I heard a story on Morning Edition on NPR today that made me think, for the first time, that being an FBI agent might be an awful lot like being a mother.
The story was on “Tac Ops,” or tactical operations, which involves bugging, searching, or otherwise legally creeping around people’s homes and offices to gather information. The interview, which you can find here, featured an author who had interviewed these operatives and found out how they go about their covert business.
The mom/FBI Agent connection came near the end of the story, where the poorly timed death of an agent in the middle of an operation was detailed. What happened was the poor man died from heart failure in the middle of an oriental rug in a foreign embassy, with the resultant unfortunate mess that often occurs to the human body when it expires.
The creative operatives rolled up the rug and whisked it to an all-night D.C. cleaners, who promptly returned it to a more pristine state. It was, however, still wet. The agents solved that immediately — they simply painted a faux water stain on the ceiling directly above the wet carpet.
This is the kind of ingenuity we mothers with damp, smelly children have been employing since our water broke.
What mother of diapered dozens doesn’t have a cache of wipies in her bag, or even purse? These things could conquer the world. I remember another woman telling me once they’re even perfect for cleaning ceiling fans. Spit-up, leaking diaper contents, actual bottom clean up: there’s not much these things can’t do. Hail the Huggie wipe.
Another amusing tidbit about the tac-op agents was their bag of goodies they bring along. Say they have to move something on a desk, disturbing the dust pattern that had accumulated since the criminals departed. No problem-o. They bring their own dust. Think about that a minute: they travel with dirt so that they can put a room back to rights after they’ve gone over it with a fine-tooth comb for evidence. I once heard dust referred to by a particularly harried mother as the “protective coating” on her furniture. I’d love to know if there’s any way you can test for the authenticity of a room’s dust. We know (via This is Spinal Tap) that you can’t dust for vomit. I wonder if you can dust for dust.
The bag of tricks also apparently includes small, high-powered vacuum cleaners, to suck up the evidence that walls were penetrated to hide bugs, and some sort of high-tech paint-matching chemicals, for smoothing over the destruction of hiding things in people’s walls.
At home, the Stealth Mom merely moves a recliner or love seat and bam! all evidence of a toddler’s creativity after finding a deep-blue Sharpie is erased. Or say an actual bug or spider met his demise halfway up the dining-room wall. Well, that painting would look better on that wall anyway, now wouldn’t it?
I’m reminded of the old Flintstones cartoon, which featured Wilma in a failed attempt to hang a picture on the stone wall of her Bedrock hut. Predictably, the wall cracked in all directions the instant she hammered in the nail. No problem; Wilma the FBI Agent/Mother immediately painted leaves and flowers along the cracks, creating a unique mural that enhanced her lovely home.
Perhaps the Stealth Mom/FBI agent tie isn’t so surprising, come to think of it. After all, moms are women, aren’t we? Hear us roar! Even if we’re slumping around the house, picking up after children in our jammies or sweat pants, inside all of us are June Cleaver in pearls, daintily following the vacuum cleaner in high heels. I seem to recall rumors that J. Edgar Hoover enjoyed the same sort of attire.
Isn’t that darling? The FBI is one of us.