We're Gonna Want to Run More Tests

One of the most laughable things about getting hired at 911 is the actual hiring process.  It hasn't changed much in 11 years.

First and foremost, they have to make sure you're not a shithead.  Shitheads are criminals and criminals must be kept away from the inner workings of a 911 system as much as possible, for obvious reasons. I am not, nor ever have I been, a shithead, despite my college fantasy of killing my roommate so I didn't have to study for finals.

Second thing they have to do is make sure you can type.  You have to be able to type FAST.  More people have been "released back into the workforce" for typing slow than anything else at our center. Your typing can be impressive, but speed of typing is always inversely proportionate to how many people are watching you type.  If I'm alone at my console, I can type faster than people talk, because I'm awesome.  If someone is observing me, I type about as fast as a web-fingered toddler that has gotten into some Benadryl.  I passed the typing exam with flying colors ONLY because I had my own little pod to take the test and no one bothered me.

Anyway, not a shithead and can type.  Check.

Have I done a bunch of drugs?  Are there huge financial issues that might cause me to be predisposed to illegal behavior?  How many kids do I have, am I going to be able to come in at ANY TIME and work long shifts?  Can I forego urinating for hours while drinking seventeen gallons of coffee a night until every time I blink I check my seat for accidents? All that 'normal' stuff is what they check for first.  

Then they prep you for the PSYCHIATRIC PROFILE/TEST.

"Hi, Lirpa?  This is the 911 Center Director.  We'd like to have you come in this Friday to complete your psychiatric test.  It's a three-part process:  the 400 question, multiple choice profile; the written portion  which you answer in your own words, and then you'll have a face-to-face with our evaluating mental health professional.  Plan to spend about 4-6 hours at the center."  


I spent all of that week worrying about that exam.  I've never been accused of being mentally stable, but I wasn't sure how MUCH of my crazy would come out in a psyche test.  I didn't have any bodies buried in the basement, but that was more to do with sheer laziness and a small crawl space rather than my core values.  I thought they might ask about stress management and basic morals -- which in my case was "vodka" and "flexible."

Also, I had never been NEAR a psychiatrist, let alone interviewed by one, and I just didn't know how that would go.  Would he be like Dr. Phil, and I'd end up punching him in the throat because said something condescending to me in a dumb accent?  Or would he be more like Freud and I'd let something slip about how funny penises are?  I had no idea.  I had always thought I was just East Coast, Irish-Catholic, Repress-Shit-Instead-of-Talking-About-it, Let's Drink it Out, Sure I'll Fight You, Loud & Obnoxious kind of crazy rather than REALLY crazy, but I wasn't sure.

I assumed that the test was designed to weed out homicidal or suicidal tendencies, psychopathic behavior, chemical dependency red flags, failure to empathize with other people, poor family structure, mental illness, self-destructive personalities and REAL nut jobs.

Well, I was WRONG.

The test is designed to IDENTIFY those nut jobs so they can hire them.

Shit you not.

My center employs less than a hundred people.  We're considered a "medium sized” call center in this state. Just sitting here, off the top of my head, I can name people that I currently work with who are afflicted with the following:  gambling addiction, prescription drug addiction, alcoholism, bi-polar disorder, PTSD, numerous other stress disorders, inappropriate  relationships, anger-management issues and just plain old 'rock in a corner and talk to imaginary people' crazy.  LITERALLY.  Two people I've worked with have committed suicide.  At least two more, that I know about, have tried.  One supervisor, while working, laid down on the floor, had a massive heart attack and came so close to dying he said hello to his dead grandmother.  Cancer, diabetes, gastric problems, and a myriad of other health problems plague this group due to stress and unhealthy living.

Even the relatively healthy ones aren't normal.  If you walk into my center on any given shift, you can hear people chatting about what they had for dinner and then in the next breath contemplate why the cops just found the one blue eye in a bathroom after a shooting.  I mean, how did just the eye get in the bathroom?  Oh, and did you see the Voice last night?  Shit, I think this could be a real house fire, fuck!  Always right when my food is hot, you know?  Where did you get that sweater? It's pretty.  Hold, on, let me answer this phone where I need to help a guy give CPR to his dying wife.  Anyway, I wonder if it will be sunny tomorrow.  Do you have any Vicodan? If you came across this conversation in a normal setting, you would run as fast as you could away.  It's like a large room of psychopaths discussing their day.

Now, on the other hand, you will NEVER find a more intelligent and lively or supportive group of people.  These people aren't just my co-workers, they're my family.  I love all of them dearly and I am grateful to have them in my life.  Sure, my wine bill is a bitch, and maybe giving me the combo to a gun safe is a bad idea, but one of the biggest perks of my job is realizing that you will never be understood like these people understand you.

And now, eleven years later, that worries the FUCK out of me.   I still can never decide if I PASSED or FAILED the psyche test.  I know for sure that I'm not THE craziest one that works there, but I also know (now) that I wouldn't get kicked out of a psyche ward...

But I bet I'd see several people I know there.  :)


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