Today I had a psychological exam
as part of the NY Fire Department
application process. This is like my fourth appearance, first I had a physical agility test, ie. running up stairs with a heavy backpack on nonstop for a few minutes. Second, I came back with a full application extensively detailing education, job, and military history, and ending with me being fingerprinted and had a background check run on me. This was the next step, and I got a letter saying to arrive at 8:30AM in Brooklyn. My mother gave me a stern warning, don't joke around with them. My reply was, do you see those trees over there? I control them. :)
I had to get up and leave before 6:30 AM, and then boarded a train to NYC. Even though I got to the station at 6:40 AM, the entire parking lot was completely full. It's the most bizarre thing, the place is empty at midnight, but on a weekday, it is full at 6:30AM. I wound up parking in an overflow lot fairly far away, and even that had a surprising amount of cars for 6:40 AM.
Tired from less than 4 hours of sleep, I show up at the building at 8:00 AM, and of course I forgot my entrance letter. This was the really locked-down Fire Department building. The cop chastises me, checks my driver's license and says don't let it happen again. Inwardly grumbling at how this is the fourth time I had to arrive this early 50 miles from my home, it hits me; I forgot my two #2 pencils as well. Oh well, I think to myself, they have a gift shop, either I'll buy one or ask the proctor. I go inside the FDNY gift shop, which is a small sort of nook with pastries, coffee, T-shirts, Mugs, and really tacky calendars of shirtless firefighters in front of NYC monuments. There's this older woman behind the counter jabbering gleefully on the phone. I stand there, and she sees me but continues uninterrupted. I stand there. Still jabbering in Chinese. I ask her, do you sell pencils? "Pencil cases only" is her reply, then back to her engrossing call which obviously is far more imporant than me looking at her.
Ok, I think. "How about a pen?" "No, we are all out of pens," and continues with her merry call. I look on the wall, and there are a half dozen scotch-taped pens affixed in a random pattern, simply stuck there. "What about those?" I ask, but she doesn't react. "What about those?" I repeat again, probably frowning because I see the sign-in line to the examination across the hallway thinning. She had to have been ignoring me. I glance around hoping to see a pencil just lying in front of me, but all I see are those stupid calendars. All I could think of was that conversation I had last night with a guy who's convinced firefighters are so masculine that they're gay, and this calendar was like evidence. I started to feel like Steve Martin in the movie "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles" when he's fuming at the counter while the bubbly woman jabbers on the company phone.
I turned on my heel and walked out (lightly stormed out) of the shop, calling the woman a nasty ethnic slur in my head as I leave. That action startled me, what got into me? I think it was that really aggravating weekend I had, where a close friend scolded me, I had a breakdown at work the week before, I called my supervisor and told him what I really thought of his abilities, and of course I'm only running on 3 hours of sleep. I go inside, and the proctor disdainfully tells me "you're unprepared" in front of the room.
Naturally, that doesn't put you in a good frame of mind, nor did anything of the morning. Of course, this is a psychological test, the MMPI*. The first part consisted of a 560-question true-false test, where they ask you very leading questions to spot God knows what. They asked me questions on whether I hated my mother, whether I drink too much, how my sex life is, how social I am, if I'm scared of mice, if I'm afraid of the dark, if I hear voices, if I get the urge to hurt people I love, if I get irritated by others, if I feel hot or cold flashes, if I secretly want to kill myself, if I ever feel the room is spining, if someone's out to get me, if I wish I was dead, if people are controlling my mind, if I believe in law enforcement, if I sleepwalk, if I get drunk too much, if I think my father was a good man, if I like being alone, if I get headaches frequently, if I wish I was a girl, if I hear buzzing in my head, if people can read my thoughts, if I ever beat people up, if people want to beat me up, if I think I'm important, do I get indigestion frequently, if I believe in an afterlife, if I panic under stress, if I'm shy, if I can make decisions, if it's ok to steal if you can get away with it, if people are honest only because they fear getting caught, if I think most people cheat on their spouses, if I have doubts on my life, if I keep changing my life, if I think I'm usually right, if I'm worthless, if I thought it's ok to tease animals, if I'm political, if I talk too much, if I take medication my doctor didn't prescribe, if I hunt, if I like fire, etc. It took me nearly 3 hours, and I was foundering in agony at the questions, the difficulty in answering some of them, the sheer number of them (560+), and the strong urge to sleep on the desk. That lousy morning made me feel like I was going to screw up all the questions on my temper and disposition.
Part 2 was a series of simple yes/no questions. Do you wet the bed? Do you feel heart palpatations? Do you get stomachaches? Do you try drugs? Do you drink a lot? "Do you have an uncontrollable urge to continue your disturbing actions?" Have you ever been committed to a mental institution? Pretty easy, but dang, what a weird question.
Next, three blank sheets of paper. Page 1. The instructions are, draw a house. On the back, describe who lives in the house, and what they're doing. I drew a nice ideal 2-story aluminum sided, slanted roof home with picture window and dining room. Nobody was visible, but I said it's my house, and my wife and 2 kids are cozy around the fireplace; my wife and I reading on the couch while the two kids play a board game on the carpet.
Page 2, draw a person. On the back, who is this person and why did you draw him or her doing whatever in the picture? I really didn't like this part, drawing living things is haram, or at least bothers my conscience. In the end, I relented and drew myself, with a loud hawiian shirt, trimmed beard, glasses, long khakis, black socks, and hush-puppies. I was standing and smiling, with my arm behind my head in a Naruto-style cool person pose. I said this is me, described myself, and said I'm checking my reflection before I go out to a restaurant with my friends.
Page 3, draw a tree. On the back, say what's going on in the picture. I drew a thick tree with branches, only I kept making them too thick or wiggly so I had to keep erasing (I'm so lousy at drawing). On the back, I was tempted to say "It's a friggin tree! It just stays there all day." Instead, I drew a lake next to it with ripples and said it's a tree across the street from my house next to the lake, it has no edible fruit but nice flowers. I wonder what they're going to gleam from that.
I handed it all in, along with a complete education history from 7th grade to present, and employment history, and arrest record (left blank). Now that's complete, I just have to wait for the next stage, the Medical evaluation.
* For more MMPI background info and simplified explanation of what the questions are looking for, check out http://www.aaml.org/MMPI.htm