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 the 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.
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 and 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 absolute 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 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 I had it made when it came to these questions. 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 pretty 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. I don’t know if my answers were correct but I answered honestly.
I was asked over 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? My father was a no good jerk. He left my mom and his three children when we were young. He needed some space and wanted a different life. He died when I was in my twenties. I never really knew him. I didn’t hate him any longer but I don’t remember ever loving him. I was such a terrible person! I knew they wouldn’t want me as an officer. What a stupid test.
We were called one by one into the room with the psychologist. No one ever came back into the testing room after being called. I was last. This was an omen, I knew it. 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.
I slept poorly but had to be up early for the polygraph. I checked in and was given a questionnaire. It covered everything from juvenile shoplifting to drug use. I don’t remember ever shoplifting myself. 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 meth, I had no idea. I guess it didn’t matter because the bottom line was I hadn’t ever used any. I guess 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. On my chest, my finger and he explained I was sitting on butt plates and they measured how my butt clinched. I was mortified. My butt cheeks were getting firmer but they still had wobble. I knew they would give a false impression. This was not 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 America). He told me he was also attending PAFRA in September. I told him I would be starting in August. Rob was not aware there was a class starting in August and I knew he felt I had told my first lie. I think the ad said August. I had looked up PAFRA online but it didn’t give very much information.
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 drove home feeling sad. I knew it was my jello cheeks. Whoever thought they’d measure butt clenching on a polygraph test?
I was exhausted when I arrived. My husband was out of town until Sunday, my son was spending the weekend camping and my daughter went to bed early. I made a Tom Collins and listened to music until I was tired and then went to bed. I wondered when I’d receive the news good or bad.
The week dragged by as I waited for the next stage in my police academy entrance tests.
My husband could do nothing right. My kids were driving me nuts, my son most of all. He actually told me I was an embarrassment to our family. My palm itched, but I knew if I slapped him he would call the police just to ruin my near perfect background check.
I looked up Cooper Standards on the internet. It is divided by sex – male and female, factors in age, then 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; 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.
Well, 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 every thing up a notch or two in the time I had. I called Veronica for moral support. It took me five minutes to get there. She was already waiting.
It was probably my hardest workout. I was beginning to think I might not have it in me. Veronica was a drill sergeant and wouldn’t let up.
The entire week continued this way.
In the end, I managed to shave a whole minute off my mile. But I was sure that extra ½ 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.
The following day was overcast, cold and gloomy. I again arrived early but this time got out of my car and went to do my stretches. Veronica had taught me the value of stretching my old tired body. She just looked so much better doing them than I did.
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 Pony Tail rounded out our crew. Sergeant 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. Next was the vertical jump. I managed 18 inches and raised Sgt. Spear’s eyebrows. It was the only test I beat Miss Pony Tail on. Next, we had the 300 meter run. I finished in 70 seconds, 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, but added chocolate syrup on top. I hid my crime by washing and drying the bowl and spoon. I didn’t try to disguise the empty ice cream carton. Everyone would assume it was my son’s handy work.
Torn between dread and anticipation, I tossed and turned for 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 somehow he thought that would make me feel better.
The call came early and I was asked 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. I don’t think you’ll survive a week at the academy,” he said. “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 test. 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 thanked him and told him I was available for the tests.
I called Veronica as soon as I got to my car. I invited her to meet me for a thank you lunch, then gave her the news. I was not ‘in’ yet, but I was a step closer. Veronica began crying and told me that she was so proud of me.
And in that moment, I was happy Veronica’s mother hadn’t drown her at birth for being so perfect. She was just what I needed.