Sunday, January 14, 2007

Pass the Pot, Please

In the midst of my job searching, I've agreed to help out the folks at a major pharmaceutical concern with offices in downtown D.C. The position is temporary and only pays $20/hour. The hiring process is through a temp agency, rather than the company's H.R. department, which has been a mixed bag.

Not only do I have to go through a criminal background check, but I had to undergo a drug test. I don't object to that. And, since I've never smoked pot, snorted coke, shot up heroin, cooked meth, used any illegal substances, consumed alcohol, or abused federally regulated OTC or prescription medications, I have nothing to hide or worry about. Nevertheless, taking this drug test was no cake walk.

You're probably thinking it should have been, though, right? I mean, how hard can it be to pee in a cup or have your blood drawn? Not so hard. But is this the way they conduct drug tests these days?

Noooooooo. No sirree, indeedy. They do not ask you to pee in a cup or prick your finger. Now, they cut your hair.

Yep, that's right. You get a haircut.

And they don't need just one or two strands of hair. Oh, no. That would be easy. They need a quantity of hair the equivalent thickness of a pencil! That's right. Sharpen up that old No. 2, 'cause that's what they're takin'.

I don't wear my hair long to begin with and I just had it cut about 10 days ago, so it's on the short side right now. And because it's short, if it's cut poorly, it shows. In the case of this particular test, they cut off a hair sample at your scalp. No simple snip, snip. We're talking near scalping, folks.

I'm not usually bothered by stuff like this, but I have to say, my participation in this procedure has seriously bothered me. I now have two fuzzy spots on my head where the lab tech cut my hair almost to the skin. I can feel what my head would feel like if I were to shave all of my hair off. And while the thought of actually doing that one day feels daring, this is disconcerting.

Oh, sure, I understand the reason for the drug test, especially if you're going to work for a pharmaceutical company. No one wants to hire a junky. But still...

Is this really worth $20/hour?

14 comments:

Bishop Rick said...

Hey, I think its worth $20 an hour, especially if it gets you into the company where you will be exposed to potential fulltime offers that pay much more...apparentlly you agree with me...or I agree with you...you know what I mean.

JMK said...

BR: I'm trying to think along two lines.

1. The line you note--that it will get me into a company where I might find a longer-term offer that pays better.

2. In the event all of my current job searching and interviews prove fruitless, I have something to fall back on that pays $20/hour, which--as we say in my family--is better than a kick in the butt with a sharp boot.

Put another way: it's more than I'm making right now, which is zip, zero, zilch.

Zanne said...

That is wild--and oh so wrong! Any normal person would know that cutting out a chunk of hair from any woman is asking for trouble. Probably thought up by the same guy that thought heels was a good idea! Grrrr!

But hey, knock 'em dead at the job!! :D

JMK said...

Zanne: The same guys who invented menstruation, panty hose, and make-up, too! Seriously, though: there has to be a better way to test for drug use.

Sister Mary Lisa said...

I think it's worth it. Does said pharmaceutical company happen to have offices in other cities? Like, say, in Montana?

:) I hope you get it to tide you over at least.

JMK said...

SML: Oh, I wish! Actually, their headquarters are in California. That could be nice down the road...

I'm reading John McPhee right now and his writings about Wyoming are making me a bit wistful. Who knows... I could end up there one of these days and we'd be that much closer...

Di said...

I seriously have a huge problem with that TOTALLY EFFING INVASIVE test!! WTF?!? I'm not kidding, not even a little bit. It really pisses me off that they have you over the proverbial barrel, so they take parts of your body to prove your 'worthiness' to work for their company. I think, with the so-called 'patriot' act and all its civil rights trodding ways, we have become a bit inured to the potential - and actual - ways in which our privacy is totally violated. Yes, you need a job, and you should have one. But I have a real problem with personal (literally) invasion. Honestly, there are not that many "junkies" working for a living. And they can't/don't test for alcohol, and in all my working years, there have been a larger number of functional (and not-so-functional) alcoholics than drug users of any kind, by a long shot.

Hmph.

PS - you've never consumed alcohol?

PPS - post-rant, let me just say, good luck with the gig! And may your fuzzy spots grow back quickly. (Grr.)

JMK said...

Di: I'm pretty miffed, too. The other two forms I had to fill out were authorizations to do a criminal background check and authorization to check my credit report. The latter particularly bothers me, because I've been unemployed for the last nine months, as you know, which means occasional bills have slipped here and there, but all have been paid, even if a day or two late.

I'm interviewing for a job with a trade association on Tuesday and I've decided, if they ask for any of that in their application packet (which I have yet to go through), I'm going to decline disclosures, because I feel none of that stuff has anything to do with my ability to be a good employee.

Now, if I was applying a job at the CIA or the NSA, that would be a different matter entirely. But I'm not, so screw Patriot Acts and whatnot! And screw cutting my hair, too! Never again.

Oh, and amen to junkies versus drunks. I've certainly worked with plenty of the latter in my professional experience. The only junkie I ever met was a heroin addict while I was a missionary in Vienna! How funny is that?!

Sister Mary Lisa said...

The bad news? $20 per hour in Montana is a pretty dang good wage. Sadly.

JMK said...

Lisa: It's totally relative, isn't it? I mean $20 here is practically nothing, especially when I can make $60/hour writing press releases and briefings like I did this weekend for a trade association. On the other hand, in places like Montana and Wyoming and Minnesota, $20 is a lot. I'm trying to keep that in perspective as I bitch and moan about having my haircut, but still....

Miss Understood said...

That is completely absurd. Call me dumb, but what the hell can they decipher from a hair sample?

JMK said...

Ms. U: No, you're not dumb. Hair samples are actually the best way to test for drug use because hair retains everything. Some drugs cannot be detected in blood or urine samples, but hair holds onto everything. Hair sampling is also a way to test for things like arsenic and radiation poisoning. It's much more accurate than the other two forms. Still, I would have much rather had my hair plucked than cut (which is what I totally expected they would do and had psyched myself up for. I was shocked when they said they were going to cut my hair.) A lot of this type of stuff started with the U.S. federal government and federal contractors and has since filtered down to all public and private institutions. The events of Sept. 11th and the dishonesty of guys like Jack Abramoff have just heightened this type of information gathering because everyone is trying to cover their own ass and avoid lawsuits. I'm beginning to think I should move to Canada or England or somewhere less litigous and invasive.

Mary Ellen said...

The hair cutting, that's just VILE. You should ask the temp agency to pay for the haircut you'll need to fix the damage done by their test.

Are they for sure going to hire you after all this, or just make you jump through all the hoops for a maybe?

Suddenly, I'm not as gung ho about that FBI job I applied for. I've already gotten one bad haircut in this valley and I can't afford to fly back to CA for a fix by David the Hair God.

JMK said...

ME: The "good" thing is, they cut it in such a way that you can't see it and you're able to comb over it. Of course, given how short my hair is, I'm dubious. I'm told it's not noticeable, though. But still...

I think you should still go for the FBI job. You're more than qualified.