I was scheduled for my psychological examination in Phoenix on Thursday morning and the polygraph test on Friday. It’s a bit of a drive, so I decided to stay Wednesday night in the city. I loved visiting the city and the biggest reason was Starbucks coffee. Venti hot mocha, non-fat, with whip…it’s the only thing I order.
My Starbucks and I arrived early for the exam. I finished my caffeine chocolate combination and hid the evidence. I didn’t know what the psychological exam entailed but I didn’t want them to know I needed caffeine to feel human every morning.
I was shown to a small room with four tables and two chairs at each table. I took a seat. Miss Ponytail and Mo came in a few minutes later. Miss Ponytail took a seat with a good-looking military type guy and Mo was forced to sit by me. He at least said hi. Miss Ponytail and I were the only females in the room.
A woman came in and told us we would start with basic timed tests. We were each given a bubble page and then our exam. We were told not to begin or look at the test until told to. Then the ten minutes began.
This was easy.
Question 1: 1, 3, 5 – what number comes next?
And on it went. The questions were basic sequencing problems. They weren’t all as easy as number one, but I actually enjoyed doing them. Before the ten minutes were over I had finished, but Mo was having problems. He turned to me and whispered, “What happens if we don’t finish? Will they make us leave?” His voice held panic.
I told him to take his time and finish what he could. I was beginning to understand what the tests were about. When you’re forty-five, you’ve taken so many tests in your life it doesn’t throw you to be under pressure or not know an answer. You just go to the next question. Being young, you return to those dreaded achievement tests in high school. Just how smart are you?
For once it was nice to be older. I might not be in the best physical shape compared to others in the room but these questions didn’t bother me. Five more timed tests were given. I didn’t answer every question, but overall I knew I had done well. Poor Mo was dripping sweat and feeling the pressure. Miss Ponytail was flirting with her table partner and didn’t appear any worse for wear.
After the sequencing and math tests we started the hard part. I’ve always felt I had a strong head on my shoulders and was pretty self-assured. At the end of four hours I was feeling quite disturbed. We were given three main tests, each with 200 questions. The questions on all three were only slightly different. I could see if you lied in any of the first test questions you would be in trouble because it would be impossible to remember your lies. I don’t know if my answers were correct but I answered honestly.
I was asked more than ten times if I loved my mother or if my mother is deceased, did I love my mother. I answered yes every time. Next, do I love my father and if my father is deceased, did I love my father. Every time I answered no.
Now I was starting to sweat. Was I a horrible person because I didn’t love my father? He was a no-good jerk. He left us and never contacted his three children again. The military was the only reason my mother received a small child support payment. They removed it from his paycheck regardless of whether he wanted a relationship with his children or not. Did this make me a terrible person? I worried they wouldn’t want me as an officer. What a stupid test!
We were called one by one into the room with the psychiatrist. No one came back into the testing room after being called. I was last. This was an omen and not a good one. When I was finally called I went into another small but quaint room with a couch and chairs. I sat on the couch and the doctor sat in a chair. He went through my evaluation and asked me questions. He never questioned the dislike of my father, he just asked about general life questions. I left feeling crazy. Crazy because I had no idea if I answered anything correctly.
I slept poorly but had to be up early for the polygraph. After hitting Starbucks, I checked in and was given a questionnaire. It covered everything from juvenile shoplifting to drug use. I don’t remember ever shoplifting. My mom would have killed me, but I remember my best friend stealing a purse and the guilt I felt because I was with her.
Drug use was another no-brainer because I didn’t know what most of the drugs were. Marijuana, cocaine, yes, but mescaline, crank, and methamphetamine, I had no idea. I guess it didn’t matter because the bottom line was I hadn’t ever used any. I figured I was just boring.
I finished and was shown into the testing room. Rob Thomas introduced himself as my polygrapher. He began by hooking me up to electrodes. My chest, finger, and arms were wired and he explained I was sitting on butt plates so they could measure how my butt cheeks clinched. I was mortified. My butt cheeks were getting firmer but they still had wobble. I just knew this would give a false impression and it wasn’t going to be good.
Rob asked what police department I was testing for and what academy I was going to. I told him Small Town and PAFRA (Police Academy for Rural Arizona). He told me he was also attending PAFRA in September. I explained I would be starting in August. Rob was not aware there was a class starting in August. He looked at me like I was lying.
