Print in Black Ink Only

by Jaime Bedrin | 5/7/98 5:00am

So recently I applied for a job where I was required to send in a set of my fingerprints. Let me clarify: new fingerprints. Not the ones the hospital took of me when I was just a few days young. Not the prints my mother has lying on a shelf in our basement in a baby book. The FBI needs to run a check on my almost 22-year-old soon-to-be Dartmouth graduate finger prints.

My hands are small. I doubt that my fingers have grown that much anyway. Driving to the police station I realized that I had never even been inside the Franklin Lakes station. I knew where it was and had passed it many times given its close proximity to the town library, the hardware store, the drug store and florist, and most importantly, the generic Quick Check. But as I pulled into the surprisingly filled parking lot, I realized that the station was smaller than I had remembered. Let me clarify again: not small, tiny. Miniature. Dollhouse size.

Anyway, when I entered the building no one was present. But there were two people hiding from me behind a glass wall. I would have thought I was in a bank, but there were no lollypops or ATMs. Instead I saw a water fountain with cups, a desk, a plastic trash bin and five posters of missing children whose needy faces made me sad. One woman from behind the counter asked how she could help me, and I replied that I needed new prints. Just a few minutes later the detective came through the door wearing a khaki -colored button-down shirt and a maroon tie. He looked a lot like William Macy, the actor who plays Dr. Morgenstern on ER. His energy created a wave that almost knocked me over. It would have had I not been holding onto the water fountain at the time.

I wondered if I needed to remind him that I was getting my prints and not a mug shot. Good thing I kept my mouth shut. When I did speak, which was to tell him politely that the form required that he write in black ink only (I even brought my own black ink pen with me), he flipped out. "I've been using blue ink on these forms for 22 years. The FBI only needs black ink for the prints." His voice was loud and clear. There was an essence of authority in his voice that was more identifiable than I had ever heard before. He was serious. He didn't like my comment. And I listened. I heard him well. This guy was a real creep, and I wanted to sock it to him.

But I didn't. I didn't feel like provoking him. He had a gun. And I had a papermate pen. There was no comparison. Let me make one more clarification: the form instructs its recipients to use black ink in more than one place. I checked it. Three times. But I wasn't about to argue with this cop. I wanted to get the hell out of there. And I did. He took my new prints in two minutes, and I washed my hands using the cleanser provided by the station. And I left. I ran out of the building, down the front stairs. I jumped into my car, and I locked the doors. It's ironic that I left the station feeling so vulnerable and threatened. My father told me to go in and introduce myself to the detective, because he and my father know one another. My father wanted me to be his daughter in public. And I couldn't even get past just being me.