I don’t smoke. But that’s where all the cool people hang out, so obviously, that’s where I was during break time. Plus my grandma used to smoke around me when I was a kid, so I guess it reminds me of home in a dark sort of way.
One of my smoking co-workers brought up a company called Pracs Institute, and I mentioned that I had actually done a medicine study with them before.
Pracs was a company that would test new drugs on people and then pay the participants a whole bunch of money. I was a lab rat for hire, my body a canvas for pharmaceutical companies to paint the first strokes of a new profit margin.
It was somewhat well known among the college-age and mid-20s crowd, for people who care little for things like “safety” or “long term effects” or “consequences” in exchange for making money for doing very little but sitting in a sterile room for a weekend and getting your blood drawn once an hour or so.
I had only done one study so far, a painkiller referred to as Fentanyl. For those of you who aren’t med students, in rap songs it’s referred to as China White. It’s supposedly 80x the strength of morphine. Just without the… hallucinations? I don’t know shit about drugs, I just get paid to do them.
Co-Worker Guy “That… is awesome. You got paid to be on painkillers.”
Me “I’ll probably do more studies, but it sucks because I’ve already taken an insanely powerful opiate. What could top that?”
Co-Worker Girl “Hah, maybe you’ll get Viagra or something. That’d be a treat.”
I think she and I may need to discuss this further, perhaps over dinner.
Right about a week later, I screened for my second study, and was placed in a group testing an experimental drug known at the time as “PT-141.” It was apparently new enough to where they didn’t even have a clever name for it. Years later it is now known as “bremelanotide,” so maybe they should have just stuck with the name that makes it sound like Luke Skywalker’s robotic fitness trainer.
Well PT-141 was originally developed as a tanning drug that would increase melanin production or something.
Turns out it also increased sexual arousal, and I imagine the marketing meeting where the company discussed the drug’s new potentials involved putting cocaine-powdered hundred dollar bills in a blender and doing keg stands with the resulting liquid.
The study would be a total of four days, and you aren’t allowed to leave the building for the entire duration. You’re confined to one large hospital-like room that has a restroom attached, a different room with a bunch of tables arranged like a sterile, boring high school chemistry class, and that’s it.
It wasn’t until Day 3 that we would actually receive the drug. The first day was boring, administrative check-in stuff, followed by a day with a 24-hour heart monitor, to produce a control without the drug, a day on the drug, and then a fourth day for it to wear off and see how long it lingers in the system.
So I got paid $1,200 to sit in a bed or a table for four days. I read books, listened to music, played pokemon, took naps… pretty much an average weekend in, only it feels like I’m in a dentist office.
Nothing interesting happened the first two days except for when a lady nurse was attaching my EKG heart monitor device to my chest. She told me to take my shirt off, and I said something about “I could at least buy you dinner first.” It’s now a decade later so I don’t remember if she thought it was funny, but I’m going to guess no.
Day 3, we were given our magic pills at 9:00 a.m., and were thereafter restricted from watching their pirated DVD library or Comedy Central, which is what usually played on the community TV screens. Now we were only shown movies rated G or PG.
We were also separated by gender, the men in one-half of the wing, and the women in a completely separate section closed off to the male participants. I’ll never know what really went on in that other room, but I’m sure it was beautiful.
10:00 a.m. — An hour after taking the medicine, I received my first side effect in the form of my drill sergeant standing at attention. But there was no purpose for it, like seeing a drill sergeant standing at attention in the middle of an empty parking lot.
11:00 a.m. — It’s still there, but it’s not even full-on. It’s one of those halfie chub chodes that aren’t really good for anything but giving you an inaccurate pee stream. So, less like a drill sergeant at attention, and more like a still-drunken sailor trying to stand up the next morning at muster after a night of port call activities.
Noon — This is getting ridiculous. I haven’t been thinking of anything remotely sexual. Guess that means the drug really works? We’re watching Monty Python or something, and Operation: Disco Stick was still a go.
1:00 p.m. — I begin to grow a bit concerned, and I guess just grow in general. All “efforts” to make the situation go away have failed.
2:00 p.m. — Okay, I’ve seen enough late-night infomercials and dick medicine commercials to always remember one hard fact (‘One Hard Fact’ is also the name of the band my penis plays guitar in). “Call a doctor if you experience an erection lasting longer than four hours.”
Not one to play around with such serious matters (although I did already try that), I called one of the phlebotomists over, and for the first time, I noticed that during this portion of the trial there weren’t any women phlebotomists. Maybe that was for the best.
Phleb “Yeah, what’s up?”
