I went with one of my sons and his family to the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. this past summer. I’d tell you all about it, but then I’d have to dump the poison in my spy ring into your coffee, so I won’t. But I can tell you a few things without blowing my cover.
I really enjoyed the museum, but then I tend to like smaller museums. Larger ones are exhausting. They require training that I’ve never had. About one-third of the way through I start saying to my wife, “Are we there yet?” referring to the end, the exit. How many old paintings and sculptures can one appreciate in one visit? Me, not so many.
But back to the International Spy Museum. The number of human beings in the world is miniscule compared to the number of insects. We’re also miniscule compared to the number of bugs, listening devices. Everywhere you go there is someone listening in to what you say. And every time you leave your office or your home, there are spies attempting to steal your documents, plans, and codes. If you are a doctor, dentist, or an investment counselor, they even steal the magazines from your waiting room. “Hmm, why does this doctor focus so much on the October 2016 issue of People Magazine. What’s he hiding?” Certainly not a current subscription.
Back when I was a pre-teen and first read Mad Magazine, there was a monthly feature, “Spy vs. Spy”. At the time, I thought the number of spies in the world was rather limited, maybe two. One thing the International Spy Museum teaches you is that there have always been lots of spies. Even Queen Elizabeth depended on secret agents in order that she stay in power for over 40 years back in the 1500s. It was easier to be a spy back then, of course. Everyone dressed weird. Spies could go anywhere unnoticed.
Why have there been so many spies? It’s biblical. Joshua 2:1 says, “Then Joshua son of Nun sent two men secretly from Shittim as spies, saying, ‘Go view the land, especially Jericho.’” Next, if you will cut-and-paste Genesis 1:28 so that it follows Joshua 2:1, God says, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it.” Consequently, there have been spies everywhere ever since, especially today. Spies know how to cut-and-paste.
I’m actually not a spy. I may look like one, but I flunked the course. One of the exhibits at the International Spy Museum is “School for Spies”. I went through the presentation and was ready to carry out my mission. (Remember Mission Impossible? “Your mission, Dewey, if you decide to accept it, is to…) My mission took place the adjacent room of the Spy Museum, and I did not do well. I forgot my password, couldn’t get directions from my contact on the bridge, blew up the wrong farmhouse – actually it turned out to be an outhouse – and then was arrested by the authorities. In other words, my mission was no different from the Fourth of July experience of many young high-schoolers in America.
I used to think that my life was so boring that no one in their right mind would want to spy on me. Wrong. Some spies are also called hackers or identity thieves. These people want to discover your mother’s maiden name, your first pet’s name, what’s in your refrigerator, whether you wear boxers or briefs, and whether you prefer Pepsi over Coca Cola. And if they can’t get this information, they’ll take your social security number and any other numbers they can get. As many of you know, unfortunately, it takes forever to get your life all sorted again after your info is stolen. So, remain vigilant. Big Bother is watching.
One of the things I came away with from the International Spy Museum is how many people and businesses and governments engage in spy activity. But you knew this. You know that when you watch a program on Netflix or make a purchase on Amazon, this information immediately goes into their profile of what similar programs or items they can offer you. Even if you donate to a charitable organization, your name is immediately sold to other charitable organizations who want to know where you live so they can infiltrate your life. Spies, all of them!
Back when I was in high school, townspeople and boosters on occasion came out to watch weekday football practices. Around playoff time, the coaches had to be sure that they knew who these people were. Why? Because spies associated with rival high schools sometimes blended in with the sideline crowd in an attempt to find out if there were any new plays that might surprise and defeat their team. Spies also ransacked the band room on occasion to see whether they wanted to watch that week’s halftime show or go to the concession stand.
Of course, we were trained to be spies as children. Decoder sets were offered on the backs of comic books, as were toy periscopes, with which you could see over fences or around corners without being seen yourself. Hour after hour we patiently either saw nothing or were discovered by others. “What are you doing with that, stupid?”
CCTV (closed-circuit television) is another spy activity. It amuses me how in Blue Bloods on CBS, as well as countless police shows on Netflix and Amazon Prime, the detectives depend on CCTV to solve the case. I don’t think the average TV or Netflix or Amazon Prime detective could solve a crime nowadays without access to someone’s CCTV. On Blue Bloods Danny likes to say, “Show me your footage, dirt bag!” Danny doesn’t discriminate. He calls everyone dirt bag.
I thought that the International Spy Museum was both educational and great fun. One of the exhibits was “50 Years of James Bond Films.” Bond cars, a steel set of teeth (chompers), shark tanks…It was so realistic that I kept waiting for Sean Connery to appear and autograph my museum pamphlet. Best wishes, Bond…James Bond.