My Coronavirus spy op started the same way most cases start. A phone call with a client asking, “Hey, this is what we need done. Can you do it?”
This particular client, the attorney for a Fortune 100 company, needed field inspections and undercover surveillance of a competitor’s business. No problem, right? Not for a seasoned intelligence operation like ours. Then the client tells me that they need this done at 26 locations in a week or so. Sounds difficult, right? I figured I could still handle it. I have trusted operatives, and I can cover the ones that I can. Then they told me those 26 locations were spread throughout eleven different major metropolitan areas in the United States. With my ‘can do’ attitude, I said I’d put a proposal together and let them know my plan.
After staring at Google Maps until my eyes almost bled, and looking through my database of investigators, I began to doubt my ability to wrangle this many people in such a short amount of time. Between availability and getting predictable quotes for the client appeared impossible. I know you’re thinking… “Rob. You’ve always said nothing is impossible.” Right! I said that method was impossible. But the mission on the other hand is another story.
So I jumped on the travel sites and started plotting a potential route in order to test a theory. In about an hour I figured out that, yes, it is possible for me to personally conduct all of the inspections myself and also predict the budget. Yes, I’d have to fly twice a day, Uber all over tarnation, eat and sleep very little, and also not get sick, but I was up to the challenge.
I explained to the client what I had come up with and they were agreeable. Not only was the price right, but they were also happy that all of the work would be done by the same pair of eyes. So, after the client’s check cleared, I plotted my course and made arrangements.
I began the trip on February 28th and there was talk about some virus, in the vein of SARS, the swine and bird flus. I survived them, am pretty careful about germs, and there was no major travel warning. Despite that, I did see a large proportion of Asian travelers wearing surgical masks.
The trip went well. I covered all of the ground I needed with time to spare in each city. Even the flights were predictable, only a couple delays of less than an hour.
On my final journey back home to LAX, I met ex-Superman actor Dean Cain, who ended up being on my flight. Cain gave me some crap about my Eagles jacket, but we had fun discussing football (he briefly played in the NFL) while we waited to board our plane. Yes, I bit my tongue when the thought entered my mind to ask why he needed a plane to fly. I’m sure he hears that every trip to the airport at least a hundred times.
Work trip complete! 26 undercover site inspections, 10 cities, 12 flights, 14K miles in 6 days. All of the undercover imagery was uploaded to the secure cloud and I was ready for a nap.
Oh, about the virus… This was March 4th and things in the world were still running normally. Oh! Did I catch anything? I got the sniffles and a cough, but I shook that after sleeping heavily for two days, some zinc, and chugging a superhuman amount of orange juice.
The moral of the story? Don’t try this at home. However, if you need something like this done in the future, you know who to call.
Now, I’m going to finish my coffee.