The Pee Test
by Taylor Orci
When I was 18 I lived in this cheap apartment building that, for whatever reason, was a revolving door for weird people. There were schizophrenics, prostitutes, and me, a college dropout trying to erase my screw up by going to community college. One day my landlord knocked on my door and said, “Taylor, this ex-con is gonna move in and she just got out of prison so be nice.”
My only real encounter with people who’d been in prison was in elementary school, when we did this scared straight kind of program where we heard horror stories from ex-cons who all had tattoos and names like “Payasa Loca.” But the woman who moved in was nothing like that.
First off, her name was “Lilly,” which is the nicest, gentlest name I can think of. Another suspiring thing was that she was happy ALL THE TIME. But after thinking about it I was like, yeah I’d be happy too if I just got out of living in a cell for years. I’d come home from class feeling bummed about some test or something, and she’d come up to me and be like, “Taylor, I just had the BEST turkey sandwich,” and it would brighten up my day. She appreciated the small stuff, and it was fun hanging out with her, so we became friends.
But one day she came knocking at my door and she was in tears. She told me that her parole officer had come by her house and had found a joint in the trash that she and her friend had smoked, and that if she didn’t pass her drug test, she’d lose custody of her daughter and go back to jail. She kept saying, “It was just a little bit of pot. It was just a little bit of pot.” She asked me to take her drug test for her.
I think most people would have been like, “Tough! I’m not gonna take your drug test for you!” But over the course of knowing Lilly, I had kinda become an advocate for prisoners rights. I’d find ways to bring it up in conversation like, “Yeah, it is a beautiful day outside. You know who doesn’t get to see the light of day? Prisoners. My friend Lilly used to be one.” Also, Lilly had been looking out for me around all the other creepy people in the house, and I sort of felt like I owed her one. And so I said, “Of course, I’ll take your drug test for you.”
The day came to take the pee test and I was kind of nervous. I had never taken a pee test before. I expected to pee in a cup, then give Lilly a ride to the place and she’d drop it off. Sort of like returning a video at the drug test version of Blockbuster. So she showed up at my apartment and I was like, “Where’s my cup?” And she said you couldn’t just give urine to the drug testing people. You had to go and pee in their bathroom, and they had security cameras in the bathroom so you couldn’t just pull something out of your purse be on your way.
But she had a way around this, and so she handed me a pink cigar tube. She explained ALL I had to do was pee into this tube, and then she’d put like this cellophane wrapper on top of it, and then put it up inside of her like a Tampax, and then when she was in the bathroom, she’d puncture the wrapper with her nail, and the pee would come out, and she’d give it to the officer.
The other part of it, I guess, is that the pee needed to be body temperature or fresh pee, so I would have to pee in the car.
She probably saw I was nervous because she said, “People do it all the time.” That didn’t sound right, but who was I to know if people were walking around with tubes of other people’s pee in their vaginas?
Honestly I wanted to back out, but I didn’t want to put her out. And also — her name may have been Lilly, and she may have gotten happy about eating turkey sandwiches and stuff, but she was still an EX-CON. Who KNEW what she was capable of? Then it hit me: I was her pee bitch.
So we drove to the drug testing place, and I got into the back of my car and assumed a position hoping I didn’t get too much pee on the floor of my car. The only time I ever peed NOT in a bathroom was when I went camping, so I tried to pretend I was camping in the woods and not squatting in the back of my Nissan Sentra in a downtown parking lot in the middle of the afternoon. When I was done, she put the wrapper over the tube and put it up where it needed to go.
And when the test came back, it was clean, and she got to keep her daughter. But I don’t really know if that was the right thing to to. I wanted to help someone who’d been unfairly wronged by the system, without considering that maybe a woman who violates her parole by doing drugs shouldn’t get to keep her daughter. After that I figured maybe it shouldn’t be up to me to decide stuff like that, so since then I’ve kept my pee to myself.
Taylor Orci is a comedy writer and performer living in Los Angeles. She’s been a producer for the likes of NPR, WNYC and KCRW, and has contributed to the likes of BUST Magazine, Slate.com, and IFC’s The Grid. She blogs about funny things and tiny animals here, and then tweets about them here.