Thursday, January 13, 2011

Experience Number 4 - The Polygraph

So even though this is supposed to be a blog about pushing limits, I really did not have a choice about experience 4 (I guess I could have walked away...). On Tuesday I went in for a polygraph (lie detector) test. It was scheduled because I am in the application process for a position that works closely with the police. Boy was I a nervous wreck! From the moment the polygraph was scheduled I was NERVOUS. I am a nervous person and cannot sleep the night before a doctor's appointment, so imagine this! It didn't help knowing that I would be going down to the police station for this. It makes you feel like a criminal even though all you are doing is telling the truth. 

I did a little online research beforehand so I would have an idea of what to expect.  I found out that it is standard procedure to have an interview before being hooked up to the machines.  The examiner tries to get you comfortable with talking to him/her and they make it seem like they are your friend. They then try to get you to believe that your not-so-clean history is OK. Lucky for me I've always been a good girl so I had no worries about that!

When I walked into the station and said to the officer that I was waiting for a polygraph, the college student next to me said, "how cool!" ... if he only knew.  I waited about 5 minutes before the examiner came down the stairs to get me.  He escorted me into a small white cinderblock room.  The only decorations were of framed posters of golfers. B-O-R-I-N-G.  What I later found interesting was that the only person who could see these posters were those who were about to be interrogated.

Then he spoke.  I was instructed to sit down in one of the chairs and to put my coat and purse in the other.  After setting my coat down, I began to pluck my dog's cream colored fur from my navy blue coat. "Are you picking something off of your jacket?" he asked.  "Yes," I said as I explained that I had a light fur pug.  The nightmare had begun.  The interrogator went on about himself for about an hour and a half. no joke. I had to insert my own personal stories in there so I wouldn't have to listen to him talk about himself for that long! He was a white haired white male in his early sixties. I only know his age because he told me. I would have guessed he was in his fifties. He explained that he wanted to become a vet tech because his parents had breeded (not sure if that is correct English?) dogs when he was growing up.  You couldn't tell by the way he described his hatred for cats. "I once went to my gilfriend's house and she had 3 cats. That was the end of our relationship."  While he was speaking, I was wondering to myself if this was the "interview" I had read about. I kept wondering how long it would last as his words seemed to go on and on.

My resume was in front of him. Finally, I had a sign that was relevant to my being there. He saw that I was fluent in Spanish and decided to tell me about his Cajun wife and explained the customs of the people from the Southwest region on Louisiana. Men have their own "gumbo" nights, and women aren't invited.  He told me about his previous wives (one had cheated because he was never around). I thought to myself how all this was going to calm me down before the test. My mind kept racing about the possible questions I would be asked. Then since I couldn't listen to his voice any longer I told him about how I had studied abroad, came back, and met my husband. He asked how marriage was. Great! It is great! I feel like every year just gets better and better.  I also found out about his jealous brother who can't keep a wife because of his jealousy, his wife was a slut in high school (along with details of her high school reunion), and his children and occupations. We talked about the local Brazilian population and I learned that the shelving in his garage and his porch were the work of Brazilian contractors.  It wasn't anything like listening to a grandfather telling stories of his past. It was weird and awkward.

For the duration of the interview, I was focused on remaining still and trying to look comfortable in my chair. I had my hands held together most of the time. I wonder if the interview would have been shorter had I not sat there with locked hands. I played into his conversation to let him know I was not afraid of talking, and that I had nothing to hide. 

After an hour and a half (my best guess since I left my phone in the car and there was no clock in the room), he pulled a few papers out from his desk.  He continued blabbering about his life. I waited a few more minutes.  The examiner's tone completely changed. He went from being somewhat friendly and spacy to serious and focused.  He looked directly at me (before his eyes wandered and never really looked directly at me).  He told me to answer the questions on about 5 sheets of paper and to answer truthfully (the front of the questionnaire said polygraph questions). Most of the questions were related to different drugs. I handed the papers over. "You can always tell how truthful people are by the amount of time it takes them to fill these out." 81% of people fail because of drugs. 15% fail because they have stolen items before. Then he found another paper in the drawer. These were the true polygraph questions. There were a total of ~8. A few of them were "Is today Tuesday?""Would any of your references say that you frequently lie to get out of trouble?" and "Were you completely truthful on your application?"  We reviewed the questions before hooking me up.


 I got up to sit in the chair. It was black, looked like fake leather, and reminded me of an electric chair.  The back was straight and the arms were long. My arms sat flat on them.  I was tied with a hose-like monitor above my chest and with another below my chest (to monitor heart and breathing rates). A blood pressure monitor was velcroed to my left arm and two finger monitors (black velcro rings) attached to my ring and index fingers on my right hand. I received compliments on my wedding rings and the tanzanite ring my mom gave me for graduation. I looked at my nails and realized I had forgotten to paint them. They looked really terrible. "Oh, you've got nice REAL nails," he said. "Yeah," I replied, embarrassed because they looked so bad.  He walked around the desk, which was now behind me, and sat down. I stared at the blank white wall as my heart pounded so hard I felt like it was going to explode out of my chest. I was nervous and I expressed that to him.  "Everyone is nervous."  He read the questions to me leaving at most 10 seconds between questions.  Then we did a second run.  THEN IT WAS OVER.

I was detached from the machines and put on my coat to leave.  "You should hear back from someone soon. I am sending your results over now." I wondered what the results were.  Then as I was lead out the door to the stairs, he said, "You've passed."  What a relief!

I hope no one else ever has to take one of these, but if you do just remember to tell the truth! The truth will set you free. Ok, maybe I was free but it sure didn't feel like it being in that room!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Jacqueline - thanks for visiting my blog and entering my note card giveaway!

    Wow what an experience! The hour or more of listening to the interviewer telling his life story would have driven me nuts and made me more anxious. I had to take an LD test once for a job app - like you, my heart was pounding and I was hyperventilating even though I had nothing to hide. I had such a headache when it was over! I hope your other new experiences for 2011 are more pleasant than this one.