In France, graphology, or the reading of a person's character by their handwriting, is considered a science. Employers use it. Colleges demand handwriting samples and private consultants will determine if you and your fiancé are suited to each other by reading "je t'aime" from both parties. It is laughable what people will do to get a job. I had sworn never to do something this stupid but I want to work for Allied Convergence Technologies, to have the stock options, the prestige, the thing we can't find – security – of being a programmer for them.
So I am sitting here in an apparatus that is similar to Florida's Old Sparky, the electric chair reserved for murderers. It is ACT's Human Resources polygraph machine and I am about to be tested for honesty.
Hell, I'm 55 years old and I've done a lot in my time. ACT doesn't make you retire, they have their own doctors, their own hospital and they will keep you alive and healthy once you're one of their employees. I've heard rumors about where they get their transplant organs, but that's just sour grapes. Or sweet pancreases.
I remember a day over thirty years ago, sitting in Psych 101 with our professor, Jack Leon, who explained how a polygraph worked.
"It's based on galvanic skin response as well as other variables. Your skin secretes different chemicals when you lie. Unless you're a psychopath. Then it looks as if you're truthful."
The new models though, they take a continuous blood sample. And EKG, EEG, respiration, even pupil reflexes, so keep those eyes open, Jackie. This is too much like that old movie Blade Runner. I'm naked under a Johnny coat and they've put electrodes in place a lady should not have to think about. I'm alone in the room; the examiners are behind smoked mirrored two-way glass. I know that they are taking base levels. There is a speaker in front of me and a tiny microphone by my cheek.
"We're going to begin now, Miss Davies," a disembodied male voice says.
"Thank you," I reply.
"Speak only when you are answering a question," the voice says sharply.
I almost say "thank you" again, but I manage to catch myself. I'm suddenly not so sure about this job.
"The following questions are to be answered "yes" or "no." Do you understand?"
"Are you sure?"
"Did you attend Sanderson College?"
They have the transcripts in front of them.
"Did you graduate?"
"Did you graduate in 1968?"
Aha, trick question, make sure I'm paying attention.
"Did you graduate?"
So you weren't paying attention the first time?
"Are you married?"
"Have you ever cheated on your husband?"
What the bloody hell? This one or the first one? Take now.
"Do you vote?"
Hmm, provincially, locally, federally, or all three?
"Have you ever not voted?"
"Do you go to church?"
Hey, that's not legal to ask.
"Do you exercise regularly?"
Not if I can help it.
"Have you ever stolen from an employer?"
Pens, paper, paper clips, time.
"Yes," I sigh.
I wonder about the zig zag on the tapes.
"Do you believe in God?"
Hey, you can't ask…I'm not going to…How do you say sort of.
"Do you have a driver's license?"
Another thing they have a photocopy of, both sides, with the organ donor box ticked off.
"Do you ever break traffic laws?"
I think of the not quite full stops, the pushed accelerator on yellow lights.
"Have you ever parked in a handicapped space?"
"Do you watch your diet?"
"Have you ever had a lesbian experience?"
What the -?
It comes out too loud, with a near giggle at the end of the word.
It goes on. It's over. I'm not happy as I am unhooked from the tubes and the blood monitoring equipment. I don't want to work for Allied. I don't want to do much but cry. I'm led to a change room and put on my real clothes. It feels like someone has gone through my pockets. I feel as if I need a bath.
"We'll call you," says a white-coated woman who looks as if she has never smiled. Nurse, technician, whatever?
Instead, I get a letter. I have not been accepted. I'm not sure why. Is it my belief in God? Is it because I cheated on Don, if not Freddy? Why? I want to strap down the CEO of Allied and ask him some questions, but I have read in the business section that he just got a successful heart transplant, his third one. I suddenly think of all the medical tests Allied did on me, start watching my back on dark streets, stopping at every stop sign. I know that they still want something from me. But I wouldn't know the truth if I saw it in spikes and swirls on the screens I was attached to. I wonder what they got from my hand-written signature.