical exam appointment, but not enough time to drive to a fast food restaurant, pee, drive back, and re-park my car. The appointments were in an industrial area of downtown LA, with no open to the public businesses and limited parking spaces. Without shame, I asked my boyfriend if I could borrow one of his beach towels to sit on just in case I had an accident.
I made it downtown by shimmying in my seat and biting my tongue as hard as I could. In high school, my mom’s friend told her that if you bite your tongue, you can hold your pee for longer. I think this might not be completely true.
I parked, sprinted into the building, got a name-tag from the security guard and asked where the bathroom was: upstairs. I endured an elevator ride with two city workers, continuing my shimmy. But alas, I made it, got my fingerprints taken, and was ushered out of the building.
This is when things took a turn for the worse, for the wetter. I walked back to my car to wait for the medical exam, feeling confident that I could hold it until then. Ten minutes passed, and this confidence evaporated. I began frantically searching Google Maps for the nearest restroom, but it was an eight-minute drive away. A far-away haven in a Dunkin’ Donuts. I scanned the street for a large truck I could stealthily squat behind; foot traffic was at a minimum, but there were too many cars driving through. I had waited too long; I couldn’t make it back to the fingerprinting building. A 20-something, wildly dressed black dude donning a Viking helmet biked passed my window, flipping off each car as he passed, singing, “fuck you, fuck you, fuck you.” I knew what must be done.
Hastily, I unbuttoned my pants and pulled them halfway down; grabbed the beach towel, appropriately bright yellow with embroidered suns, and placed it under me along with a pile of tissues; I haphazardly shielded my vagina with a hand as a semi drove by, and I am pretty sure the driver saw something; I waited for the semi to pass, and then expelled a small stream, which was such a relief it was vaguely sexual. There was not much I had to clean up because of my preparation, so I threw the towel into the backseat, pulled up my jeans, and waited the remaining minutes inside of the car, listening to Call Your Girlfriend.
It should be said that at this time my mental health was hanging by a much finer string than normal, and that because of my level of panic and paranoia, I had begun to fear that I was possibly schizophrenic while at the same time admitting my hypochondria was the worst it had ever been. I was feeling socially paralyzed, and had it in mind that I would be barred from entering the building early for my test to use their bathroom, because they would know WHY I had to pee and then I would FAIL and then I would DIE. I also got it in my head that they had no public bathroom, that they knew what was up, and you got one shot to go. This, of course, was untrue.
With only a little shame, I got out of the car and started to walk over to the Medical Services building. Looking back at my car while pressing the lock button about 12 times (I have many neuroses about being stolen from), I noticed something on the building behind it. A security camera. At the angle it was pointing, there was no way it had caught me. I had to be clear. But when I walked up to Medical Services, I saw two cops cars parked out front, the cops conversing with each other. My stomach dropped. What if the camera had captured me, and the owner of the eastern medicine office with the camera had called them to report me? Would I have to register as a sex offender? Had someone seen me while driving by, had I not been as quick and inconspicuous as I thought? How would I explain this to my boyfriend, to my parents, to my lawyers I would inevitably have to hire? “I’m so sorry, I was anxious and have a hypertonic bladder . . . please, please don’t! I want to live near a park!”
I entered the building short of breath to the waiting room, where it was obvious to me they were trying to act casual. A lone security guard greeted me from behind a desk. Don’t cause a scene, wait for her to check in and tap her on the shoulder and ask her to come answer some questions outside. That’s how they’d do it. I asked if there was a restroom I could use, and the security guard replied with a jolly “right around this corner”, and rounding it, I came to meet a friend and a foe: irony. This bathroom certainly had no parameters for its use, no screening process; I felt my world collapsing as I peed, Raskolnikov regret for my crime. It all could’ve been avoided. I shouldn’t have killed that pawnbroker. Oh, sorry, shouldn’t have peed on a towel in my Jetta. Oops.
Now, to make a long story somewhat shorter: I checked in at the desk with no hassle, sat down and kept an unmoving eye on the patrol car outside the window, peed again, was called back, did a hearing and eye test, rattled off my list of current medications to a whacky, hyperactive doctor who told me that everyone who works in the library is on psych meds because they read too much, and furtively drank water from the sink when he briefly left me alone in the room, so my pee would be even a wee bit cleaner. Upon his return, he reviewed his notes, and told me I was good to go. “What, I don’t need to stay and give a urine sample or anything?”
“Nope, we only drug test if there’s a suspicion of use.”
“Oh, okay cool. Thanks.”
I departed in a daze, but not before using their bathroom one more time. The 1992 LA Times article I had read about mandatory drug testing in the city had lied to me, how dare it! And now I was going to be arrested for something that could have been completely avoided? Or I wouldn’t be in some lucky chance, and I had the job, and everything would be fine and a-okay? Bullshit. I walked back to my car with one eye over my shoulder, but no one stopped me. There was no ticket on my windshield, no indication that anyone had obtained a search warrant for the car and removed the blanket to DNA test the urine to use it against me in court as evidence. Everything was okay. There was no drug test, I wasn’t a sex offender, and I even had a new job. Go figure.
Mortified before eventually becoming amused with these events (and starting a new mental health regime), I told my boyfriend I hadn’t had to use the towel. If you’re reading this now, as I’m sure you are because I will have sent you the link, I’m sorry for this presentation of an alternative fact. Though it is timely, no? I’m usually such a bad liar, which I don’t think will bode well for me in our burgeoning dystopia. But my knack for public urination and desecration of linens? Now that’s something that will.
I guess I really put the P’s in Pen Pals on Pills.