I’m an honest man, or at least I fancy myself one. Working as a civilian for a government office with a top secret security clearance (TS) and then a TS/SCI (secure compartmentalized information) billet, I learned that I would be subject to a polygraph test. I admit, I didn’t think much about it at the time. That is, until my name came to queue for a polygraph that would carry a suspenseful timeframe of ‘within the next 30 days.’
Me, wonderful me, a polygraph test? My supervisor conjectured that it was due to the SCI I was holding. “Damn,” I thought, “we’ll have none of that.” I promptly called my security office and learned that, since I had not been active in my SCI status for over two years, I had been disenrolled in the SCI billet so someone else could use it. “Ah, that’s better.” I called to report to the polygraph scheduling office that I no longer carried an SCI, and I therefore invite them to kindly shove their silly test up their fourth point of contact.*
To my irritation, the office replied that, “since the process was already in motion,” I would still have to take the test. What? That is ridiculous to the nth degree! The process is already in motion and can’t be stopped? It’s not like they started the launch sequence to the Challenger space shuttle. It’s not like the hydrogen bomb has already cleared the bomb bay, you morons. Highlight my name on the list and press ‘delete’…all done. See how that works?
Well, bollocks, I thought, kicking a tiny imaginary stone across the parking lot as I walked to my truck to leave for the day. I’ll just have to make the best of this situation. I’d do some online research to get a better understanding of what I was up against, and how best to proceed.
You see, folks, in my mind there are two types of people: those who believe in the validity of a polygraph test, and those who do not. Within that dichotomy, I lean toward the non-believers. I don’t believe the polygraph is valid and never have. Now, you might ask, I have nothing to hide, then why worry about the test? It is because I don’t believe in it that I do not trust it. My fear: Since it is not always accurate, the test may deliver false outputs that may then be erroneously interpreted by the chimps that administer the exam.
My initial research revealed that organizations across the board were split, in terms of credence paid to the efficacy of the polygraph. The Department of Defense (DoD) does not use it, but to my dismay, the DOE does use it, and may include polygraph findings as reasons for termination of employment. See where I’m going with this? I already didn’t like what I was reading, then my reading led to techniques and methods to defeat the test. Now we’re talking!
But no, we’re not really talking. The tactics to defeat the test were equally as quackish as I though of the exam in the first place. Here’s the clincher: clenching the butt cheeks, thinking of a little red school house…etc. Surely, if I am caught trying to pull off any of those theatrics, the test would be halted and I would be promptly issued my grade—fail.
I arrived at my appointment for the polygraph on a fine, sunny, April day. Tapping on the door jamb of the open office, I stated my name and offered my Nevada driver’s license as proof of ID. The rhesus macaque at the helm politely shook my hand and began his canned spiel as he drew curtains over the windows and closed the door.
He placed an elastic belt around my chest to monitor respirations, and affixed other sensors to measure heart rate, and even perspiration…and I was sitting on a sort of pad. Eureka! This must be the anti-butt clenching sensor, right? I was good to decide against tampering with the integrity of the data collection of the polygraph with my ass. It would have just been so…seat-of-the-pants, if you will. Clenching the cheeks would have been…asinine! Oh, and that broccoli I had the night before could very well do me in completely.
Once hooked up to the apparatus, the rhesus macaque explained, “I’m going to ask you some questions and I want you to answer yes to them despite what the evident truth is. This will allow me to establish a test baseline for the sensors. Then we can proceed to the actual test questions.”
The monkey sat facing me, behind his laptop computer, tapping away for the moment, then stopped and looked up at me. In a very calm and soothing monotone voice he proceeded. “Geoooorge…are you siting doooooown?” I paused momentarily to make sure he was finished, then responded in an equally soothing monotone voice, “Yeeeeeees.”
“George…are you sitting dooooown?” Bongo repeated.
“Yeeees, still sitting doooooown,” I replied.
Finally the questions got tougher: “George…are you standing uuuuuuuuup?” I took a breath and exhaled a soporific, “Yeeeeeeeesssss.”
“Yes!” the baboon cried out as he pumped his fist and forearm up and down as if in a sports victory, and then air high-fived an imaginary teammate. “OK then,” he continued, “now that I know that you cannot lie to me, we can get on with the rest of the exam and the real questions.”
