What does the world cost? Oh well, then we'll just take a small coke.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Desperate Student, Episode 3: Human Lab Rat

After an unfortunate escapade with the salvation army, I found myself once again hunting for work so I could support a relationship with my girlfriend. Suzy was growing more and more suspicious with each passing moment, so I made a rash move: I booked a date. Worse yet, I opted to do it at a fancy restaurant. I had no cash on hand and was up to my follicles in debt.

So I let Monster.Com find me a new job.

"Wanted: Live humanoid to be paid minimum wage while we run tests on him/her."

Just my style! In a flash, I signed up for a job interview. I showed up at the provided address the next day - an FDA testing facility - and gave my name to the girl at the front desk. Her eyes got really big and she pushed a button on the desk. Then a crowd of people in white lab coats came out of the back and led me through a series of corridors to a small room. It was the kind doctors give checkups in.

One of the people stayed. He asked me some questions to make sure I was the right man for the job. Questions like: "Are you genetically human?" and "Have you ever been brought back from the dead?" Apparently I answered all these questions satisfactorily, because he made the appropriate check marks on his clipboard and handed it over to me.

"You're hired," He said. "Please sign on the dotted line."

The form was about forty pages long. I didn't read the whole thing, but the last paragraph said:

"I waive all my legal, civil, and human rights, explicit and otherwise, and surrender my integrity and my dignity to the Food and Drug Administration, with which it is authorized do whatsoever it pleases, for as long as it wishes. I have no entitlement or expectation of proper treatment or behavior from the Food and Drug Administration and will not pursue any action against it, legal or otherwise, under any circumstances, for as long as I live, so help me, I swear."

I signed.

Then I was strapped to a gurney and led into a large, laboratory looking room. The lights were very bright and cast dark shadows on things, making everything seem clinical and sinister. My mind immediately began ticking off the time for which I was being paid.

A fifty-something year old man in a blue coat and medical mask leaned over me. "The purpose of this test," He said, "Is to determine the effects of a new pesticide on human vision. This is so we can provide proper wording for the warning label. Do you understand?"

"No," I said.

The man turned to someone I couldn't see. "Run system Alpha," He said, then backed away. The lights dimmed and I stopped squinting. Gloved hands touched my face in the darkness, found my left eye, and pulled it open. Then a warm, sticky wetness oozed into the eye.

"How do you feel?" The man's voice droned.

"Uncomfortable," I said.

The man grunted, and I gathered he wasn't satisfied. "Run Beta," He ordered. This time, the substance was drizzled into my right eye. The substance felt like thickened water, just like the first, but after several seconds I felt a stinging sensation as if I had rubbed my eyes after eating mexican food.

"Whoa!" I shouted, pushing my hands against the restraints.

"How about now?" The man asked, his voice betraying a hint of pleasure.

"This hurts!" I shouted. "Rinse it out!"

"Run Chi."

I didn't know what Chi was, but I soon learned it had something to do with nearly indescribable pain. Naturally, the man asked me to describe it.

"It's like a million needles pushing into the surface of my eyeball!"

There was a pause. Then: "Run Delta."

Ten minutes later ...

"How about now?"

"It's like someone's powerdrilling through my eyeball!"

"Run Zeta Four. How about now?"

"It's like someone just popped my eyeball like a grape!"

"Run Zeta Five."

Two hours later ...

"How about now?"

"A hacksaw!"

"And now?"


"And now?"

"A croquet spike!"

"And now?"

"A fork!"

"And now?"

"A riding spur!"

"And now?"

"A jackhammer!"

Finally, it stopped. "His eyes won't open, sir," Someone said. The questioner grunted. "All right, untie him."

My eyes would indeed not open. In fact, they felt welded shut and my eyes had swollen to the size of softballs. Someone counted out 32 dollars and pressed them into my hand.

"Good work in there," A voice said. "Very creative."

I was walked back to the front and left standing on the curb. After five minutes of fumbling around in the middle of oncoming traffic, I found my car and drove home - by braille.

I stumbled up the steps and into my dorm, still blind as a bat. I had one message on my phone:

"Hi, this is Suzy, just checking to make sure we're still on for tonight."

Well, I was not on for tonight, and I was forced to tell her so. She dumped me right then and there. I confess that as I type this, my heart is broken, among other anatomical components.

I lay in bed, weeping tearlessly. Then I dozed off to a troubled sleep. I assume a few hours passed (I couldn't see the clock). I was rudely awakened by the phone ringing. I stumbled over to the table. My hand pushed against something that felt like my roomie's laptop, then I heard a hollow shattering and the sound of millions of tiny pieces of plastic skittering across the floor.

I lifted the phone. "Hello?"

"This is the United States Government. Are you interested in continuing work with us?"

"I ..." I hesitated. I was desperate, but not that desperate. I shocked myself by saying: "No. In fact, get lost."

"Evidently," The man said tersely, "You don't realize who you're working with." The call ended a few minutes later with both of us very angry at each other.

I went back to bed and was next awakened by my frantic roomie. After a tense argument, I finally relented and relinquished my life savings so he could buy a new laptop. That's right, I gave him my 32 dollars.

A few weeks later (about the time my eyes had shrunk back to size), I recieved a small envelope in the mail. I opened it and discovered that the FDA had had the audacity to send me the completed label. An excerpt:

"DANGER! PELIGRO! NO TOUCHIE! Extremely hazardous chemical. If contact is made with eyes, rinse thoroughly for several hours and call a poison control center immediately, not necessarily in that order. Failure to follow these instructions can cause instant, permanent blindness."

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