I don’t know why, but I’ve always had kind of a Jekyll & Hyde relationship with the law.  As far back as I can remember, I’ve enjoyed picking locks and stealing things, and nothing is more tantalizing than a door labelled NO ADMITTANCE.  But I also always wanted to be one of those men in blue, wearing a badge.  It didn’t have anything to do with carrying a gun–I don’t like guns, really–but I liked (and still do like) the idea of defending law & order against the forces of chaos & anarchy.

I know, it’s ironic.  I still haven’t figured it out.

My first career route along these lines was with the El Paso PD, but I was too young at the time.  Then they changed the rules and I was too old.  Same thing happened in Austin, Vermont, California, New Mexico, Maryland, and Indiana–the window of opportunity is extremely narrow, and I always manage to miss it, barely.  Very frustrating.

I’m far too old and out-of-shape to entertain the idea any more, and I regret that the boat sailed without me.

Anyway, after getting nixed by the EPPD, I figured I might have a better shot at the federal level, so I applied at the FBI, which has a pretty big field office in EP.  They interviewed me, and it was a total flop.  I found out afterward that I was supposed to have been vetted and groomed for the interview–shown videos of what to expect, for instance–but that hadn’t happened, so I showed up looking like a total chump (I had a very similar experience with the Navy, which I’ll tell you about some other time).

After the FBI disaster, I applied to be a case officer for the CIA.  They flew me to the DC area and put me up in a hotel in Reston, VA.  The interview process took about a week-and-a-half, and most of it was excruciatingly dull.  They checked my vision (20/18, thank you very much), did an EKG (only one I’ve ever had; happy to find out that my ticker’s jolly), made me endure the maddening MMPI psych exam.  Took blood, weighed me, figured out my shoe size, established my IQ, quantified my electrolytes.  Far more thorough than the Navy, and this was just an interview.

The kicker was the polygraph exam.  The examiner was a short and wirey dude with a buzz-cut (“A-ha,” I thought.  “Special Forces plus Napoleon complex plus lateral transition to a CIA gig after he nailed retirement as a Master Sergeant.  This ain’t gonna be fun.”  And boy, was I right).

He started out with the predictable control questions:  Is your name John?  What is today’s date?  Are your eyes blue?

Then it got down and dirty.

He flat-out accused me of crimes involving sex and drugs, neither of which I’ve ever been guilty of.  Yes, I’ve been a petty thief and minor vandal–both of which I admitted to–but sex crimes?  Drug-running?  No.  Never.  Not by a long shot.  I’ve been a very bad person, in my own way, but I’ve had very little to do with sex, and have bent over backwards to stay away from drugs.

Right away, in the back of my mind, I figure that every polygraph examiner raises the same suspicions, because if any guy’s guilty of anything, it’s probably going to involve sex and/or drugs.

Oddly, the two things I’m clearly guilty of–boozing it up and being irresponsible with money–never came up.

He finally gave up on the sex & drugs angle, and swooped in for the kill:  He accused me of a being a white supremacist.

This was–and continues to be–the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of in my life.

You know how he came up with this idiotic notion?  I figured it out in about twenty seconds.

The CIA application asks you to list anything you’ve ever had published.  I had a short story called “Skinhead” published in a very minor literary magazine, so I wrote that down.  Little Army dingus saw that on the application and jumped to conclusions.  If he’d bothered to have read the story, he’d have seen that it’s condemnation of the idea of white supremacy.

I kept saying “No, you’re wrong,” and he kept saying “Hey, it’s not me–it’s the machine.  The polygraph machine showing me that you’re not being truthful.  Don’t get mad at me.  It’s the machine.”  “Well, then, you need a new machine because this one’s wrong.”  “This machine’s not right or wrong.  It measures truthfullnessism, and it’s showing me that you’re not being truthful.”  “You’re full of crap, and you’re asking me to confess to something I’ve never done.”  “It’s not me, it’s the machine.”  This went on for hours and hours.

At one point, he left, to “give me some time to think about my answers,” but I imagine he just snuck out back to have a cigarette.  I was left alone in that small, hot room, staring at the psychedelic carpet and resisting the temptation to rip the electrodes off and run away.

He came back and continued with his accusations–sorry, with reporting the machine’s findings–and I kept denying.  He finally gave up around 4:45.

Two days after I got back home in EP, there was a letter from the CIA.  “We have decided not to hire you.  Do not bother asking why, because no answers will be given and no records have been kept.”

That was the end of that.

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