Category Archives: Career

The killer in plane view

I have to tell you that I got it all wrong, dear reader. After all these years wishing that I’d become a spy, I’ve finally realiszed that I was aiming at the wrong profession. Because – frankly – if there’s a better job in the world than being an air marshal, I’m yet to hear about it.

Now admittedly my jealousy may in part have been caused by the fact that I have been bumped off my return flight from Los Angeles back to New York this morning by Delta needing to find a seat for an air marshal. But given that I found out about it moments before getting on board the outbound flight reminded me that I could spend the entire journey picking out that flight’s marshal from among the passengers.

For the uninitiated, an air marshal is a federal employee whose job it is to ‘neutralisze’ any terrorist on the plane. And to be honest, it would have been more difficult to pick out Lady Gaga in her full regalia than the ‘incognito’ undercover agent, such was the average age of the 16 people occupying the business class seats. I can only assume that LA was hosting a Golden Girls convention this weekend.

Infact, if it hadn’t been for a swarthy guy sitting across the aisle from me looking like he’d just stepped off the set of CSI Miami, I’d have been forced into the inevitable conclusion that I was the air marshal after all.

Still, sitting in such close proximity at least gave me the chance to observe what the marshal has to do during the course of the flight. And to be fair, from this exclusive log book that the marshal inadvertently left on his seat as he stepped off the plane, you’ll see that the job can’t be easy‚Ķ

0930 Laugh at the plebs as I wander up to the front of the boarding line. Smirk as a fat man with some kind of McSausage McBiscuit starts audibly complaining about me pushing in. Idly ponder what his chubby little face will look like when I pop a cap in his ass if he steps out of line on the flight.
0942 Wonder if I can get away with a glass of champagne, but decide against it at the last minute. Order vodka and tonic instead.
1001 Attempt to blend in with the rest of the passengers by getting out some reading material. Always good to catch up with the latest news in Paid Assassin’s Monthly.
1029 Why does the guy across the aisle keep looking at me and taking notes?
1059 Order the granola for breakfast. I’d love the French toast, but find that a heavy stomach affects me something rotten when I’m trying to shoot terrorists.
1115 Look around the cabin at the other business passengers. Decide to keep a close eye on the grey haired woman in 2D. Wouldn’t be surprised if that cane she’s holding turned out to be an Uzi.
1201 Start watching Love Happens. Hope the guys back at the base never find out that I’ve seen every film that Jennifer Aniston has ever made. Twice.
1243 This holster is starting to chafe on my shoulder. Think about putting the gun in the overhead locker. No hijacker can get up at the moment anyway, as the captain’s illuminated the seatbelt sign.
1307 Flick through the SkyMall catalogue. Make note to buy video recording sunglasses on my next trip.
1341 Momentarily fall asleep, and almost shoot man in 3B when I’m woken with a jolt by the flight attendant dropping her tray of glasses
1401 Woman in the adjacent seat has decided to tell me all about her trip to visit her son in La Jolla. Attempt to feign interest, while hoping that she notices the six inch knife scar down the side of my face and decides to back off.
1424 Pilot says we’re coming into land. Thirty seven air marshal trips I’ve made now, and not a single opportunity to take down an Arab. On the plus side, my collection of in-flight headsets is looking superb these days,

How I never became a spy

I was always fascinated by the idea of being a spy when I was a kid. I think someone bought me a thick red hardback ‘spy handbook for kids’ for Christmas one year, and I never looked back from there. Each day I’d race home from school and pore over it, testing myself to make sure that I knew everything there was to know about dead letter boxes, codebreaking, and leaving notes for my handler in the classified section of the Daily Telegraph. Put simply, if my country ever called on me to be a real life James Bond, I wanted to be ready.

Of course, I knew that becoming a spy wouldn’t be easy, so I launched a campaign to get myself under the collective proboscii of the British counter-intelligence authorities. Having been accepted at a university well-known as a hunting ground for some of the finest spies (and traitors) that my country ever produced, I figured it was just a matter of time before I was behind enemy lines, sleeping with a Russian temptress desperate to get her duplicitous hands on my rather impressive cyphercipher.

I even took a university course on espionage in the 20th century, taught by one of the topic’s finest minds. And as I listened to Oleg Gordievsky describe how he managed to escape the Soviet Union to defect to the west, I smiled knowingly, as if to give respect to a man like myself who knew what it took to be a spy.

Strangely, the call never came. The closest I got was being interviewed by the ‘Foreign Office’ as a final reference for a friend who had irritatingly been spotted as a potential recruit to the secret services. The day after a grey suited figure came to talk to me, my friend was called to be told that he wasn’t suitable.

Having failed to become a spy, anonymity hasn’t always been my main concern. And that extends to this blog. Sure, I may hide behind this shadowy ‘Brit Out Of Water’ figure, but most regulars know my name, and I’m even Facebook friends with a few of them. I try to keep my work out of the blog, on the basis that – well – I like being one of the few people left in America who still has a job. But other than that, I’m a pretty open book.

Such openness is not without its problems though.

This weekend, it finally struck home with The Artist Formerly Known As The Youngest that I write a blog, and that it was possible that it might occasionally mention her. And like the proverbial dog with a bone, she wasn’t going to let go until she got to the bottom of it.

“So what do you call me on your blog?”

“I don’t really have a name for you since your sister was born. You used to be called The Youngest, but you’re not the youngest any more.”

“So what do you write about me?”

“I don’t really write about you as that wouldn’t be fair to you. But you do come up as part of a story every now and then.”

“So what do you write about me?”

“Like I say, I just refer to you in passing.”

“So what do you write about me?”

“It’s not a blog about you. It’s about my life in America. You are just occasionally mentioned as you’re part of my life in America.”

“So what do you write about me?”

“I mention your mum much more. She’s The Special One. You’re a side character, to keep your life private.”

“SO. WHAT. DO. YOU. WRITE. ABOUT. ME?”

“Well you can read it for yourself – I’ll give you the address.”

“Why would I want to read your blog?”

Ah, American youth – reassuringly narcissistic, unless it involves doing some work. Let’s hope the US spies of the future are spoonfed the secrets of their targets, and that all hidden messages are contained within Mythbusters.