I’d been cooking at the Bread Shop Kitchen for several months, mostly preparing egg dishes in the morning shift, when I was directed to take a lie detector test or be fired.  There had been a theft of the change box in the basement.  It had occurred during my shift.  It was 1979.

I took the el downtown and elevatored up to a higher floor in one of the newer towers.  I was asked to sit in a chair in a little room with lots of one-way glass.  My fingers and chest were attached to the mechanical apparatus.  I was given a little glass of water.

There was one man in the room with me.  He looked like a football player in a suit.  He began by wanting to know if I had ever stolen anything in my life.  He then asked me if I had been subjected to a lie detection test in the past.

Perhaps four years earlier, in St Petersburg, Florida, where I was a student at Eckerd College, my friend Linda had asked me if I would participate in a psychology experiment.  Her professor was comparing type A and type B personalities regarding stress.  My friend regarded me as a classic type B.  She wired me up to a detection apparatus, not unlike the lie detector test machinery, and gave me a series of tests.

At that point, I had been meditating enough years that my natural abilities to voluntarily associate or dissociate were somewhat enhanced.  When Linda had me dip my right hand and arm completely into an ice-filled cistern, instructing me to remove my arm when it was too uncomfortable to continue, I associated, meditating in my body.  I did not withdraw my arm until after several minutes when they told me that time was up.

When Linda instructed me to solve a series of word problems, I could find no solutions.  Totally in my head, I began to panic, feeling my heart rate and perspiration rocket.

I saw Linda on campus a few days later.  I asked her how the experiments were going.  She told me they were going well, but they had to toss out my specific test results.  My responses were not fitting the established categories.

Sitting in the loop tower little room with one way windows, I could feel fear and fury at the situation I was in.  I felt accused of a crime I hadn’t committed, submitting to probes I didn’t respect.  I decided to quasi-cooperate.  As the first questions came, I went to full meditation mode.  At this point, I had several years of experience calming and centering myself.  The grey-suited man asked me if I had ever stolen anything.

I had never stolen anything.  I was obsessively, neurotically honest.  I even felt guilty when I exaggerated.  I had always had difficulty with language with all its nuances, all its multiple connotations, some of which were less true than others.  My whole life I had struggled with an obsessive conscience that wanted to make sure I broke no rules regarding truth.

“No, I have never stolen anything,” I replied.  The heartbeat and perspiration detectors remained calm.  I felt calm.

The questions continued.  Some questions were asked several ways.  Another suited man came into the room.  The two together asked questions.  Then one began accusing me of the crime.  He left.  Another man came in.  The accusations grew more strident.  I remained calm.  For almost an hour, these three men behaved like they’d found the criminal, attacking me in a number of different ways.

They seemed annoyed, yet confident.  The session ended.

Later in the week, Kate, The Bread Shop Kitchen owner, walked up to me after I had finished work.

“You flunked the lie detector test,” said Kate.  She revealed no emotion with her statement.  I was confused.  How could I have flunked?  I had told the truth.

Kate told other staff members I had flunked.  I was offered an opportunity to take the test a second time.

I suggested that it was possible that they had interpreted my meditation state as an attempt to not cooperate, with calm being interpreted as having committed the theft.  It was true that it was my goal that their machinery show no variations with their questions.  It was agreed I take the test again.

The next week, back at the lie detector agency, back in the same little room, they again hooked me up to the lie detecting apparatus.  This time, rather than meditating, I placed my whole consciousness in my head, withdrawing from my body.  It was like taking the word problems at college a few years before.  I chose not to be consciously present.

I felt terrified.

I sweated like I was in a marathon, heartbeat racing like I was running miles.  Again, the questions.  And, the same answers as before.  “No, I have never stolen anything.”

There was one question different from the questions from the week before….

“Does this experience remind you of anything in particular?” asked the grey-suited man.

“Yes, it reminds me of what I’ve read about Nazi Germany.  This reminds me of people put to death because of lies.”

I was sent home a second time.  The next day, Kate took me aside and told me that she had been told the results of the second test were inconclusive.

The next week was my review and pay raise.  I was not aware of anyone that did not receive a pay raise at their first review.  I was an excellent cook, always on time and I performed my job well.

The pay raise was denied.

It was clear that I was not trusted.  I resigned.

The friends I’d made working in the restaurant were very supportive.  Management was happy to see me go.  It got back to me that Kate had told the staff that she believed I had committed the theft.

The next month, I received a copy of Communities, a magazine on communes, intentional communities and experiments in group living.  The cover of the magazine was an illustration I had sent them many months before.  Accompanying the illustration, on the inside cover, was a description of The Bread Shop Kitchen, written my first week on the job.  I described the satisfaction of working in a communal situation, and I described the synergies that accompanied merging work with social change.

After I left the Bread Shop Kitchen, I applied to a health food vegetarian restaurant up the street on Clark near Belmont.  The Growing Concern would be the last of my ten restaurant jobs.


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