I’m leaned up against a concrete wall in a breezeway waiting on a gust of wind, the momentum it could bring. I’ve been scoping out a place. It is late day and there’s finally a lull in foot traffic at this tony restaurant bar across the way. The last of the lunch crowd left and the happy hour regulars haven’t yet arrived. I parked my recognizable car a ways-away and then walked to a hideaway spot; prior reconnaissance. I’m hanging out and hanging back. I love watching people, and I can always spot the ones who consider themselves to be hyperaware of their environment. It’s in the eyes. Some people are really good at taking it all in. In the same way you can get a sense of a driver’s potential movements on the road by watching for a subtlety in the tires. It’s not by blinker activity, because a decision has already been made by the time the blinker is engaged. Watch the tires. Watch the tics. People can give away their thoughts by the movements of their body. So the most boring part of the job is my favorite part of the job. I chuckle every time I hear someone say they love traveling because they love people watching. Do they really have the temperament to sit at one café for hours or in the driver’s seat of their own car? Boredom and impatience have fucked a lot of cases. One must be able to sit in the weeds, get granular, and stay the course. There’s a lot of silence and solitude, but you get used to it. Today is a breeze comparatively. I’m getting clarification on who appears to be arriving and leaving alone; how long they were inside. These people may not know one another directly, but they are not so separate. They are on either end of the same stick.
I make the corner and take a few steps into the darkened interior. I will never get used to going from sitting in the bright daylight to some version of a dark underworld. No matter how fancy the place, shame sits alone at a bar in the middle of a day. I see the wall of liquor along the very back wall, and have relief knowing today is not a day I’m assigned to sit there. I’ve timed this solo, pre-dinner snack so I can strategically run into someone coming in for a pre-business dinner cocktail. I am genuinely hungry. Eating gives me some cover. I can be too noticeable, but none of these people know me. Fewer patrons; fewer waitstaff. I’m now inside, so I can see who comes from the very back. This is my main purpose.
I’m sitting there remembering the time I was in the casino of a private club in London. There were four Saudi men of high repute, as I actually noticed their security before I counted how many were wearing the long white thobe and checked ghutra on their heads. The security details are more discriminate in black slacks and button downs with blazers. Always on the perimeter; always in the back. Always watch your back. These people don’t enter a place before they know where the exit is. I learned this the hard way. I have been impatient. I have rushed in too quickly.
The security for the Saudis spotted me too. Was it my cocktail dress or the fact that I was the only female entering with three other men? After perusing the casino options and ordering cocktails, my three friends ventured off to blackjack tables. I went empty handed and stood a few feet down from one of the details along a wall. Both of our backs to it, both taking inventory of the crowd. It was brazen and potentially provoking, but he barely turned his jaw in my direction. He couldn’t move. He couldn’t appear distracted or break protocol. That’s exactly what I needed to see. I also needed to say something without saying so many words. Maybe we were on either end of the same stick.
Watching people who think they are watching others without being watched;
an alias goes up against.
Refrained from expressing while time is of the essence.
Wearing shields not shielded by a thing.