Saturday, September 15, 2012

Sassyfats Goes to Washington

Remember a couple of months ago when I was all like, I can’t stand this waiting any more I just want answers but nope I can’t tell you guys what this is all about? Here’s a link to refresh your memory.
I’m finally in a place where I can spill the beans. In my normal, everyday life I am a mild mannered documentation weenie for a Large Corporation. Pretty much all the jobs available at Large Corporation in my geographic location involve government (or “gubment,” if you will) contracting. Any of you who have lived the life of a gubment contractor know that when one project comes to an end, you have to scramble like hell to find another project to avoid unemployment. It’s never fun, but it’s all part of the circle of life. (Or maybe it’s one circle of hell Dante forgot to write about. I’m not entirely sure.)  
Without going into too much detail, the project I’ve worked on since before my chid’rens even existed will reach the end of its natural life in the forseeable future. Not wanting to wait until the last minute, I started floating my resume past other projects in Large Corporation. Lo and behold, an old friend of mine needed a tech writer on her project. Yay, networking!! I interviewed with my old friend and her boss and we all determined that I was exactly what they were looking for. Yay, new horizons! But there was a minor hitch. I had to be cleared to work for their customer before I could transfer to their project. 

Now, I am no stranger to the process of getting a federal background investigation. I’ve been a gubment contractor at Large Corporation for 15 years now and have worked on several projects for several gubment organizations. I can fill out the little background investigation form in my sleep, and I am well-versed in how to position my hands when getting fingerprinted. I have never once worried that I would be denied the opportunity to work on a project based on the background investigation. Until this time.  
I’ve been pretty open about my ongoing struggle with finances in this blog. Money has always been tight. However,  this time was the first time I have had to go through a background investigation since my world fell apart and my finances went completely down the crapper. No, I have not committed any crimes. No, I have not taken any illegal substances. No, I’m not affiliated with any organizations who seek to overthrow the gubment. I’m about as vanilla and boring as you can get there, and damn proud of it. But when they pulled my credit history? Hoo boy, things got interesting.
Let me take a moment to say that I knew my financial history over the last five years would raise eyebrows among the Powers That Be. I also knew that the prevailing theory among the Powers That Be is that people with financial difficulties could pose a threat to security in the event some wealthy spy wanted to pay them for sensitive information. Couple of things, though: 1) I am not bribeable. National security is way more important than a handful of outstanding debts that I can chip away at until they are gone. And 2) The skeletons in my closet are pretty much on display. I mean, I write about them in a public forum, for crying out loud. 

With nothing to hide, I was more than willing to lay all my cards on the table and answer any question the Powers That Be wanted to ask me. However, being willing to answer questions and being prepared for the experience are two entirely different things. When I first got a very pointed email from an investigator asking for more information, I was all like, Whew! That wasn’t so bad. So glad I could clear that up!! But their investigation was far from over. 
One day I got a phone call from a very polite gentleman who wanted to meet with me and go over my paperwork. I was pretty sure what he wanted to talk about, but he sounded nice enough so I didn't go into freak out mode over the appointment. When he came to my office, I was pleasantly surprised to see a young man in his mid-20s with a friendly smile and a firm handshake. Oh good, I thought. This shouldn’t be too bad at all.
Those of you who are as into horror fiction as I am already know that assuming something shouldn’t be too bad at all means you’re about to get your face ripped off by a demon. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen a good horror movie, so I kinda forgot all about that when he was introducing himself. But then he pulled out his badge.
Now, when I say “badge,” I’m not talking about one those little picture ID thingies that hang from your neck to prove you belong wherever it is you happen to work. No, I’m talking about a real, live Badge (note the capital “B”) – a hefty metal shield that lives inside a leather wallet that exists solely to hold a real, live Badge. Any time someone shows you a real, live Badge and initiates a converstation with the words, “I am obligated to inform you,” you know shit's about to get real.
As stated before, I live a fairly bland existance. I knew I wasn’t about to get cuffed and stuffed or anything like that. We reviewed the investigation form and I confirmed my answers. Young Mr. Federal Agent was polite and friendly, and we quickly established a rapport. But as my blood pressure decellerated into the normal range, he got to the part of the form that talks about money. 
My eloquent way of 'splainin stuff
When a federal agent interviews you as part of a background investigation, they have a set of questions they are required to ask for each little red flag that has been raised. Even if the answer for every line item is the same, they have to ask the full set of questions. And I had red-flagged line items aplenty. After I’d spent a painful 45 minutes reiterating the same things about the financial crisis that was set in motion during Miracle Man’s medical crisis and further compounded by the ongoing recession, I felt a lot like deep-fried dog vomit. Mr. Federal Agent maintained his polite professionalism and expressed compassion about the circumstances that led to each line item on which he was required to skewer me. Even so, by the end of the interview I just wanted to go home, curl up into the fetal position, and watch old horror movies until that wretched feeling of failure went away.
Oh, Kiefer. You always make me smile.
It was a long while before I heard any more from the gubment agency who was conducting the investigation. I was sure that despite my relative squeaky cleanedness (new word), my application would be rejected. And I'd lose the opportunity to work on a new project. And I'd lose the opportunity to continue working on my current project; if one gubment entity rejects you, it’s pretty damn hard to get another not to follow suit. I was sure my career – and the livelihood that comes with it – was over.
Then I got the e-mail that made me literally raise my hands in the air and wave them like I just didn’t care while letting out an involuntary “WOO HOO!” The Powers That Be had decided that my unfortunate financial circumstances did not make me a dangerous person. Yay, Powers That Be!!  Finally, after a long summer of living in Limbo, I have a start date for when I can go back to my old D.C. office and show off my documentation-weenie prowess. I'm a little intimidated (change is scary), and I'm sad to leave my friends at the Cube Farm behind. But scary as it is, this change is necessary. And it is good. And all in all, I know I'm gonna be alright. I'm ready for the next chapter to begin. 

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