A tale of two pee tests

Among the three places potentially hiring me, two wanted drug tests. McDonald's is the outlier — they don't care if employees are crackheads, but the bus people are regulated by the US Department of Transportation, so they care.

For the paratransit call center job, someone handed me a cup with a lid, pointed to the men's room, and I dribbled and sealed the lid and handed it to someone else. She stepped away for a moment, presumably dipped a stick into my pee, then came back and said, "You're clean." It took two minutes.

For the bus driving gig, they told me I'd have to visit a Concentra office — that's a nationwide chain of the lousiest non-government health care for the uninsured. I'd been to this particular Concentra before, and found it abjectly hostile. For drug tests, they don't take appointments; you just show up and wait your turn. I'd spent hours waiting, because employers and parole officers from all across the county send people to this particular Concentra to pee in a jar.

The paperwork said they open at 9AM on Saturdays, and from experience I know first thing in the morning is their busiest time. To beat the long wait, I took a bus that would get me there twenty minutes before they opened. I'd have the first or near-first chance to pee, right? I brought a book to read while waiting for them to unlock the doors. Thought I'd been so smart.

But Concentra's paperwork lied. They actually open at 8AM, not 9AM. Walking toward the building at 8:40, there was a crowd inside. 14 seats were occupied in their huge, hellish waiting room, so instead of being first or second, I was 15th in line.

Their check-in procedures were another frustration. They only asked my name and phone number, then texted an URL to click, to an online form for my address and date-of-birth and all the other questions.

Well, I'm one of the freakish few Americans who don't carry the internet on a phone, so the link was of no use to me. I waited in line, and when It was my turn to speak to the receptionist, I said kinda brusquely, "I need to fill out the form on paper. No internet on my phone." 

"We don't have paper forms any more," she said, and stared at me like I'm a circus geek. I was on the brink, man — grumpy at being there, double grumpy about being 15th in line, and now this?

"You have to have forms on paper," I said, hearing my voice tick up a quarter octave. "It's gotta be required by law."

She stared at me longer, comically longer — five seconds or so, saying nothing. Then her face brightened and she remember an archaic, never-used option she'd forgotten. "You'll have to fill it out on a tablet."

She handed me an electronic tablet, and I somehow found the word 'thanks', and sat down and filled out the form. The software consistently malfunctioned, requiring several swipes to advance each page, and I frowned and fumed but got registered, and returned the tablet without hollering.

Other people in the lobby, I noticed, were filing out forms on paper, on clipboards. I didn't say anything. Let's assume it's only the patient registration form they no longer have on paper, but other forms they do?

It's the most wonderful time of the year, Andy Williams told me over the Muzak system. Non-stop Christmas carols in the waiting room, a glass-and-linoleum place about as festive as jail.

My grumpiness was higher than the ceiling, and then someone else walked in, and asked the receptionist how long the wait would be. "Three to four hours," was her answer, so there goes the whole morning. But I need this bus driving gig as a backup job, in case I can't stand answering phones at the call center, so I resolved to wait it out no matter how long it took.

Surprisingly, it only took about an hour. "Doug," said a man's voice in the lobby, but I couldn't see anyone saying my name.

"I'm Doug," I said to thin air.

"Come with me please," said no-one nowhere.

A black dude with a hundred tattoos was seated against the opposite wall, we made eye contact, and he pointed to his right.

"Thanks for the point," I said, and turned a corner to find the guy who'd called my name. He'd been standing behind a concrete barrier, invisible to anyone on my side of the waiting room. 

I followed him down a long hallway, into another room, where he handed me a small plastic cup and told me to do what I'd come there to do. I stepped into a restroom, closed the door, and couldn't do it. Kept trying, but I could only squeeze out a couple of ounces.

I'm an imbecile. See, there are no public restrooms in the state of Washington, so by habit, before any bus ride, I pee first. I'd peed at home before riding the bus to my urinalysis. 

I handed the technician my very small offering of pee (no lid provided, because Concentra is a cheapskate place), and asked, "Is this enough?" It was not enough, so then began what he called "the shy bladder procedure."

He gave me a small bottle of water, and told me to sit in the hallway and wait until I could produce all the pee he needed. Then he walked away, called for someone else, and did someone else's pee test. Then another someone else's.

Meanwhile, I sat in an uncomfortable chair, listening to Christmas music and watching as patients and workers walked by. Every five or ten minutes, the tech asked me, "You ready yet?" but the answer was no. A few times, I got up and refilled my bottle from the sink, but no matter how much I drank there wasn't the slightest urge to pee.

A sign on the wall was headlined, "Because we care," and it explained that "Concentra Medical Centers follow a zero-tolerance policy against aggressive behavior." Violators, it promised, would be asked to leave the facility and prohibited from returning in the future, and for anyone who doesn't leave immediately, the sign promised, "We will notify your employer and call the authorities."

The clientele at Concentra is somewhat sketchy, and they probably have problem patients more often than a clinic for the insured would, but you gotta wonder how strictly and quickly they enforce their "zero-tolerance."

Was that why the receptionist had stared at me for five seconds when I'd been semi-borderline-annoyed? Had I come close to being told to leave, never to return, and having them call my bus-boss and the cops?

And also, damn it, man, why couldn't I pee? At my last office job, I peed five or six times daily. At home, I pee every hour and a half.

At Concentra though, I sat in that uncomfortable chair in the hallway listening to "Jingle Bells" for two hours and twenty minutes before I was able to hand the man my pee and leave — never to return, hopefully.

"Results in three to five days," he said, so I guess they're doing more than dipping a stick in my pee. Maybe they're making cocktails.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Here's an unrelated fact of 'getting older': Just a few months ago, working at Haugen & Dahl, I'd walk five blocks to transfer between buses downtown every morning, and three blocks on the ride home, and eight blocks between the Mercer Island bus station and my desk, mornings and evenings — so, 24 blocks daily.

If you'd asked me to complain (or if you hadn't) all I'd say was that the commute was long and boring, and I frequently needed to pee, which is why I now carry a small bottle with a screw-tight lid.

I wouldn't have complained that the walk was exhausting. But the last five months, since quitting that job, have been spent in my recliner, rarely rising, and usually headed no further than the head here in the house — and it's frightful how I've physically devolved.

Today, on my excursion to Concentra, I walked a total of six blocks — and I am achy with exhaustion. Soon as I got home, I limped into my recliner, napped for two hours, and I'm still kinda tuckered.

The map says my daily walk between the bus stop and the call center, where I'll be working starting Monday, will be seven blocks every morning and ten blocks in the afternoon. I ain't looking forward to it, but if my body still works like when I was younger, those 17 blocks will be like 'spring training', and by the end of the first week it won't feel like I'm ready for embalming.

... If my body still works like when I was younger. 



  1. That was a good one, at Concentra...Eel

    1. Is every Concentra as icky as that one, I wonder? I've only been to the one, twice.

    2. Well, piss on 'em if they can't put up with a guy trying hard to not make a joke. And good luck on the job.


    3. Now comes the getting dressed, and nobody pays me for that so it pisses me off.

  2. That Xmas muzak alone would've driven me bonkers. In light of that and all the other BS they put you through, you deserve a medal...and a secure job.

    1. The music was pretty bad, but already hating Xmas I'm predisposed to hate Xmas music.

    2. I could listen to Christmas music all year. Don't care a whit for the holiday, fucking love the music.


    3. Jeez, that guy does like Christmas music. I went back to November and listened to about 20 tracks, had a nice time, but that's about enough Christmas music for the rest of my life.


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