The test began. I was asked the same questions from the questionnaire I was given earlier. Rob stared at his computer screen while the test continued. I answered every question honestly and began relaxing. It was finally over. I was waiting for Rob to re-question me because on the testing information it stated any questionable answers would be re-asked. It never happened. I told Rob I would see him at the academy. His answer, “We’ll see.”
What if every question showed I was lying? I hadn’t lied at all but flabby butt cheeks could be the ruin of my dream.
I was exhausted when I arrived home. Tim was out of town until Sunday. I made a Tom Collins and listened to music until I was tired and then tried to sleep. I wondered when I’d receive the news good or bad.
The week dragged by as I waited for the next stage in the police academy entrance tests. I looked up Cooper Standards on the Internet. Divided by sex, it factors in age and gives levels for superior, excellent, good, fair, poor, and very poor standards. If I used the good category for my age and sex, I needed to be able to perform one 17.7 inch vertical jump, 28 sit-ups and 15 push-ups in one minute, and run 300 meters in 72 seconds and 1.5 miles in 13 minutes and 58 seconds.
Were they out of their cotton picking minds?
I was averaging a 14-minute mile and thought that was good. The sit-ups and push-ups wouldn’t be a problem. But I had no clue as to my abilities on the 300 meters or the vertical jump.
Now was the time to find out. I decided to head over to the high school’s track and start timing myself. Maybe I could push everything up a notch or two in the time I had. It was probably my hardest workout. My body ached with the additional exercise and I was beginning to think I might not have it in me. In the end, I managed to shave a whole minute off my mile. But, I was sure that extra half-mile was going to kill me.
My phone rang at precisely 0800 hours on Monday morning. I was asked to meet at the track at 0800 the following day. I decided to give my body a rest and take it easy. I jumped on the scale and was down another five pounds. I had fifteen more to go to reach my personal goal.
The following day was overcast, cold, and gloomy. I again arrived early but this time got out of my car and went to stretch.
Everyone began arriving. There were only five of us—three men and two women. The other female was a spunky little thing. She didn’t say much to me, mostly just flirted with the guys. I’ll call one Mr. Muscle and the other two Curly and Mo. Miss Ponytail rounded out our crew. Sgt. Spears told us we would be doing the push-ups and sit-ups first.
The other four recruits (see, I was learning the terminology) chose each other as partners. I was left with Sgt. Spears. I actually finished in the excellent category according to Cooper Standards. Next was the vertical jump. I managed 18 inches. It was the only test I beat Miss Ponytail on. Next we had the 300-meter run. I finished in 70 seconds, leaving two seconds to spare. We then had the mile and a half run. I gave it everything I had. It didn’t matter that I finished last I just wanted to finish under my time.
Mr. Muscle stopped running about halfway through and walked a lap. He still beat me. Curly also walked part of the way and finished before I did. I missed my time by 35 seconds. It put me in the fair category. I didn’t know if it was enough, but I knew I had given it everything I had.
Sgt. Spears said he would call us all the next day. I went home and ate a bowl of ice cream. I then ate another bowlful and added chocolate syrup on top. I hid my crime by washing and drying the bowl and spoon. Torn between dread and anticipation, I tossed and turned most of the night.
Before my husband left in the morning, he told me not to feel bad that I hadn’t accomplished my goal. He said I needed to pick something a little more attainable the next time. I’m sure he somehow thought this would make me feel better. I knew he rooted for me and most of all wanted me happy. The thought of not making it into the academy was something I just couldn’t accept. His statement gave me the incentive to try again if I failed this time. One way or another, I would not give up on this dream. I wanted it too much.
The call came early. The secretary asked me to come into the station at 0900.
I was the only recruit there. Sgt. Spears did not look happy. He asked me to sit. I sat.
“Look, I don’t think you have what it takes,” he said honestly. “I don’t think you’ll survive a week at the academy.” His gaze was as direct as that long ago counselor. “You don’t seem tough enough and this is a tough business. I think you showed guts, though, by going this far. I had two young, strong men stop running yesterday and take it easy when they could have done better. I don’t think you could have done better but you never stopped. Those two men are out of the program. That leaves three of you. I’m going to include you in the poly and psych tests. I also want you to have the physical exam. I’ll give you a chance. You showed heart and sometimes as police professionals, that’s all we have.”
That was it. I told him I was available for the tests and thanked him.
I still had a chance.