Monday, 23 June 2008

18. The Human Guinea Pig

I forget where I see the ad
but I remember what it says:
YOUNG MEN (AGED 18 – 40)
$8 AN HOUR. CALL -----------

So I call the number and
speak to some women who
takes my details and books
me in to show up the next day
at the labs of some research
place near the UCLA campus.

It’s miles away but I got all
day so I walk the first
couple of hours then take
a bus the final stretch, thinking
about how the money will
pay for a rehearsal space.

They have me fill out a bunch
of forms, most of it medical
stuff, lifestyle stuff, the usual
bit, then they have me do a
physical – running a treadmill,
squats, push-up’s, the usual bit.

They have to lend me some
sweats because I showed
up in my usual jean jacket,
vest, biker boots, torn jeans
and shades with three dozen
chains around my neck.

Then when they seem
happy enough with the results
this doctor guy sit me down
and explained what I have to
do. I laugh when he tells me.
I thinks it’s some set-up, a joke.

But it turns out he is serious.
“All we’d like you to do
for us today Mr. Rose,”
he says, “is smoke a variety
of branded cigarettes, while
we run some tests on you.”

And I’m like, huh? You
want me to sit here smoking
and that’s it? Damn. I almost
feel pissed that they’ve hauled
me all the way out here to do
what I’d be doing anyways.

But then I lighten up and
think, fuck it, getting paid
to smoke cigarettes? Well
it’s not exactly work that’s
going to kill me now is it?
I say this to the doc. I say

Shit, where do I sign? And
he smiles and points to the
bottom of the form. He asks
me how long I been smoking.
I say, all my life, bro. I aint
no quitter. We’re a dying breed!

He laughs at this, then he
open his drawer and pulls
out a zip-lock that contains
a few packs of cigarettes
and a lighter. “Nice touch,”
I say, “but I always use my own.”

I take out my zippo and make
a show of flipping it open and
lighting it on my thigh like I
always knew this little display
but would come in handy
sometime, someplace.

The doc takes me to a room
with this extractor fans and
a bunch of machines with wires,
monitors and stuff, which they
hook me up to and I feel a bit like
the kid in A Clockwork Orange.

And that’s pretty much it:
I light up and smoke away.
Though they give me water
when I ask for a coffee I’m
refused. Something about it
“interfering with the process.”

After about an hour and maybe
three or four cigarettes I’m like
OK, what now? Do you need me
to do some more squats or something
and they’re like, no, it’s fine, just
carry on as you are. Please continue.

And I’m like, awesome, this is like
the best job in the world, then to pass
the time I try to think of better jobs
And I come up with: whisky tester,
pussy taster, rock star and maybe
lion tamer, cos I always like lions.

Anyways, after a few hours I’m told
we’re done for the day and all I
have to do is sign another form then
I’m handed $40 and a couple of free
packs of smokes, which I unwrap
and get stuck into as I walk across campus.

Neat, I think. I really have got the best
fucking job in the world, and I make a
pledge to myself not to fuck this one up
like I usually do, not to get pissy and just
keep smoking those cigarettes, signing
those forms and collecting the greenbacks.

And I do. I ‘apply myself’ well.
I hold the job down for a few weeks,
Sitting there day in, day out, hooked up
to the machines, watching the doctors
as they me and wondering what in the hell
all of it means, but not really caring either.

After five, maybe six weeks, the doc says
“Thank for your time Mr Rose, we won’t
be requiring your services any more, but
your input to our research has been invaluable,”
and I’m half-expecting someone to present
me with a carriage clock gift or something.

But they don’t, they just have me sign
some disclaimer, give me some more free
smokes and I’m out of there, laughing my
ass off. The best thing is all these cigarettes
have helped my singing. I finally find ‘my voice’
and as a band Guns are – literally – smoking.

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