Pee Shy

By Kristen Elde


The other day I swung by Quest Diagnostics for some routine diabetes-related testing. First up: the blood draw. Ridiculous, but I near-hyperventilate just thinking about this procedure. I always make it a point to inform the phlebotomist of my irrational fear well before he/she does his/her thing, just in case doing so guarantees me a really great draw courtesy some extra care. This woman, pleasant and chatty, laughed and said, “Oh, you’re too much.” Word.

Anyway, it was fine. Fast, painless. Great story, huh? Stay with me.

After blood came urine. Ah, everyone’s favorite: the ol’ pee-in-a-cup trick. Because I’m a decent human being, I’ll skip to the end—to that part when you’re left standing in the middle of a private bathroom, one hand warmed by the golden specimen it’s wrapped around. Generally, this rude sensation need not last long. Following instruction, you simply set your cup, capped tightly and marked with a personal identifier, on a designated shelf. With a thorough scrub of the hands, you’re on your merry way.

Today, though, things went a bit differently for me. For starters, at the point that I was ready to hand off to the shelf, I realized the bathroom was not furnished with one. The words of the friendly phlebotomist came back to me: “Just bring your sample back here [bloodletting room] when you’re finished.” I then realized there was no lid to go with my cup, nor was there a strip with my name on it. Wha? But it could be anyone’s! What if there’s a mix-up? What if someone else gets my diabetic pee? What if I end up with a meth addict’s pee? Highly unprofessional! Gingerly setting my cup on the floor, I washed my—wait, no water? And none of that deliciously foamy soap to go with it? Nothing! Remembering that I’d be handling the cup again anyway, I let it drop (the issue, not the pee).

More than a little freaked, I nudged the door open. There were several people—staff, patients—filling the small hallway, and while I knew my room was close, anxiety was clouding my ability to recall details. Is it that room two doors left or the one just right? By now I had completely cleared the bathroom, putting me and my pee in full view of passersby. I took a left that should’ve, turned out, been a right, and when I went to correct myself, I felt the pee slosh in its cup. Whoa! This was followed by visions of dampened pant hems, disgusted faces, injurious slips… Oh, to hell with it. I walked into the nearest empty room and placed my cup, its contents exposed to plenty of airborne bacteria by now, on the handiest surface I could find (probably too close to the computer, but hey) and aimed to jet. On my way down the hall, I caught sight of my phlebotomist. Muttering and pointing, I made it clear where my pee was resting. Then I realized I was without wallet. Which meant I still needed to locate my room. Thankfully, without that cup in hand, my brain function restored itself and things fast settled out.

If ever I could’ve benefited from an open container law…

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KRISTEN ELDE, an editor by trade, lives and writes in Brooklyn. Her words have appeared in the Web publications McSweeneys, The Northville Review, Pindeldyboz, and Word Riot, in addition to such magazines as BUST, Health, Runner's World, Running Times, Shape, The Writer, and Writer's Digest. She's also one half of the team behind a wildly unpopular parody food blog, to which she loves contributing.

2 responses to “Pee Shy”

  1. When you come to work in Korea they make you do several AIDS and drugs tests that Korean people are never made to do. This is related to a belief that non-Koreans are all drug-abusing AIDS patients and Korea has been rapped on its human rights violations in relation to this… Especially considering Korea is one of the few countries to completely ban HIV positive people from coming in, and yet managed to secure the next international AIDS conference…

    But my point is this…

    They’re not terribly good at doing these tests. They give you a dirt needle in the arm for the blood test (which seems like a bloody good way of getting a disease) and then give you a cup with no lid and tell you to take it into a bathroom (which is also where the open fire escape is…) and bring it back “later”. Now, I’m an honest boy and I peed in my cup and brought it back, but if I’d wanted to I could have procured pee from any number of places.

    And yes, it occurred to me then that the pee could have been mixed up. It had neither my name on it, nor any apparent identifying number. But what the hell, they said I don’t do drugs and don’t have AIDS (they tell you this in front of as many Korean people as possible, just to make it look like you MIGHT have had AIDS or did drugs).

  2. kristen says:

    Wowie. Quite the story, David. Love the “they tell you this in front of as many Korean ppl as possible” bit. Oh, the psychology!

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