Urine Trouble, I'm in Trouble

TIMES ARE tough all over. Used to be any drugged-out freak with a forged press card could peddle a kilo of dope, change his name, and catch the next flight out to the civil war, riot, or acid orgy of his choice.

Today you can't even buy drive-thru liquor anymore. The same people who used to drop acid brewed in rat-infested basements are now concerned that their coffee isn't decaffinated properly. The closest they come to cheap thrills is buying junk bonds.

You go from day to day, from revolution to Yeti sighting to Est fest to Krishna love-in, and then one day you wake up and everyone's wearing tweed. Suddenly "sold out" just means "standing room only."

There's always overseas. Surely, you think, in some far off jungle somewhere there's got to be a Central American government ready to fall or a lost Amazonian tribe contacting God through a secret hallucinogenic toad extract. Instead you find that even the revolutions are run by the CIA these days, and all the drugs are in the hands of Harvard Business School Graduates who wear Vuarnets.

Then one day you see an ad on TV announcing that "the wet look is back" and something inside you snaps. You realize that things have changed forever. You're an outcast. No one cares that the Yeti's habitat is being encroached upon. No one cares that the social organization of the Burmese orchid monkey exactly duplicates that of professional football referees. Curiosity is dead.

You decide to get back in circulation, figuring a man of experience is bound to have good job prospects. You apply for a job at the Miami Herald. You are told that, yes, you have excellent journalistic credentials. A job is virtually assured. But there is one final matter to attend to.

You must have a urine test.

THERE WAS A time when a man's urine was his own business. If there was something wrong with it, he might go to a doctor. Otherwise, he didn't give it much thought. He did not bring it to parties, or leave it on display in the front hall. He certainly did not present it to prospective employers.

Times change. The Miami Herald told me, give us some urine and we will give you a job. Why do you want my urine, I asked. It sounded like an uneven trade. They told me they wanted to know if there were drugs in my urine.

I told them that I would like to know if there were drugs in my urine as well. I had heard of drugs in banana peels and cabbage and rope, but I had never heard about drugs in urine. I said that in my day such news would have caused a big stir.

They explained that they intended to examine my urine for signs of drug use. It all became clear to me. If a man is to be judged by the standards of the day, then the standard of the day is urine. And mine would not be up to par.

Needless to say, I did not want the long arm of justice reaching up this reporter's urethra. So I walked out the door with dignity--and zipper--in place.

I thought a few of my old contacts might still have a finger on the action somewhere. Jerry Rubin, I had heard, was making good money in exploiting the poor on Wall Street--disappointing, to say the least, but aging ex-hippies can't be choosers.

The interview didn't take long. The story was the same everywhere: don't sign up if you can't fill the cup. Everyone from the president of IBM to the greasiest fry-boy at McDonalds had their nitrogenous wastes feeding into a pipeline straight to the DEA. Why? There weren't any attempts to justify it. If was simply wrong to do drugs.

If they had said, look, we don't think that people who do drugs are apt to be competent, then that would have been one thing. It's just barely conceivable that Nixon's men broke into Watergate because their boss needed a fix, or that Ivan Boesky was just trying to scrape some money together for another vial of crack. But the given rationalization, if any, was simply that drug takers are lawbreakers. Case closed.

Why have Americans allowed themselves to be subjected to this mass paranoia? Frankly, I don't know. I tuned out of domestic politics after Watergate, thinking the worst was over. It turns out it had just begun. The radicals of the '60s, instead of toppling the establishment, just entrenched it.

In the '80s the message of the day is, get with the program or get out. Given a choice between sticking to principles and eating, a man's got to eat. But there's always another way.

Say, buddy, can you spare a cup of urine?

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