The Drug Test

Oh, Inglewood.

I can safely say, at this point, that I’ve dedicated more hours of my life to proving that I’m not on drugs than I ever have to actually experimenting with them (large-scale trafficking of pot being exempt, in this particular example).

My probation officer called me in for a random drug test this morning.  The probation office is in Inglewood.  I have been looking forward to road tripping around the US after I’m free from the constraints of house arrest.  For now, the closest that I’m going to come to a road trip is an early morning drive into Inglewood, which is about fifteen miles away from my apartment.  Cruising through a seemingly endless spread of bail bonds storefronts and fast food fried chicken doesn’t stand as a very appealing compromise, but my ability to compromise is considerably limited for the next two months.

I stepped into the office at around 7am, as I’ve done so many times before.  As usual, on my walk from a distant parking space, I went through a gas station and grabbed a handful of string cheese.  Small comforts.

The waiting room in probation feels generally vacant, save for a scattering of offenders and an elaborate security arrangement, complete with a metal detector walkthrough.  Always a familiar welcome, and a reminder that I’m considered one of “them.”  The walls in the waiting room are filled with those typical posters of encouragement.

This morning, as I was handed my paperwork through a thick glass window, I was aware that I was being watch by a bystander.  He was a fellow offender who looked straight out of Central Casting.  He fidgeted with his own paperwork next to me as I began to fill in the form.  He was staring at my ankle, which was obviously exposed under my workout shorts.

“Is that a ankle bracelet?”  He pointed down.  “Yep,” I said, as I wrote on the paper.  “Sure is.”  He twitched and nodded his head with interest.  “Oh.  Damn!”  An employee of the office opened a door, and the ogler disappeared behind it.

Then, my turn.  Oh, the joyous routine.  I aced my drug test, yet again.  Gold star?  Well, at least there was string cheese.

75 days to go.

Girl in the Hood

Good morning, Inglewood!

I may not have a college degree at this point in my life, but damn it if I haven’t aced every drug test I’ve ever taken.  During my pre-trial services last year, which is like probation prior to a trial or a guilty plea, I had to submit to random drug tests eight times a month.  That wreaked havoc on my sleep schedule because I had to report to a recovery center on Sunset Blvd between the hours of 5am and 9am.  I would barely rest the night before, and I made an unhealthy habit of staying up until 4:30am, living in fear that I would oversleep, when I would leave my apartment in time to be there early and go home to collapse in my bed in a desperate attempt to reclaim my sanity.

Now, in my post-prison probation supervision arrangement, I am called in by my general probation officer (meaning the PO who is not my home monitoring officer- These are totally different departments) the night before to inform me that I’m required to come in and have my way with a plastic cup in the interest of proving my innocence of drug abuse.  Mercifully, the hours of testing are from 6:30am to 2:30pm.  My home monitoring PO requires that I get there early, so I usually leave my apartment between 6am and 7am.

My phone buzzed with a restricted call last night, and I answered to hear my general PO telling me to be at the probation office in Inglewood this morning.

I crawled out of bed at 6am and threw on a moo-moo of sorts from my closet.  Laundry day.  I drove down La Brea Ave into Inglewood and parked at the meters a few blocks from the probation offices.  The dreariness of this routine has been broken up only by the fact that there is a gas station along the walking route from the meters that I’ve found to sell unusually delicious string cheese.  To my dismay, they were out of string cheese today.  For the better, I thought, trying to console myself as I waddled along the sidewalk past bus stops and foot traffic toward the building.

Even walking through Inglewood, there is something about an obvious ankle bracelet that makes me less weary of any dodgy locals thinking they can get one over on me.  I noticed people at the bus stop staring at it, and I gave no acknowledgement, save for an occasional nod behind my sunglasses.  “Yeah, that’s right.  Not a good time to mess with this.  If you abduct me, this little baby is going to tell the feds my exact GPS location, and yours too.  If nothing else, I can weaponize this thing pretty quickly in a high kick.  Run an’ tell that, homeboy.”

I took an elevator up to the probation offices.  Per usual, I walked in and grabbed a sign-in sheet at the glass window that protects the front desk from the usual steady stream of criminals.  The sheet just asks if I’ve consumed any narcotics, and if so, what those might be.  I went through the metal detector and security set-up before settling into the waiting area with other offenders.  After a few minutes, a woman appeared from behind a door and called my name.  I followed her in for a quick test, then I was released back to the streets of Inglewood.  Usually, at this point, I would reward myself with a handful of string cheese from the gas station on the way back to my car.  Barring the potential threat of a false positive, this is my monthly routine for drug testing.

216 days to go.