FALLING INTO DISGRACELAND

FALLING INTO DISGRACELAND

| April 14, 2001
I’ll be honest. I usually listen to Howard Stern on the radio. I don’t know why; I guess I’m just retarded. Every so often, however, I pull my brain out of the gutter and listen to NPR. You know, just so my mind doesn’t rot completely. So the other day I’m in the car, and they’re talking about extradition for 50 Russian spies working in this country under diplomatic immunity. Maybe you heard about it: this American guy was spying (on us) and now we’re embroiled in some sort of Cold War spy trade, kicking all the spy/diplomats out. (Appearantly, you can’t write “spy” on your work visa. You have to write “diplomat.”) At any rate, the interview went on to say that these spying “diplomats” gather their intelligence in a number of ways: from public records or newspapers; from walk-ins, people who basically show up somewhere (the nearest embassy?) and volunteer to rat out their country; and from recruits. To recruit people (hold on, I’ll get to my point), the radio said that the spy/diplomats go to bars and other social events (diplomatic cocktail parties? diplomatic immunity challenges?) and chat up their targets into betraying highly classified government documents. The whole thing bothered me for a few reasons. One)We let spies in as diplomats? Two)What do they learn from newspapers? Everyone is on the web now, you’d think they could just log on and save the expense of creating a fake identity for someone and sending them across the world. And three) and most importantly, spies can go to bars and “pick up” people to commit treason against their country? I go to bars and can’t even get a date. What is wrong with this country? Treason is a criminal offense. I’m not even a misdemeanor. I console myself with the fact that the spies probably went to spy school to learn the fine art of chatting up a potential mole, whereas I went to Northwestern. Northwestern, as far as I know, does not have a course on how to talk to potential mates or potential moles. They do have a department on speech pathology, but I never registered for any of those classes and do not think they would be very helpful in my current situation anyway, unless I was trying to meet someone with a stutter. But I digress. I also console myself with the fact that the spies probably bring up some sort of dollar amount in talks with the mole. Luckily, I haven’t had to resort to that yet. Still, though, I think those spies must be regular social butterflies. Because how do you bring the subject up? “Hey, wanna tell me about your country’s top-level secrets, you know, the ones you’re not even supposed to share with your family?” For instance, the other night I was out hobnobbing. Not with diplomatic spies. I mean, at least I don’t think so. But I was hanging with the sort of crowd I would assume that diplomatic spies would want to chat up and certainly a more refined and cultured crowd than I’m used to. (Back at the trailer, our idea of culture was when we rented movies from Blockbuster rather than the grocery store). The point is that it was hard to strike up a conversation (it didn’t help any that I had only remembered to shave one of my legs or that I was feeding my face). My friend and I were all, “What do you...” “How do you...” “Why do you...” etc. And the conversation kept sputtering along then stopping, sputtering then stopping. Really, awkward pause after awkward pause. I can just imagine if we said something like, “Hey, why don’t you tell me about so-and-so and I’ll give you some money. How would that be?” We would have been chased out by a mob wielding hot shish kebabs. The very idea. So the only thing I can think of? I’m going to have to apply to spy school, as soon as I figure out where one is, and learn how to talk to the crowds. Maybe then I can get a date, and hopefully, a well-connected one at that. Mary Cashiola writes about life every Friday @ memphisflyer.com. You’re invited to come along.

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