Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Andrew's living nightmare

Imagine being given 10 minutes to prepare a 5-minute speech describing why you'd be a good candidate for a job. You're told ahead of time that your interview would be taped & that one of th interviewers would be an expert on body language & would be evaluating your gestures, posture, et cetera. Imagine you don't get to take your notes in & that you may be on some sort of mystery drug but you're not sure what.

Imagine that when you get in there, th two interviewers don't smile or introduce themselves, but just tell you to sit & start. Your image appears live on a TV screen directly in front of you. Imagine that you get completely flustered & sound like an absolutely incompetent moron while th interviewers just look at you blankly & take notes. When th 5-minute timer goes off, you are asked to do difficult mental math along th lines of "Count back from 6,422 by 13s." When you mess up, th interviewer on th left (a large black man who reminds you of a cop) says, "Are you just guessing? You know that's not right. Start over," & then gives you a larger number to start from. When th 5-minute timer goes off again, he says, "You may leave."

20 seconds after that humiliating debacle, you're sitting in a hospital bed getting blood drawn from your left arm, your blood pressure measured from your right arm, told to chew on a dry white tube so they can have a saliva sample, & told to fill out a form describing your emotional state: "On a scale from 0 to 4, how much are you feeling th following emotions: happy... frightened... angry... unsure about things... confused... bitter... self-confident... elated... confused... overjoyed... et cetera." This goes on repeatedly for th next half hour, with at least three people in th room poking & prodding you constantly.

This really happened to me. Yesterday. I swear to you.

It was a scientific experiment. I was th guinea pig. I did it at th University of Chicago for a hundred bucks. They gave me a mystery drug at around 9:00 AM & had me sit comfortably in a hospital bed reading & watching TV, filling out those "subjective response" forms every hour until around noon while I watched TV & read books I brought. I became very relaxed & started to think, "This is th easiest hundred bucks anybody has ever made."

I knew that I'd be asked to perform some task, but I didn't know what it would be. I didn't really concern myself with that. I figured it would be something cognitive, like sorting or alphabetizing. At noon, th person in charge set me up & ten minutes later I was in th interview room being terrorized!


At first, I felt really embarrassed, angry, lied to, taken advantage of, inadequate (for th imaginary job) & generally stressed out. I had just experienced a real waking nightmare! It was like all my worst days of submarining all rolled into ten minutes in hell! But I soon realized that th "task" wasn't really a test of my ability to talk or anything like that, but just a tricky scenario designed to catch me off guard & fuck me up royally, & it absolutely worked! I'm sure they found all sorts of stress-related endorphins in my blood & a heartbeat going crazy, & I can tell you that I put my first 4's on th "subjective response" sheets (4 = Extremely).

But when I realized how it all fit together, I laughed about it & noticed that I got a big rush out of it. It was like jumping out of an airplane & surviving; like a terrible horror movie; like almost dying in a fiery high-speed car wreck - but surviving. It was a rush!

Hooray for science! Sign me up for another one!

P.S. Th large black man, it turns out, was indeed a retired Chicago cop. Th mystery drug was progesterone, a human hormone. They're considering its use as a destresser, but at this dosage, it doesn't seem to help much.

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