June 20, 2002
Breaking Balls: Reader Testing
It's been brought to my attention that many of you are using illegal drugs. I'm not accusing you, in particular, no. But you know who I'm talking about.
This puts you at an unfair disadvantage. Readers on methamphetamines are able to read an entire day's BP.com content in minutes, leaving valuable time for other activities, like bicycling 100 miles or staring off into space while developing facial tics. Some of my readers may be smoking the delicious herb, and these guys are going to see some of the crazier references, discern the deeper resonances that might go by you, the THC-lacking. PCP users might be able to read anti-Selig diatribes and in a rage chase the owners' representative from his office, which would be a shame, what with all the good work he's doing. Abusers of prescription decongestants will be floating in a weird, disorienting space and toss their lunch soon, allowing them to make their weight-loss goals before you do.
Can't you feel them, in the cubicle next to yours, enhancing shareholder value, or in the next apartment, slowing your party-line cable modem connection? Don't you hate them? They're messing up your enjoyment of this free article even as you read this sentence.
Maybe there's some good arguments on why these guys aren't drug users: they've always been fast readers, or been good at catching obscure references. Some of them have gone so far as to come right out and deny that they're drug users. But we still know, don't we? We've heard. Some we're not sure about, but without some way to know who is and who isn't using reading-enhancement drugs, all readers are tainted by our suspicion. As much as it must impede your enjoyment of the column, think about how much it must gall me, writing knowing there are readers out there hopped up on goofballs, and suspecting so many more.
Sure, these drugs are illegal, and if I really thought Reader B was on something, if I had evidence enough to accuse him publicly I should really be talking to the cops. Even that's not going to do anything to sort out all the confusion, though. I have to take a stand, an active role in fighting reader drug abuse.
I've read my XML books through a couple times and while I can certainly whip up a zone permission for clean readers, the nature of the Internet means you could just set your client to show that you're clean, and I'd have to trust you. Again, I'm not talking about you, because we both know you're clean.
Therefore, I've decided to implement drug testing. If you want to continue to read this column, I'm going to require urine samples from you. I don't want to intrude on everyone's privacy, so as this page is dynamically generated we'll be inserting HTML at random to implement this policy. Thanks for your cooperation.
If you're reading this, you've been selected for random drug testing. Do not be alarmed, this doesn't mean I think you're doing drugs. That's why this is random. Please proceed immediately to the nearest bathroom. Do not eat or drink anything on your way to the nearest bathroom, as this will be interpreted as an attempt to mask or otherwise taint the test, and result in a presumed-positive test and suspension.
In the bathroom you'll find a clear plastic cup and a bored intern. Urinate into the cup. The intern is there to make sure you don't try anything funny, like use another reader's urine--though, again, I don't mean that you'd do such a thing. The interns all signed confidentiality agreements, so rest assured that as they pay close attention to your sample-giving, they won't be leaking any interesting or embarrassing (depending on your, ah, situation) descriptions or stories to tabloids or other members of the press.
Seal the cup and hand it to the intern, who will drive it to the nearest affiliated testing facility. Don't worry about your sample getting contaminated or switched with someone else's, you can always file a protest after we print your name up on the weekly "Users and Losers" list, and we'll remove your name if you test clear the second time.
If the nearest bathroom doesn't contain a cup and a bored intern, hold it and wait for one of our teams to arrive. They must be held up in traffic or something.
Thanks for your cooperation.