Me “I umm… well… there’s no easy way to say this…”
Phleb “Just say it man, whatever, it happens. I guarantee you I’ve heard worse.”
Me [sighing] “I’ve had an erection since 10:00 this morning.”
Phleb [slightly smirking] “Okay, I’ll let someone know.”
2:30 p.m. — I am called out of the area, walked over to behind a privacy curtain to speak to an on-staff doctor. Like, a DOCTOR doctor, not just some joe who knows how to draw blood from an arm.
He spoke in a completely business-formal tone, with no emotion at all, unless “slightly annoyed” qualifies as a kind of emotion.
Doc “So you’ve had an erection lasting since 10:00 a.m.?”
Me “Yeah pretty much.”
Doc “Show it to me.”
I swear he said that. Deadpan, too, almost like he was giving me an order. Too bad I already used my line about “buying you dinner first” yesterday.
So I said…
He stares at my love muscle for a few seconds, registering no detectable emotion. I just stood there, showing him my dick, as it stood there, slightly curved like the blade on that thing the Grim Reaper waves around (presumably so he can harvest wheat and feed his family of other reapers).
Me “I mean it’s not really a problem. I’m just reporting it or whatever because we’re supposed to report anything, umm… out of the ordinary.”
Doc [agitated] “Well, it IS a problem. You have an erection.”
Doc “And you were supposed to report anything lasting more than an hour.”
Me “Really? When did they say that?”
Doc “During your orientation.”
Ahh yeah… I wasn’t really listening. Which is probably unwise when you’re taking experimental drugs that don’t even have cute nicknames yet. They were saying something about “Thank you participating in this study and helping to further the cause of modern medicine blah blah blah someday this medicine could be used by your parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, or other people you know,” and I promptly tuned out and tried to erase the image from my memory forever.
Well, Doc decides to write me a prescription for a fucking ice pack. That was it. What a quack. Who did you get your medical degree from, Pocahontas? Sure you don’t want to offer me a magic elixir? You don’t have a tube lying around that says “Anti-Boner Cream” on it?
3:00 p.m. — It’s hard to overestimate this. These ice packs on my crotch are COLD. So not only is this not going to work in the first place, but now I have to suffer through the newest Broadway hit “Dicks On Ice,” which received really bad reviews from what I’ve heard.
An erection isn’t just a pooling of blood that sits there inside your dick. The blood is flowing, just like it does through your fingers or any other appendage. Ice packs can reduce swelling, and will reduce an erection by a bit, but it’s not going to STOP blood flow into my beef whistle altogether.
I think we were watching Bambi at this point. Dem horns tho.
3:30 p.m. — Very cold. Not working. But I could have told you that. My one-eyed yogurt slinger is tired of this bullshit. Why has nobody else reported any erections? Why am I the chosen one? What did I do to deserve this?
4:00 p.m. — Doc comes back to check on me and my six-hour-erect frozen-icicle-flesh-flute once again. Maybe this is just a reality show. Maybe he’s hitting on me.
Doc [annoyed] “Is it going away at ALL?”
Me “Mmm… no, not really.”
Doc [agitated] “Are you provoking it?”
Me “What? No, I’m not thinking about anything! I’ve been deliberately not thinking anything just to try and make the thing go down, but it just won’t.”
Doc “The medicine should be damn near out of your system by now. I don’t understand how it could even be affecting you still.”
I shrug my shoulders.
Doc “If it doesn’t go down soon, we’re going to have to take you to the ER, where they’ll have to do some procedures. It’s unhealthy to let it stay like this, the—”
Doc “Well they’ll have to anesthetize it and draw the blood out with a needle to prevent gangrene.”
The whole world stopped.
My life flashed before my eyes.
“. . . — — — . . .”
Jesus was reaching for my hand, offering me safety and comfort.
Needles have become involved.
What is this, the 1700s? Your solution is bloodletting?
These aren’t doctors.
I’m in Groin Guantanamo.
They’re going to torture my PENIS.
I weighed the options between gangrenedick or needledick and decided I’d rather just shoot myself.
Instead, my mind, my soul, and various major functions of my central nervous system fused into one entity. A holy trinity, heretofore unknown outside ancient legends, exposed to a spark of the divine. It decided that enough was enough. My spawn hammer had enough fun for one day. Time to cut off the head of the snake… Wait, no. Time to quit pulling the… umm… look, we just need to fix this.
4:20 p.m. — The doctor comes back. I enter the closed curtain area once again, for what would be the final time.
Doc “I see it went away.”
Me “Yeah, I don’t know! I guess so!”