The Birth of Powdered Urine
I was writing for the Chronicle from time to time. One day I heard
on the radio the Government had a new idea to keep America safe
and efficient - they were going to collect workers urine specimens
in little cups and analyze whether any drugs were present.
The first thought that shot through my head
was "Wait! That's
unconstitutional. In America you are innocent till proven guilty.
You are not assumed guilty and have to prove your innocence." Then
as corny as it may sound I thought of John Wayne. I don't even
like John Wayne. But an image of those classic westerns flooded
through my twisted brain. JOHN WAYNE WOULDN'T LINE UP AND PEE IN
A CUP FOR THE TOWN CLERK!
I wandered into the rat warren that passed
as the Chronicle editorial empire at the time. "Give me a quarter page. I want to write a
satirical ad about this new drug testing campaign of the government." The
editors, something of Libertarians, agreed.
So a few days later a serious looking ad
appeared in the Chronicle headlined "Pure Texas Urine/ Guaranteed Drug Free. $49.95." About
3 AM my home phone began ringing. First in was NBC. Then CNN. "Is
this serious?" they asked.
"Absoloutely, even the Ayatolla Khomeni in repressive Iran doesn't
collect your bodily fluids." This was Abbie Hoffman's Yippie idea
of stretching establishment politics into their intersection with
absurdity. "We believe a employee should - pee for pleasure, not
Three days and several news conferences later I began to receive
mail. With checks. Lots of checks! For $49.95. And calls from libertarian
chemists who volunteered to help. Where could I actually get Drug
Free Urine, I wondered?
The next day I borrowed a lab coat and visited
a Baptist Senior Citizens Center. I explained I needed urine
samples for "research
purposes" and would pay $5 per. The director reacted enthusiastically: "Great.
Now we will have more money for our bus trips."
Next comes the horrible and disgusting part. Try not to think
about shipping fresh urine samples in Urostemy bags DHL? Try not
to imagine the DHL supervisor calling long distance to say there
was leakage from our packages and did they contain a bio hazard?
Don't consider the dedication it takes to test a vat of urine for
drug positives? Yuck.
We soon found that many of the old Baptist's samples were testing
positive. We learned that there were many legal medications that
cross-reacted on urine tests. And the law of unintended consequences
had set in. A satire had turned into an anti drug testing campaign.
The problem was that collecting urine ranked as one of the most
loathsome ideas of the decade.
So at the next press conference I announced
Drug Free Powdered Urine. "We are to urine what Tang is to orange juice".
After several weeks an instant product was actually invented.
And then the story grew more bizarre. But that's for another
We soon held the Urine Ball which was dutifully
reported in the society column of the Dallas Morning News as
the U-Rine Ball by a very confused reporter of the country club
scene. At the Ball some Austin political operative had given
me a private number for Reagan at the White House. When we reached
a lieutenant on the telephone the crowd roared "We won't drop our zipper for the Gipper".
Then everyone continued dancing to the music of the Urin-anium
Of course being labeled the "Urine King" by
the National Star Supermarket tabloid didn't increase my opportunity
for dates. I wonder why? But the high profile campaign went on
for another month or so. The editors, who were trying to put
out a serious paper were more than indulgent in this effort.
Maybe they believed as I, in the motto that
emerged from the movement?: "Test
your Government Not your Urine."