Prior to the start of FBI Citizens Academy, I was required to have a background check and be fingerprinted at the Pittsburgh FBI Headquarters. I looked forward to the process for a couple of reasons. First, it gave me a chance to figure out how to get there before the first class, which was good since I made a couple wrong turns. Second, I’ve never been fingerprinted before and—you know—RESEARCH.
I pulled into one of only a few visitor’s parking spaces and was immediately met by a security guard who checked my ID and asked if I had any firearms or explosives. Uh. No. I was told to leave all electronics in my car. No cell phone. Not even my Fitbit. Sadly, this also means I’ll be taking no photos of the classes. I understand the need for security but clearly need to brush up on my sketching skills if I have any hope of remembering stuff. Next, he brought out what looked like a very large dental mirror and scanned the undercarriage of my car as I eagerly watched, pondering how I can use this in a future book.
From there I was directed into the authorized parking area. Entering the building meant going through another security checkpoint. Metal detector. X-ray for my purse. Another check of my ID.
Finally, I was whisked back to a room where I would have my fingerprints scanned into a computer. Sounds easy enough. Would only take a couple minutes, I was told. Except the computer kept flunking my fingers. I was told this wasn’t unusual. However, an hour, two fingerprint techs, and a second computer, which also failed me, later, I got the idea I was a real problem child. The poor techs apologized to me. I apologized to them on behalf of my wonky fingerprints. But we finally managed to get enough fingers passed on each hand for the computer to accept the report.
If there was a “fun” part, it was this: they let me fingerprint myself. After an hour, I’d think I was getting pretty good at it, except for all the big red FAILs on the screen. In fairness to me, the tech had no better luck than I.
What did I learn? They no longer ink fingers. And if they do, the computer isn’t any more likely to accept the prints. (I would have suffered messy fingers if they’d said it would be more successful). Also, dry skin doesn’t scan well. They have a certain type of hand lotion (Jergens) that (usually) works well. But then they had to wipe the smears off the glass scanning plate. There’s something called ridge raiser wipes, but they seemed to be out of those. I was told makeup powder sometimes helps, but I don’t carry it with me. Oops. My bad.
The academy begins in one week. Check back with me here in TWO weeks for my next update.
But no pictures. Darn.
Have you ever been fingerprinted? If so, did they use ink or do the electronic scan?