I stood alone in the bathroom, clear cup in hand, ready to deliver.
There were at least three signs in the bathroom saying: Do not flush!
One was taped at eye level. One affixed to the flushing handle. One on the light switch, I think.
In the toilet was a deep-blue liquid. Is it possible? I thought. Are they drug-testing Smurfs?
I flashed back to St. Charles' most famous drug screen. The one that never happened. It was that fateful day months ago when the Sugar Plum Fairy made national news when she flushed and cussed. As a result, she was banned from the St. Charles' annual Christmas Traditions program on Main Street.
Thinking back, I wasn't as sympathetic to the Sugar Plum Fairy as I should have been. Back then, I thought: Who doesn't successfully complete a drug screen other than someone high on drugs?
But now I found myself in a little bathroom on the fifth floor of a hospital in Springfield, Mo., facing my own moment of truth. It gave me a different perspective.
I wondered: How did it come to this? When did applying for a job automatically mean peeing in a cup?
Here are clips of some of the better stories I've written.
Here are my references and their phone numbers.
Here are links to the videos I've taken.
Here's a cup of my urine.
The only other drug screen I remember was for a newspaper in Syracuse, N.Y., 24 years ago. At some point in that process I noticed on my drug-screen paperwork that it said "Polkin" instead of "Pokin."
I'm guessing I've had other drug screens since then but I just don't remember them — probably because I was eventually hired and because no one at the lab misspelled my name.
In Syracuse, I tried to point out to someone that my name was not "Polkin." But that someone wasn't concerned.
I did not get the job back then and when I asked if I had somehow failed my drug screen — mentioning concern over the misspelling of my name — I was told I was not entitled to that information.
That never seemed fair to me. It told me that if a company screws up your drug screen you will never know.
The other thing I remember about Syracuse is that while I was interviewed my car was vandalized in the lot where I'd been told to park. I've never returned.
I suppose the odds of a company screwing up a drug screen are low. But I also suppose that whatever data we have on that comes from the companies doing the screens.
Anyway, whether you believe me or not, I didn't use illegal drugs back then and I don't now.
I make mention of this because many people like to say that if you don't use illegal drugs you shouldn't worry about a drug screen. But that's like saying if you're not a terrorist you shouldn't worry about phone taps.
I don't use drugs and I did worry.
After all, do we really need to drug screen everybody for just about every job?
Did the city of St. Charles need to screen the child who played Tiny Tim during Christmas Traditions?
For the sake of decency! How did the lad even provide a sample while on crutches?
In 2011, St. Francis Medical Center in Cape Girardeau decided that it would not only screen prospective employees for illegal drugs, but for nicotine, as well. If you smoke you won't be hired at St. Francis.
Just because you can screen doesn't mean you should screen.
Last week in Springfield, it was time. A female lab technician called my name. She had me empty my pockets. She gave me a clear cup. She marked a volume goal — something to shoot for. She offered a few directions and pointed me in the right direction.
There were no witnesses. I was a man alone. A solitary man. A career opportunity hung in the balance.
Exhibiting grace under pressure, I accomplished the task and — for a nanosecond — reached to flush.
The lab tech transferred part of the sample into a tube. She sealed the top and had me affix my initials onto the side of the tube.
It suddenly occurred to me: This is the closest I'll ever get to knowing what it's like to be an Olympic champion.
To be continued ...