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I Was Merely a Dupe and a Fool

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I wrote this short story on and around May 13, 2005. It's part of a larger, fictional, work called Hill Mole, but this is, rather, true and actual and taken from my own personal, Washington, DC, life experience.

I Was Merely a Dupe and a Fool

Hiil Mole Logo

I was merely a dupe and a fool.

No matter how independent you believe yourself, you are always part of some greater plan. Especially in Washington, where the fabric of intrigue is so tightly woven there is no such thing as a civilian. Even those in the private sector do their part, although this is mostly in the form of the unwitting dupe or incidental fool. It took me over fourteen years to realize that I have been both an unwitting dupe and an incidental fool time and time again. Luckily – until now – I had always been both unwitting and incidental. This time, however, I was merely a dupe and a fool.

inside the beltway

I have been working in the private sector in Washington, DC, for eleven years. Never have I been an employee of the government nor have I worked in the military. The closest thing I have ever had to a security clearance is the light review the Secret Service made in order to let me work as a contractor to the Treasury Department.

according to plan

The fool believes that plan is consensual. That one need choose to be part of this rarified cloth. Quite the contrary. One is part of the plan whether or not one is fully involved. Only those needing to know need know. The others are merely players – extras – who need know nothing. And there is a lot of cash spent on making sure that this is the case. But sometimes, this doesn’t quite go according to plan.

adult concerns

Whose plan, I cannot tell you exactly. Certainly not what I believe my plan to be. Someone I knew to be spooky and in the world of intrigue once told me that the entire infrastructure was designed to prevent widespread panic. That the world was a very dangerous place. The majority of miltel funds and resources are solely dedicated to calm us. To keep us children from being scared to sleep at night. To remain quiet and happy in a very dangerous world. In much the same way that parents are supposed to spare the child these adult concerns. We really don’t want to know.

privy to the patterns

But for some reason, I began to know. I began to become privy to the patterns. I started to see the threads that made up the fabric. I began to notice that dad was scared too. That this was a consensual drunken pub crawl.

drunken pub crawl

You know what a pub crawl is I am sure. It is a night of debauchery when a group of friends plan to get together to go from bar to bar, from pub to pub, to drink through the night. The earlier in the night, it’s a lot of fun, but as the night wears on, as everybody gets a little tight, things get a lot more challenging. People keep drinking of course, but after a stay, it become important to move on to the next bar.

crawling forward together

At some point during the night, people can barely walk straight. The only way to keep moving forward is to make sure all the crawlers are still together and still moving towards the next bar. And crawler not accounted for could break the entire outing into pieces. When a great big crawl is organized, there isn’t anything that will keep the crawl from moving forward and there isn’t anything that the organizers won’t do to keep it going, for to fail is not acceptable.

the blimp

There is a blimp that swims above the city as if the beltway – our circle road – where the nose bleed seating of the city. It is new and clean and white and it is called the security blimp. We don’t quite know what the blimp does or is for but it is still for our security.

bike messenger

Since I have lived here in the city, the boundaries have become closer and closer. Constricting. When I was in college in the District, I took a job as a bike messenger for WEx and hustled packages around the city on a bike. I took the job for fun but the fax was suffocating the industry. Even before the email attachment was a glimmer, bike messengering as a career was dying. I was strong and fearless and smart. I was good at the job. I had carte blanche in my DC. I would carelessly hustle from the big K Street firms in a last minute five o'clock dash to the Hill to score life-and-death legal and government time-stamps. Sometimes, I would be required to skulk through the deepest darkest recesses of the Capitol to retrieve heavy GPO publications.

When I was a courier in Washington, it was pre-Internet in a big way. Since lawyers are always doing shit last-minute, I would end up shooting across the city on my bike with just minutes left (after flirting with the hot receptionist), only to reach the maw of a heavy dun-colored Official Time Stamping machine seconds before it was put to bed. I made it every time, too, because there was nothing to impede me. The city was open. It's called "vulnerable" now. These days, I can't imagine being able to get anywhere or anytime as a bike courier. The security between me and that machine would be both daunting and amazingly time-consuming -- if not impossible.

washington summers

Since I was concurrently a student at a private college, the hours on the bike were very freeing for me. They were liberating. The city was open and gleamed from all the marble. And although there were simple metal detectors, this was really just gate-keeping. Couriers have notoriously bad reps as potheads and criminals. Part of the reason became evident as I stood next to these sprung-steel lifers as Senate guards routinely pulled pocket knives and ornate wooden or glass pipes out of their beat up courier bags. No shit. Were these guys apprehended and sent to Gotmo? No. Their shit was confescated and the were allowed to make their delivery. And they lost their tresured gear, which was enough of a lesson. That's it.

