MEDIA CONTEST: Airman experiences AF drug test; drip by drip
By , Print Journalist of the Year Entry 1D
/ Published December 28, 2006
ACC MEDIA CONTEST -- Drip. Drip. Drip.
That was the sound I heard recently for more than an hour during my first randomized drug test.
After a phone call from my orderly room telling me I needed to sign "paperwork," my co-workers informed me I was likely to provide my first Moody urine sample. I told them, "I'll be back in 30 minutes." Unfortunately, I was wrong.
Upon my arrival at the testing center, I filled out paperwork, signed my name on the dotted line and entered the bathroom with a monitor. He examined the whole process, which was a little strange, but I guess neither of us had a choice.
As I stepped to the urinal, I expected a nice steady river; confident in knowing at least this was one test I surely would pass. Instead I got a Saharan drought. I asked the monitor politely to turn the faucet on for a few seconds. Maybe it would help me go. It didn't.
He told me to go back in the waiting room, drink some water and try again in a half-hour.
I sat in the waiting room and guzzled what seemed to be two gallons of water. I passed the time by reading magazines. The monitor approached me and asked if I was ready for a second attempt. I had work to get back to at the office, so I drank until I felt goose-bumps and shivers. I thought I'd be okay, but I was wrong again.
I re-entered the bathroom and got a tiny stream into the container. I confidently told the monitor it would be just a minute before I had the container full-to-the-brim. He told me there was no rush, but I could see he was becoming impatient.
I asked him to turn the faucet on again to see if it'd help. I imagined gushing waterfalls, flushed the toilet. Nothing worked.
I asked the monitor if I could drink directly from the faucet. He let me, and I went headfirst into the sink. I was already bloated from the water in the waiting room, and now I was about to throw up. I went back to the urinal to try again. Drip. Drip. Drip.
I pushed until I felt nothing but sheer pain. I joked to the monitor about how I probably needed a prostate exam after pushing so hard. He gave a half-smile and a phony laugh.
By this time, I was the laughingstock of the whole testing center. Other monitors, who had overseen at least five guys urinate in the time I was taking, laughed that I hadn't been able to fill the container yet. The monitor told me to just stay calm and wait for the "rain."
I knew it was just a matter of time, so I sat down in a bathroom chair. The monitor and I discussed our jobs, the weather and sports. The normal stuff two guys sitting in awkward bathroom silence would discuss. We had been in the bathroom for about 45 minutes, and I just wanted to get it over with.
I approached the urinal again and pushed. Finally, a few drips turned into a few squirts, putting me over the requirement. Never have I been so happy to urinate, and trust me, there were a few long vacation car trips where my dad wouldn't stop even if we were approaching a collapsed bridge. Even among those instances, this experience ranked No. 1.
While considering the struggles I overcame, I thought of the meaning of drug tests and military life. I needed to make sense of using every muscle in my body to push out a few drops.
Airmen are responsible for defending this nation and ensuring Americans are safe. In the process, they are often responsible for handling million-dollar equipment.
How well can Airmen efficiently carry out their mission if they are under the influence of drugs? Most of us have seen how drug-induced individuals act; if not in real-life, then in movies or on television.
They are often slow, dull-witted and don't make the best decisions. These are not traits that should describe the Airmen who stand between our enemies and American soil.
So if you are inconvenienced by a trip to the drug testing center, or experience a dilemma similar to mine, remember why you are being asked to give that sample and how important your job is. Take pride in it, drip by drip.