At a time when many people are happy to have one job, I have two. My primary career is a typical 9-to-5 office job, consisting mostly of financial document analysis with a little online Scrabble and tardiness thrown in for laughs. My newer vocation began about two years ago, when boredom with the daily grind and a desire for a little extra cash spurred me to become a large lab animal.
A local medical research outfit was looking for volunteers in a study it was doing. There was a vaccine already in widespread use among patients age 60 and older, and research was being done to see if it would be equally effective for a slightly younger population. At age 55, I was intrigued by the opportunity to be considered “slightly younger” at anything, and by the token payment that would be made to participants. I had to show up at their office in south Charlotte for a brief exam and interview, receive a next-to-painless injection, and for my effort I’d be compensated $120, and an additional $10 a month for answering a series of follow-up questions on the phone.
I forget now what the disease was that I’d be vaccinated against. I think it was “Shingles” or “Pringles” or something like that. If I received the real medicine, which went to only half the participants in the double-blind study, I’d likely avoid developing either a painful skin rash, or breath that reaked of “pizzalicious” flavor and fingers stained with grease.
During that first interview, I was careful to ask several probing questions, including whether I’d be probed, and whether ”double-blind” meant that I’d be losing sight in both eyes (I wouldn’t, which was good; that’d be worth way more than $180). In return, they quizzed me about my health history, whether I’d ever had any headaches and for how long I’ve been having them. I said I thought everybody had headaches at least occasionally, and I’ve been having them for as long as I could remember, which didn’t sound good, but they took me anyway.
The rest of the test was pretty uneventful. I never experienced any negative side-effects, except one time when the automated phone-in system malfunctioned and called me a “loser”. I received a cool ten-spot every month for six months, which I unwisely invested in the subprime mortgage derivatives market, and never got any “ingle”-related symptoms.
Then, a few days ago, I got an e-mail at my work asking if I might be interested in participating in a new study for the same research firm. “Dear Davis,” it read, ”we just wanted to let you know that we have a new study for nocturia, which is waking at least two times a night to go to the bathroom. If you’re interested in more information, please call.”
Though the e-mail warned that this investigation would be more labor-intensive, requiring ten visits over three months and a long-term follow-up, I figured I’d easily qualify. I was indeed an over-50 non-smoker without diabetes and I did indeed sometimes need to “go” during the night, often to the bathroom though occasionally to a play.
I sent a copy of the correspondence to the printer next to my desk which, to my horror, began spitting out obviously unrelated pages as soon as I pressed the “print” button. Two co-workers had picked this inopportune time to actually do some work, and now my shameful case of “nocturia” would be mixed in with the management compensation summaries they needed to read. It’s outrageous enough to learn that the CEO of Comcast pulled down $15 million in stock options alone in 2009, but to then learn that he also had to pee in his sleep would be simply too much information.
I quickly jumped up and huddled menacingly over the printer, successfully screening off the ladies waiting to retrieve their report. I’m already widely regarded as the weird guy in the office, and I didn’t need any confirming documentation going into widespread release.
A few days later I called the number to learn some of the details. I said I was a little concerned about having to make that many on-site visits considering that I’m working some long hours during our current busy season. When she heard that I worked at a real job, unlike most other 50-somethings who were long ago down-sized and now urinate for a living, she agreed that this might not be the test for me.
“You’d have to collect all your urine for a 48-hour period to begin the study,” she said. “I’m not sure how that’d work in your office.”
I, on the other hand, am quite sure how that would work, and it would be not well. I thanked her for her time and asked her to keep me in mind for future research, preferably any projects that didn’t involve the collection of secretions or emissions.
After the call, though, I wondered if there might’ve been a way to make this work. Is it possible to collect all your liquid waste in a discreet vessel and, at the same time, effectively determine the opening price of an initial public offering? Or is urinating into a discarded two-liter Mountain Dew bottle while standing at your desk not what they mean by “public offering”?
I consulted with a fellow middle-aged male who helped me bat around some ideas for how we could do our job and do our business at the same time. He suggested employing the little-used blue recycling bins that everyone has under their desks after a well-intended “green initiative” the company started a few years back. While it’s true that blue and yellow do combine to make green, I’m not sure that’s quite the kind of recycling our corporate masters had in mind. Though it might be possible to eliminate while remaining seated at your work station, the slightly distracted, blissed-out look on your face would reveal to any onlookers that you were enjoying a discussion of shareholder proposals way too much.
I wondered about using a thermos. Andy said that’d be too small for 48 hours’ worth and, besides, I don’t think you’d really want to keep it warm. How about if you wore a non-descript backpack throughout the day, and filled it with balloons? “I figured for Casual Friday, I’d dress like I used to look back in high school,” you could say. Or maybe doing something blatantly obvious would be counter-intuitive — like one of those “beer hats” with jars attached to a construction helmet and tubes running down into your groin. I guess you’d need a pump, though, to get the liquid uphill. I’d have to run that plan by a fluid dynamics engineer.
In the end, we agreed that none of these options were likely practical, and finally gave up hope of getting a vaccine that would guarantee we’d never pee again.
(Wait — how about using a Pringles can?!)