Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Wo(men) in black

A few days ago, I got a call from the US Government. Not totally unusual, since every few years, they do a background check on a good friend of mine. She works for the diplomatic service and is always at one embassy or another. I'm one of her "links" to the United States.

As far as links go, I'm a pretty good one. We've known each other since freshman year of high school. They seated us alphabetically in homeroom. She was Crowe. And since we had a small school (and very few "D" and "E" names), I (Fox) was seated right behind her. We got to be friends and the rest is history.

Very detailed history.

You see, when the federal agents want to know things, they want facts and plenty of them. And I should know lots of things because, well, I still see my friend whenever she's in the states. We talk all the time and I visit her in whatever country she's in (a little less now with kids and book contracts). Unfortunately, I am not a real detail person. As evidenced every time the agents knock on my door to talk about my friend.

Agent: How well do you know this person?
Me: Very well. I met her in high school and she was even the maid of honor at my wedding.
Agent: You knew her in high school.
Me: Yes.
Agent: Where did she work in high school?
Me: You've got to be kidding.
Agent: You know this person?

Who remembers where their friends worked in high school? Not me. I did manage to stumble out something about a summer camp where my friend taught gymnastics. Naturally, the agent wanted to know the name of the camp. Err...Gymnastics-R-Us? Really, who keeps track of these things? (Note: If you're one of those people who does keep track of things, you can pipe down right now.)

They also had questions about my job.

Agent: What do you do for a living?
Me: I write books.
Agent: That people read?
Me: Not all the time, no.

I thought that was pretty funny. Turns out, federal agents have no sense of humor.

Luckily, (and probably despite me) my friend has managed to keep her security clearance. So far. Good thing, because she really is great at what she does. After all, she kept me from getting arrested in Mexico City over a slight misunderstanding with la policia. They wanted a bribe. I wanted to see how well I could get by on high school Spanish (Hint: not that well).

And as far as I'm concerned, friendship is more than remembering the address of my friend's place in grad school. Instead, I remember crashing on the couch of said place. Oh, and the time she visited St. Louis and her grandmother took her to the store to buy batteries for her alarm clock. Aileen is legally deaf, so she has one of those alarm clocks that shakes instead of buzzes (hard to hear a buzz when your hearing aids are out). So naturally, her grandmother asked the sales clerk for "batteries for her granddaughter's vibrator."

But do the agents ask about that?


They don't ask the important things. Not that I would tell them anyway. Some things are better left to friends.


Terri Osburn said...

I work for a military contractor so I have a clearance and so do all my coworkers. Now and then that clearance has to be renewed, as you mention. Few years ago I was called in as character reference for a coworker. Based on the questions, I'm almost positive that investigator thought I was having an affair with said coworker. Made for a very uncomfortable interview.

Though I do love how most of the questions make us all sound like Jason Bourne. LOL! Trust me, no Bournes in this office.

catslady said...

Oh, thank you for the lol. "Agent: That people read?" He deserved your answer - what a stupid question roflmao. "batteries for her granddaughter's vibrator." still roflmao!!!

Brandy said...

Too funny. I worried for a short time when my husband entered the military almost twenty years ago (he's been out almost ten years) because there were some colorful characters in my family. They gave him clearance, but whew!
I can't believe that agent asked if anyone read your books.

Angie Fox said...

Too funny, Terri. I think this agent was convinced I didn't really know my friend at all.

Angie Fox said...

Yes, I love the vibrator story. And the kicker was, Aileen's grandmother had no idea what she was saying, kept repeating it to different, aghast sales clerks. We certainly weren't going to explain it to her.