x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Observing Life: Adventures in workaday intrigue

What is it that makes some people suspicious of those around them? Why do some believe that every office is infiltrated by at least one spook?

The following took place between 1pm and 2pm. Please note that the names of the characters have been changed to protect their identities.

During a typical lunch break, three people walked into a crowded cafe. What happened next threw them into a hidden world of double agents, surveillance techniques and information monitoring.

As the conversation drifted from everyday small talk to what the next Bourne movie should be called, it became clearer that the three had one thing in common: intrigue over the lives of secret agents or "spooks".

What is it that makes some people suspicious of those around them? Why do some believe that every office is infiltrated by at least one spook?

"'Bourne Next'. No, 'Bourne Again' - that's what the movie should be called," said Michael. "But I hear Matt Damon won't be starring in the next movie."

To which the other two responded with disgust over the mere possibility that another actor would be considered for the role, and demanded confirmation on this piece of breaking news.

"Imagine how cool it would be to be a spy," said Frankie. "Do you think there's a spy in our office? Who do you think it is?"

To which Michael responded: "Obviously, Derek. He's very athletic, secretive about his personal life and travels to strange places."

That's when Terry, the third guy, noticed a portly man sitting behind Michael acting odd.

"I think that guy over there is listening in on our conversation," said Terry. "Don't look straight away."

Everyone knows that is the international code for "look right now".

The man was suspiciously holding his mobile phone and pointing it in the direction of Terry.

"I bet he's taking pictures of us. He's probably taken one of me already and running it for facial recognition. Michael, he can't see you so he's checking for matches on your voice," joked Terry.

I blame James Bond, the Bourne movies and the British TV show Spooks, which of course I am addicted to.

Some people say that when you look, when you really focus on the world, you start to notice things you would have otherwise naturally overlooked. One begins to notice strange behaviours or questions directed at one that, perhaps, someone else might not think to ask. Those details would then be added into a file to be sent back to headquarters - naturally.

"Have you ever watched The Truman Show?" asked Michael, of the 1998 movie that stars Jim Carrey. "Don't you sometimes feel that everything around us and life as we know it is not actually reality?"

Some friends from out of town, in Dubai for a short trip, had the exact same conversation two weeks earlier. During their discussion, they wondered if any fellow employees at work could possibly be spooks. It was a very animated conversation, to say the least.

The fact that espionage can be traced back thousands of years and is documented around the world does make one wonder.

Then, as Frankie, Michael and Terry walked back to their office, a helicopter hovered overhead. Coincidence?

I'm just saying.

mel-shoush@thenational.ae