Saturday, March 6, 2010

Classified Information

A few weeks ago, I received an email from a fellow I had gone to high school with, asking me if I would serve as a reference for him and give a good report of his character. Apparently he had been accepted to a highly prestigious government intelligence internship, pending security clearance. He needed people who still lived in southwest Missouri, he said, so of course I agreed to speak to the representative for the government agency. I did not realize until later that this would entail actually meeting with the guy, but by the time I learned that little fact, it was too late to say no and I couldn't leave my friend in the lurch.

That week, I wondered how the meeting would go. My imagination, I must say, ran wild. I secretly hoped that the super secret spy would be some version of James Bond. He would sneak up behind me unannounced while I looked blindly about in the other direction—then, before I could make a move, stifle my surprised scream with a gag and blindfold, stuff me into his spymobile, and whisk me away to some hidden location. There, I would be informed that I had been chosen to fulfill some Very Important Mission. The cover story about the internship reference was simply a ruse. I would be obligated and bound by duty and honor to serve my country…or die trying. And I would accept this Magnificent Task (would I have a choice?) and become a legendary secret agent / super sleuth / incognito spy. Etc. It was quite dramatic.

The evening before the appointed interview, I received a call from Mr. Bond. He asked me when and where we could meet, and I told him where I went to school. There was a pause on the other end, and then he replied that he did not know where that was, as he was not from this area. I named the streets and cross-streets and general direction, then added, "But I'm sure you can Mapquest it on the Internet and find it much easier." To which he replied, "But I'm traveling and don't have my computer with me."



So…so much for accosting an unsuspecting me in a crowd. He couldn't even find a big well-known college campus in the middle of town with a bunch of signs pointing to it.

We finally agreed to meet in the parking lot of a nearby credit union, so that he wouldn't have to worry about on-campus parking (you mean your car doesn't fold up to the size of a briefcase? can't fly to land on roofs? isn't equipped with anti-security measures and a pass-all parking permit?). The interview itself was a touch awkward. Mr. Bonds was aging, beer-bellied, and gold-toothed, but pleasant. He flashed his badge when I got out of my car without skipping a beat of his introduction. Then it was straight into grilling me about, my business at the college (sir, student, sir!), my major (is Biology satisfactory?), and so on. It was a bit intimidating. Then on to questions about the prospective intern (mentally stable? loyal to the US government? would he ever do anything to harm the US government or put it in jeopardy? good at keeping secrets?), followed by random chitchat. Seems he used to breed PMU horses in Canada. Sounds suspicious, Mr. Ulterior Motive.

Then we parted, me feeling as though I had just passed an examination. Egads. All I know is that the safety of our country is in semi-incompetent hands—the sort of hands who are just as likely to find a big ol' university as they are to find bin Laden.

…or maybe I'll be caught posting this, and suffer the consequences. If I disappear, kindly check the ditches for my remains, but whatever you do, don't notify the authorities unless you want to be next.