Was this guy for real? Don’t tell me, he performs the part of Iago in Shakespeare’s Othello in his mother’s basement at night when nobody is home. This guy—what an ass-clown. My faith in the polygraph waned like Mercury in retrograde. This guy wasn’t even a new-world monkey, he was an old-world monkey from way back, the kind without the prehensile tail.
We started the absurd line of actual test questioning. The questions were very straightforward and of the yes/no variety, so easy enough on me. But it took so long and he kept repeating the questions over and over, all the while glaring at the computer like a buzzard eye-locked onto a carcass.
Finally, he said, “George, you must have coughed or something; it messed up the readings and we’re going to have to start over.”
“Well, no, asshat, I didn’t cough. You were sitting right here the whole time and did I cough, fucker? No, I didn’t!”
“Did you ever take part in a plot to overthrow the U.S. government, Geoooooorge?”
“Have you ever cooperated with foreign spies in an attempt to subvert the U.S. government, Geooooooorge?”
“Geoooorge…have you ever attempted to steal top-secret government information for the purpose of selling it to foreign spiiiiiiiiiiiiies?”
“Noooooooo…and scissors, I never ever run with sciiiiiiiiiiiiissoooors…” My eyelids were getting heavy. Then I saw it. I don’t know how I hadn’t notice it before, but there, sitting on his desk corner with his keys and wallet was, no shit, a banana! “Heh heh heh heh,” I clucked, utterly powerless to hold it back. Aw, George you spoiled the test again, man!
“OK, that’s enough for right now,” blurted out the orangutan. He unhooked me from the device and bade me wait out in the hall while he consulted with his associate on his “findings.” The associate scurried into the office and shut the door. It was a full 30-minute wait, with each ape at different intervals pulling the curtains back to peek out at me, only to quickly jerk them shut again. Were these toads for real, or rejects from the set of “Get Smart?”
Once the gibbons broke their huddle, I was beckoned back into the office and told there would have to be more testing conducted. That’s it, I resigned, I’m going to clinch the hell out of my butt cheeks. I don’t give a crap anymore; this circus act has gone on too long!
I noticed the banana was gone.
I spotted the peels in the trash can, and the air was ripe with the smell.
“Are you sitting down, Geooooooorge?”
And so it went. When it ended the second time, again I was invited to sit in the hall while the two Ringling brothers conversed and peeked. That, or they sat in there picking louses out of each other’s fur before eating them. I reveled in the notion that this thing would soon be over. I would be out in front of it and not have to worry about it any longer.
When I was called back in, this is the thing that the damned dirty ape said to me that made me want to castrate him, draw and quarter him, then shoot his head out of a Bushmaster cannon: “OK, you are free to go—for now. We will continue to review your results, and if we determine that you require more testing, we will notify you.”
I think I get it now…the show must go on, after all, it’s the greatest show on Earth! Sure, the polygraph of Damocles would be suspended over my head indefinitely. It was all such a sham, just a game, a Fig Newton of my imagination, an undigested bit of beef, a crock of mustard, a crumb of cheese. He was an actor, which meant that he was also a singer and dancer who wrote all of his own choreography…which in turn meant that his primary job was actually as a cocktail waitress in San Jose.
He was bag production, this guy. He had walrus gumboot. He had oh, no sideboard whatsoever. He was one spinal cracker, yep. In fact he had feet down below his knees. If this guy held you in his arms, yeah, you could feel his disease.
So the circus came to town, friends. It had come and now its gone, all packed up and gone away. Nothing left but some empty popcorn boxes, those rolled paper handles for cotton candy, empty peanut shells, and a big round red clown’s nose that must have fallen off the spider monkey that administered my test. I pictured him briefly brachiating from limb to limb, tree to tree, all but swallowed up by the triple canopies of his pristine jungle habitat.
You see folks, there is the real world, and then there is the game; sometimes you just have to play the game and be done with it. The danger comes when you can no longer distinguish between the real world and the game. But in the end, and with hope, you will eventually be able to look back with pride and confidence, knowing for certain in your heart of hearts that you played the game to the utmost of your ability.
*The fourth point of contact describes the fourth of five points of contact when executing a Parachute Landing Fall (PLF). The five are:
- Balls of the feet
- Side of the calf
- The side of the thighs
- The buttocks
- The side of the back (latissimus dorsi)