I would say that this next step in the process terrified me the most, but it didn’t. After my background investigation meeting, and chatting with the friendly man in the cardigan, I was feeling pretty optimistic about things. I was more curious about the lie detector test than anything else.
If I’d known how medieval it was going to be, I would have been more nervous.
Because what you don’t know when you watch these things on tv is just how physically uncomfortable they are.
First you sit down in a standard office chair. Except there is this thing that you sit on so you can’t fidget. Then they put one contraption on your finger to monitor your pulse, and then they strap another contraption around your arm that is kind of like what the doctor uses to check your blood pressure, only instead of being around your arm for thirty seconds, this stays strapped around your arm for the duration of the interview, so with every passing minute your arm throbs a tiny bit more and then a tiny bit more.
While all this is going down, your chair is turned facing a blank wall. None of those heated interviews like you see in the movies, where the suspect kills the questioner the evil eye. No, you are facing a blank wall because nothing is allowed to distract you.
Oh, you know, except for the stress of the whole thing.
Did I mention that the lie detector measures stress?
So while you are seated in a chair where you can’t fidget (because that means you are lying), and you are strapped in, with your arm steadily throbbing, and you stare at a blank white office wall, an employee of the LAPD asks you the same set of yes/no questions three different times, so that each time the questions can come in a different order.
Not stressful at all.
I was growing increasingly doubtful that I had this in the bag. Some of the questions were ludicrous (“have you ever stolen office supplies from work?”), others predictable (“have you ever done drugs?”), but I still didn’t think I really had anything to worry about. After all, I’ve always been a good girl.
So I didn’t lie. I told the truth.
But the only thing that was gnawing at the insides was my fear of authority.
See, I am the kind of person who panics when she sees a cop. I am the kind of person who could never shoplift because I just don’t have the fortitude. I’m a total wreck. If someone looks at me harshly, I worry. I do not lie because I cannot lie.
I had no idea how I did on the lie detector test, because they do not tell you. All I know, is that I felt like a criminal. The whole process makes you feel like a criminal. I can’t sit still normally. And being told not to fidget? That just made it all worse.
And having to stare at a wall? While my arm throbbed? And someone asked me, over and over, questions about my past? It was a Kafka moment, to say the least.
By the time it was over, I couldn’t wait to leave. I couldn’t wait to feel circulation in my arm again. I couldn’t wait to be anywhere but under the scrutinizing gaze of my police interrogator.
I still figured I’d be okay. I still figured I’d pass the physical test and then I’d have my interview, and then they couldn’t help but appreciate my strengths and experience. Right?