Once I had “paper walked” — mapped — my tentative routes and filled my belly, I figured that it was time to hit the streets and do some spy sh-. OK full disclosure – “spy sh-” meant, at that point, nothing more than looking like the bumbling, lost tourist that I actually was.
In an optimal situation, I would have been met by another officer who had been in-country a while and would be able to show me around and point out places to avoid like police stations, banks, churches and school zones. Why these places, you ask? Well think first about the movies that you may have seen and books you may have read about intelligence related operations – a lot of skulking around and sitting in cars, right? Well for obvious reasons, doing so around the first two can and will land you in hot water. Lots of cameras and folks with guns and a suspicious eye hanging around. As for the second two, have you ever seen some random person or thing and thought, “something isn’t right here?” Well multiply that by 1000 in a school zone or church parking lot and you can understand why we are taught that sitting in or conducting operations in such areas is strictly verboten (that’s zee German for “forbidden” or some such thing.)
So I walked. And I timed that walk. I didn’t wander aimlessly and that wasn’t just because I had memorized the tourist map – though I carried it with me just in case I was stopped or a curious cabbie asked what I was up to – I had a reason for every turn, every store that I walked into, and every purchase that I made. Unlike the movies and books we enjoy, the point of surveillance detection is not to spot someone following you, then take them on a high-speed chase while whipping down alleyways and jumping curbs until you lose them. Yeah … no. There are two main points to the act of trying to determine if you are free from prying eyes as I have learned them: first, lull anyone on you into complete and utter boredom so that after five and half hours of watching you get your dog groomed, get a haircut, then hit the matinee showing of Casablanca they will say “this guy/girl is boring … and annoying … but mostly boring …” and deem you not worth the effort. The second is to make the determination as to whether or not you should continue with the mission — and shopping is the best way to determine both.