When I heard that Osama Bin Laden had been taken out by the Navy Seals, I, like many others the world over, was struck with admiration for these mysterious (and probably very well-built) young men who had embarked on this covert and dangerous mission. With no apparent thought for their personal safety, well-being or whether their hair would get frizzy in the heat and humidity of a Pakistani spring, they displayed fortitude, courage and, in the words of my ancestors, kishkes.
But then I remembered that I, too, had once dipped my toe into the rarified waters surrounding this elite group. In the tradition of Agent 99, Agent Orange, Agent Provocateur and Agent Valerie Plame (which ended badly), I was almost a spy. In fact, I was a mere series of "extensive psychological tests" away from landing a position with the CIA, when I was young and in search of an exciting career. (Never mind that "psychological testing" was doomed to scuttle my application, unlike my "extensive background check" which only threatened to bore the Agents in Charge to death).
Here's how it unfolded. As is my motto here at Body of Work: EVERY. WORD. IS. TRUE.
- I responded to an ad in the New York Times placed by the CIA. The agency was seeking young people (which I was at the time) who 1) had lived abroad, 2) spoke a foreign language and 3) were good with people (check, check, gong!).
- Got called in for an interview, instructed to meet a man whose name I cannot remember (he must have slipped a pill into my water) in a nice hotel on the east side. He did not look like Pierce Brosnan (just saying). Neither did I.
- During my interview he asked if I liked spy novels. I replied that I did not, but in true job interview fashion I offered that my major weakness was my tendency to work too hard and write mission statements in my spare time.
- My interviewer asked me what I thought the position I was interviewing for entailed. I told him I was imagining some "overt administrative position." He assured me that I was, in fact, wrong and handed me a book called "Waterboarding for Dummies."
- The position for which I had been called in to interview was a REAL spy position, a job whose responsibilities might include waiting for hours in European train stations to pass notes to shadowy figures. (This is the actual example he gave to me before he answered his shoe phone).
- We both agreed that it was better for the country, nay, better for humankind, that I look elsewhere. Because I look better back-lit with lots of black netting over my face, rather than in shadow.