What's In A Passport File?

If I were one of the three viable presidential candidates, I doubt I'd be too broken up about someone looking into my passport file. Go ahead look, I'd say. It's the passport photo I wouldn't want anyone getting his hands on.
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If I were one of the three viable presidential candidates, I doubt I'd be too broken up about someone looking into my passport file. Go ahead look, I'd say. It's the passport photo I wouldn't want anyone getting his hands on.

I do think, however, that the candidates must enjoy the occasional scandal in which they're entirely off the hook. In fact, I picture most of the public yawning over this breach in security. I mean, what was discovered anyway--nothing! Where are the hookers? Threesomes? Drug rings? Misuse of campaign funds? Yet, even without a proper scandal on hand, I can't imagine that the candidates aren't edgy about something being discovered. I refuse to believe there's anyone left with an entirely clear conscience. Show me a person without skeletons in her closet and I'll show you someone who likes doilies.

I would never run for public office, but I can say that if I did, my campaign (even for mayor of a small fishing village) would be squashed for any number of reasons within the first fortnight. However, the idea of someone digging into my past is not entirely foreign to me. Years ago, when my attempts at a writing career came to a complete stand-still, I applied to the Los Angeles Police Department. This might seem odd for a liberal woman who once went to UC Santa Cruz, but I've always had a powerful fascination with crime and serious interest in finding different ways to contend with it.

As I researched the application process, I soon learned that I would eventually have to submit to a background check. I was concerned with this prospect, however, at the time it was in the wake of the Rodney King scandal and I mistakenly assumed that my moral character would stand up to the challenge. To make a long story short: it didn't. I dabbled with drugs in college and my credit report left something to be desired. But I digress.

There was something in particular that I discovered by having a microscope on me. I began to feel guilty or nervous about benign aspects of my life. Once I completed the preliminary stages of the interview process, I prepared to begin the lengthy background investigation (which can take up to six months).

It commenced with a three hour interview at a downtown police station. Before even the interview could take place, there were a few basic rules that the applicant had to abide by. For instance, you were required to provide evidence of automobile insurance in your name.

This was a minor problem for me. When I moved to Los Angeles six months earlier, my grandmother's car was taken away from her because she was senile and had no business operating a motor vehicle. Her car was insured, but transferring the insurance into my name required her approval and as it turned out she did not approve one bit of me driving her car. In fact, she harassed me on a weekly basis demanding its return. As it was I could not sort out this glitch by the date of my appointment.

When I met my interviewing officer--I'll call him Officer Barnes--I immediately launched into an explanation of my situation and managed to convince Barnes that while the car insurance was not precisely in my name, I was still driving with proper coverage. Barnes seemed satisfied with my explanation and the interview began. He reminded me to be completely truthful. It was my plan to answer each question with blunt honesty. Officer Barnes began by asking a litany of questions that, in general, garnered a preemptive response of No.

"Have you ever been convicted of a felony?"

"Have you ever been convicted of a DUI?"

"Have you ever assaulted a domestic partner?"

"Have you ever molested a child?"

"Have you ever committed a robbery?"

"Have you ever shoplifted?"

My quick-draw "no's" had the timing of a metronome, until Barnes asked his next question. "Have you ever driven a stolen vehicle?" Barnes asked, taking a sip of his coffee.

I responded quickly, "If you ask my grandmother, I'm driving one now."

My interrogator choked on his coffee, barely containing it in his mouth. When he recovered he turned to me and said, "You got me."

I should have known then and there that I was meant to be a writer and not a cop. The satisfaction I felt in that moment was unparalleled.