Open your bag, pee in this cup… and smile while you do it

I’ve worked at a lot of places in my life. Some of the jobs have been awesome and some of them have sucked donkey balls. Some have been fun and more than a few have made me want to punch random strangers on the streets as they walk by and then challenge them to a duel when they get pissed off. From the grocery store to the mall, from the newspaper to the nursing home they’ve all had one thing in common. Every single one of them reserved the right to force me to open my bag and piss in a cup on demand.

What do I mean by that and why does it piss me off?

Give me a few minutes and I’ll try and explain.

Forcing a person to pee in a cup to get a job and to keep a job presupposes they may be a drug user and it’s the right of the business of the employer to know these things. Forcing a person to show you the contents of their bag is presupposing they are a thief. I will tell you right now some of this I understand and some of this is complete and utter bullshit.

Let’s back up for a second.

This won’t surprise a lot of my friends but those of you who only know me through my books and social media presence might not realize how dear I hold personal rights and privacy.

I’m gonna try to explain, but I apologize in advance if my explanation comes off as muddy. It’s a complicated and nuanced thing.

I believe in equality and want the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) brought back into open debate and revived. I’m pro gun rights and pro drug legalization. I’m an atheist who advocates for the complete removal of religious symbolism and overtones from public institutions, but will argue to the death for religious rights. I’m for the transparency of government, but I understand that SOMETIMES secrecy is needed to protect lives. I believe education, healthcare, water, food, housing, and speech are universal protected rights for every person. I believe corporations are NOT people. I believe in love and I acknowledge the reality of hate. There’s more and I could probably go on for awhile but I think this covers the basics.

See what I said, muddy as hell, sorry.

Now back to urine and man purses.

So here’s my problem with searches and drug tests. In my experience they are used to humiliate, they are unevenly enforced, and are completely detrimental to the operation of a business and tend to lead to MORE theft (in the case of bag checks) as opposed to less. There’s an inherent hypocrisy in these policies I will address later on, but I want you to remember I said that before I make the following statement, which will piss some of you off.

If the policies of drug testing and bag checks were 100% enforced and universally applied I wouldn’t like their existence, but I would accept them. Now don’t slam you’re computer shut and walk away, I have a rationalization for my views and an explanation why it’ll never happen.

First let’s talk about drug testing.

This one is simple, if everyone and by Tesla I mean EVERYONE had to have an initial drug screening I would actually be fine with it. I think it’s a waste of money, which the company better damn well eat, and frankly there are easy ways around it. I think the policy is unconstitutional but the various state and federal courts disagree with me on the subject. But in the end I want people responsible for enforcing the law and providing health and human services to be sober on the job. Personally I think as long as you’re sober ON THE JOB that’s all that matters but this isn’t an essay about the war on drugs… that’s for later.

Now we come to my own personal observations on the subject of workplace drug testing. With a few exceptions (spare me your isolated examples attempting to prove me wrong) drug testing in the work place is reserved for the lower echelon workers and the upper Muckity mucks are exempted from it. Let me tell you a single story from my own work history, although I could share dozens, to exemplify this point. When I was working at Toys R Us a friend of mine was injured. I was there when it happened, a box fell from a rack and hit her on the head. She needed two stitches and she was forced to take a drug test. She was clean so there was no issue, but it bothered me that even though she did nothing wrong she was still forced to take a drug test to prove she wasn’t high and at fault.

Fast forward three months.

One of the managers at the store filleted his hand open with a box cutter and had to have a half a dozen stitches. I don’t know if he was on anything and I don’t give a shit if he was, but for the sake of argument I’m gonna say he was completely sober. When he came back from the hospital I found out, not gonna say who told me but here’s some advice to upper management “The people you walk on are not your friends”, he never had to take a drug test. In fact, contrary to what we’d been told there was an unwritten rule that management was exempt from the policy. I don’t know if that unwritten rule was corporate, regional, district, or local and I don’t care. Even if it was just the store policy it proves my point about universal enforcement and implementation.

But that’s fair right?

I mean the bosses are just better people than the rest of us. It’s not like we had a store director at one point who was also a reserve swat team member who was hopped up on amphetamines all the time. No that never ever happened… except for when it did.

Now bag searches… this one really sticks in my craw.

In my not so humble opinion forcing workers to open their bags for inspection is unconstitutional. Once again many of the state and federal courts disagree with me on this but I bet you can guess how I feel about that. Once more my example comes from the land of Geoffrey the Giraffe, I worked there a long time Boils and Ghouls, sue me.

There was a standing rule that if you carried a bag it had to be inspected by a manager before you could leave for the day. Sometimes the rule was implemented and sometimes it wasn’t. We actually went months at a time when it was never even mentioned. And the process, oh the humiliating process, it was glorious in its awfulness. You had to go to the customer service desk at the front of the store, open your bag, and allow the manager or supervisor to root around in it while customers and employees watched.

Nothing like a little psychological and emotional rape to create a good working environment.

I will say this, the managers and supervisors weren’t dumb enough to not also subject themselves to the searches, in fact they made a show of it so everyone knew even they had to do it, except for one of them. Isn’t there always one asshole in the bunch?

We had a district manager by the name of Warren (not his real name) who carried a man purse everywhere, and by man purse I mean MAN PURSE. I carry a backpack or shoulder bag all the time, but Warren’s bag was something special. It was massive, it was made of really expensive hand tooled leather, and it never left his sight. Do you think that bag was ever once searched in all the years he was our district manager?

If you answered anything but no you should reread this essay.

I really don’t think I need to say anything else. I had to make a list and cull through my available stories because there were a lot of them. I think these two stories speak for all of the ones I didn’t choose and I think they serve to make my point.

All or none, there’s no middle ground… and that’s why things will never change.

– Josh

LINKS:·

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Josh Hilden

When I was born on August 3, 1976 in the great state of Michigan the hills shook and the sky was swept with fire. These were portents of the greatness for my future that was written in the stars ... I'm still waiting for that greatness. My name is Josh Hilden and I am many things. I am a husband, a father, a son, a friend. These are all important things but at my core I am an artist and the medium that I work in is words. I am a writer of Horror, Science Fiction, Drama, and Role Playing Games. I worked for Palladium Books (www.palladiumbooks.com) and Third Eye Games (www.thirdeyegames.net) before striking out on my own and founding a small press publishing company Gorillas with Scissors Press (www.gwspress.com). I also work for Fat Goblin Games (www.fatgoblingames.com). In the everyday world I can be found spending time with my family and friends. I have been married to my lovely wife Karen since 1996 and we have six amazing children. We tend to be a family of unabashed geeks and gamers who were geek before geek was chic. If you are really interested in me I am very active online with a personal and a writing blog along with a plethora of social media outlets. If you have any questions or just want to chat hit me up!