The Polygraph

March 1, 2006

If I were to summarize the polygraph with one word, that word would be “interrogation.” In my opinion, my polygrapher was trying to get me to admit to employment-disqualifying things even before the polygraph machinery was attached to my body.

A few nights ago, I reported to the historic Parker Center, located in downtown Los Angeles. There were four other candidates waiting to take the polygraph. At about 7:30 p.m. sharp, four polygraphers came through a door one by one to collect their assigned candidate. I was the last to be rounded up.

The first four polygraphers seemed to be quite unfriendly. I believe this was a part of their act, to create a feeling of nervousness in their candidates. Luckily, my polygrapher seemed pretty laid back.

I was taken into what appeared to be an interrogation room. The walls were windowless and covered with some sort of grey colored padding. There was a desk and a chair (with wheels) for the polygrapher, and two chairs for me. The first chair was a normal chair. I was directed to sit in this chair while the polygrapher went through some sort of pre-polygraph questioning.

The second chair faced one of the walls and had high arm rests. It had no wheels. I reckon this is to give whomever is being polygraphed a sense of being controlled, while the polygrapher sits in a chair with wheels, giving him/her an aura of being in control.

Firstly, I was asked as to how much I knew about the polygraph. My response was that I knew little to nothing about it. The polygrapher then went on to explain the apparatus: tubes are placed around the chest and abdomen to measure breathing patterns, a cuff placed around the upper arm to measure pulse and blood pressure, and clips placed on fingertips to measure prespiration.

According to my polygrapher, the body produces an uncontrollable physiological response when a person lies. Responses–both truthful and untruthful–would be measured by the polygraph. Before being connected to the device, I was told that I would be asked the exact same questions that I would be when connected to the machine.

I don’t remember every single question that was posed to me; however, I do remember a few: “Have you ever committed a hate crime?” “Have you ever stolen more than $400 from any employer?” “Would you lie to a loved one about something important?” “Would you forge important documents?” “Have you lied about your previous drug use?” “Have you committed any serious crimes?”

Before my polygrapher connected me to the device, when I was asked the aforementioned questions, I had the distinct impression that the polygrapher was trying to get me to admit to disqualifying answers. As I had nothing to hide, we moved on and I was wired to the machine.

The polygraph questions were asked repeatedly, in three separate sessions, between which there was a quick break. I was then unhooked from the polygraph and told to relax. My physiological reactions, which were recorded on a desktop PC by some sort of polygraph software, were printed out on a long sheet of paper using a color inkjet printer.

I was told that the results of the chart would be inspected by both my polygrapher and some sort of supervisor. I was left alone in the room for what seemed like half an hour. I had no watch, nor my mobile phone. Thus, I had no way of knowing how much time had transpired between the conclusion of my polygraph and when my polygrapher finally came back to my interrogation room.

When the polygrapher returned, I was told that I passed the polygraph. I felt as if a huge burden was lifted from my shoulders. Upon exiting the building, two Los Angeles Police officers (who were working as the building’s sentries) stopped me and struck up a conversation with me. “How’d you do?” one of them asked.

“I passed,” I said, with a sigh of relief.

They both smiled and congratulated me. They also told me that 75-percent of candidates who take the polygraph fail it. “What do you have next on your plate?” asked the other officer.

I told him that I was to take the Physical Abilities Test (PAT) in a couple of days.

“That’s easy,” he told me. “That fucking test is so easy that if you walked off of that elevator without breaking a sweat, you ought to be able to pass it.”

“Why is the physical test so easy?” I asked.

I was told that this was due to the number of women who have taken the PAT (back when it was much more difficult), failed and then sued the City of Los Angeles. Either because they failed the test or were injured.

We talked for another ten minutes or so, and then I left the building. I’ll tell you all about the PAT later.

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One Response to “The Polygraph”

  1. […] Today was my polygraph “interrogation”, and YES it’s as bad as they say it is. I was so nervous even thought I had nothing to hide. I feel like he was trying to get me to admit to things that could cause me to be disqualified, but than again I guess that’s the point. […]

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