15APR2012 – Part of this is my job description, part of this is a dream. There are moments in the light of day when I cannot tell them apart. Sometimes, I travel from place to place at the direction of (a certain government agency) and perform tasks — which began as uncomfortable and tedious but have grown progressively more rewarding.
“Head south, drive for twenty miles. Pull over at (a certain gas station) just outside (a certain town). The station will be abandoned. Open the envelope located under the passenger seat. You will find a pair of gloves. Put them on and pocket both the lighter and the box containing paraffin-soaked cotton. You will break into the office at the back of the building without being observed. Force the lock on the top left-hand desk drawer. There will be a large square package wrapped in plain brown paper. Do NOT open it. Instead, carry it with you to the lot behind the gas station and look for an old rusted drum. Place the package in the drum and set fire to the package using the lighter and paraffin, making certain to scatter the ashes thoroughly and bury the fire. Once you’ve finished, return home. Speak to no one about this.”
Next. “Catch the first flight to (a certain place). Rent a car and drive to (a certain pier) and wait there for six hours. Purchase a sandwich from a food cart at the end of the pier if you get hungry. When (a certain vessel) moors to the pier, board and ask to speak to the captain. When you meet him, hand him a one-dollar bill and take his picture. He’ll know what it means. Once you have his photograph, return to the airport and fly home. Speak to no one about this.”
Next. “Travel by train to New London, Connecticut. Be at (a specific address) by 0800 Wednesday. Someone there will give you a large green bag containing a knife, a compass, a space blanket, a warm coat and a whistle. Purchase sufficient food and water. Then, drive to an old airfield at the edge of town. There you will board the large white military aircraft with an orange stripe on the side. They’re expecting you. It will take you to Newfoundland. When you arrive, walk to the end of the runway and board another white plane. This one will have the word ‘surveillance’ painted along the side in big red letters. They’ll be expecting you. They will fly approximately 375 SE to position 41° 46′ North, 50° 14′ West. When you arrive, there will be a boat waiting. Photograph the boat and any activity you observe. The aircraft mechanic will jettison an object through a drop tube located in the rear of the aircraft. Photograph this event and anything you think might be of interest. Return home. Speak to no one about this.”
There’s never a definite end to the tasks. Sometimes they come in the middle of the night. Sometimes they come very early in the morning. “Tomorrow at 0400, you will don this dress uniform complete with colorful ribbons, insignia and a fancy hat. You will travel to attend (a certain function) at (a certain place). You will be introduced to (a certain person). When you meet him, take his picture. Wait twenty minutes. When he is introduced to (a certain person), you will photograph them together. The photograph should appear natural. It must NOT appear posed. After this, you are free to go. Speak to no one about this.”
Next: “Catch the first flight to New Orleans. Rent a car, drive to (a certain place) and wait for instructions. After two weeks, you will drive to an airfield on the edge of town and board a helicopter. They will be expecting you. It will take you to an oilrig located in the Gulf of Mexico. Upon arriving, you will photograph the drilling equipment, the interior of the control room and anything you think might be of interest. Once you have these photographs, board the helicopter and return to (a certain place). Speak to no one about this.”
Sometimes I receive these instructions in the middle of the task I’m completing ordering me to drop what I’m doing and begin another task, or walk from it away entirely. The standard guidance is simple: “Travel light. Pack a duffel bag of clothes, a laptop, a camera and your passport. Use this card for expenses, and present this piece of paper when challenged. Speak to no one about this…”