Monday, September 26, 2005

Sorry about that, chief...

Don Adams has died. To younger folks, he was the voice of Inspector Gadget. To me, he will always be the voice of Tennessee Tuxedo and the one and only Maxwell Smart, Agent 86 of the super secret spy agency CONTROL. It's hard to believe that "Get Smart!" is 40 years old. The show debuted on September 18, 1965, which means it premiered only a month and a half before I did. "Get Smart!" ran through 1969 and then played in syndication for ages. I remember watching it with my mom back in the early '70's.

Max, Agent 99, the evil agents of KAOS, the Chief, the Cone of Silence, the shoe phone... if you're of the right age, it's all so familiar. I had my own "Get Smart!" moment in 1989, when I had to go to the CIA for a security briefing before I went to work at the American Embassy in Moscow. Our orientation group was a mix of foreign service officers and peon contractors like myself. While some of the foreign service folks were normal, decent folks, some of them carried this undeserved air of superiority that really steamed my clams. So, you did well on a standardized multiple choice test and then handled the "in-basket" test well? So friggin' what?

The officers who felt we peon contractors shouldn't be there protested our presence loudly and repeatedly. (There were always nasty anti-contractor "suggestions" in the embassy comment box in Moscow. Snobs.) But their elitist outrage didn't keep us off the bus to Langley that day. We were escorted everywhere by a cadre of quick-eyed CIA employees who kept us from looking in open doorways (I still did it) and monitored our every move in the cafeteria. There were discussions of counterintelligence and protection of assets. We were shown short movies about "Security and You."

And we got to handle cool spy crap that the CIA had confiscated over the years. Handy hint, CIA people: don't ever try to keep a group's attention when you're passing around radios hidden in razors, cameras in fountain pens, and, god help us... a shoe phone. We couldn't help ourselves, you know. Everyone who touched the shoe phone (a fine bit of Soviet craftsmanship) had to hold the sole up to a grinning face and yell into it.

When the phone was handed to me, I pressed the heel to my ear and stage whispered, "99! 99! KAOS got me! Call the Chief!" The phone was removed from my possession at that point by a prune-faced CIA attendant. These people are just no fun.

I assume that my less-than-reverential behavior was noted for my file. I interviewed for a job with the CIA back in 1992 or 1993. That was a hilarious day. Have I written about that here? I can't remember. Long story short, I was one of 30 applicants plucked that year as a possible candidate for Clandestine Services. HA! Ever see an extremely rotund woman try to surreptitiously rappel down a wall? Sydney Bristow I ain't.

My career as a spy was short-lived. I passed the interview, but I wasn't really interested in co-opting foreign citizens for U.S. intelligence purposes. I felt that living under an assumed identify wasn't something I could pull off - I'd be laughing my ass off ten minutes into an assignment. Also, they wanted me to reveal the names of every foreigner I know and give up my friendships with them. Not. Bloodly. Likely.

I wonder if I still have the 20-some-odd page application they wanted me to complete. It had some really intense questions. I suppose by now it's self-destructed into dust in the bottom of a box in my closet.

Ah well... all in the past now...

As for Don Adams? He was 82. That's a pretty good run, folks. Not too shabby. Agent Maxwell Smart, the Cone of Silence has come down upon you one last time. Farewell.


Sasquatch said...

I applied for the CIA, too. When the 32-page application asked me to list all of the foreigners I knew, I realized my future with the Company was going to be short-lived. (If you are residing in another country, aren't *you* the foreigner then?)

Anyway, I took their various exams, one of which was the psych evaluation. Some of the yes/no question included: "Do you like tall women?" "When you read the Sunday paper, is the first section you reach for the funnies?" "Do you have to resist the urge to throw yourself off of high buildings?" and, the pièce de résistance: "Do you see fiery visions of God?"

That last one pretty much wrapped it up for me, because I didn't really want to work somewhere that actually required an answer to that question. I just stopped responding to their phone calls and letters, and eventually they stopped calling and writing. I think they got the hint.

suze said...

awww. i loved inspector gadget. (never did see much of get smart...)

my brother and i would rush home from school to see the end of scooby doo and then inspector gadget.

i have no 'when i applied to be a spy' story to share. sorry ;)