capitol hill was open door

In all honesty, you could easily move from building to building on the Hill, from the Capitol to the Senate and House office buildings. Of course, the White House has always had the doors closed save official business and formal tours, but the Capitol and the surrounding buildings have always been open buildings. The people therein – the Senators, Congressmen, and their staff – were always just down the street. I could drop off packages then shoot into the Capitol cafeteria for some grub and some air conditioning before returning to the swampy mug of the Washington summers.

security eats away

I wonder how much time all of this security eats away from the limited business that couriers have any more. It must be a real investment now, to get in and out of building. Even office buildings maintain security and the ability to enter at-will seems to be well in the past.

insidious security model

And I always wonder how insidious the security model is. How intimate it is in my community. How close am I to someone who is keeping his or her eyes open?

buddy in the business

My buddy is in the business. He tells me stories about his days in training. A majority of the training revolves around making yourself inconspicuous. How to work a crowd or the traffic without arousing suspicion. And I mean really working the crowd, as in casing the joint, checking for unfriendlies, listening in on conversations, and looking out for people who have probably received very similar training without getting too many false-positives.


The last year has been maddening for me. I have been part of something larger, of that I am sure. Or I believe I am sure. There is always the concern of the false-positives.

in washington nobody is truly private sector

As I said before, in Washington nobody is truly private sector. Those fully awake have top secret clearance. They have the character and discretion to be able to see the big picture. I like to think of the big picture in much the same way I understood submarine-making. I once loved the daughter of a nurse. Before she was a nurse, she worked for Electric Boat in Groton, Connecticut, as a worker. Her job was manual labor and she built or assembled part of a nuclear submarine. In order to ensure security – national and also the security of the workers – management would not make it clear what each machinist or assembler would be producing. They would receive their part through a hole in the wall and then, when finished with their little part of the process, place their finished piece into another hole in the wall. Over the course of an entire career, it was essential that nobody ever really know where their part played in what ended up being a typhoon class nuclear submarine.

spies are everywhere

The reason is simple. Spies are everywhere and if the simple worker knew what he was making and how to replicate the process, then he would endanger himself, his family, and the security of the United States of America. So, to protect the simple man from becoming a traitor, unwittingly or otherwise, or from being tortured or killed, this Byzantine process of double-blinded mazes existed in a large, secure, factory in Connecticut.

emergent systems

Emergent systems are pretty fascinating. So are hives. Some believe that the human being is an emergent system – a hive if you will – of specialized cells that have chosen to propagate their particular brand of DNA sexually. This theory believes that every organism is essentially a suit of armor for a set of genes. That evolution is a hit-or-miss improvement process by which each suit of armor becomes better suited to its environment for its sole purpose, which is to survive.

we have outsourced evolution to culture

Others believe that we have achieved a new level of sophistication in this evolution. This is to say, we have become unsatisfied with the progress of our evolution and we have taken this process into our own hands. We have outsourced evolution to culture. We have emerged from the primordial soup into becoming sophisticated organisms who are in the process of taking further and further steps towards evolving not as a species but as a culture. Using technology and communications, we become more and more interconnected. And this interconnectedness does not required awareness by any of the participants. The system of culture does not require the participant to be awake, merely present.

bee hives and ant colonies

In emergent systems such as bee hives or ant colonies, there used to be a perception that the queen of the colony held a leadership role and that all the workers were drones. This anthropomorphizing of these simple animals would seem to be obvious, but only recently did scientists become aware that there isn’t a single member of this animal community that is aware of the plan of the hive or of the colony. Each member has a small job with several variables. The variables include density of population, wealth of resources, and the activities of the surrounding members. For example, if an ant intends to leave the colony to forage and it intercepts many other ants that are already returning with food, the ant might change its task because resource requirements have already been met by other ants.

hives cannot be controlled outright

Systems like bee hives and ant colonies cannot be controlled outright. They can be redirected, manipulated, and shaped over time, but they cannot be ordered because there isn’t a strong general awareness that the culture responds to command and control.

washington was planned

I do not receive orders in the morning when I wake up. Neither do you. Yes, you have a schedule, but that schedule in most cases was made by you to respond to your needs of the day. Your manager at work might assign tasks to you, but you probably do not have your entire life mapped out. You probably don’t have an exact strategy for your day, for your week, and for your year. If you’re smart, you are planning for retirement. If you’re smart, you have some semblance of goals for your life, but you probably are spending most of your time responding the the environment around you. You rarely receive a note underneath your door every morning that maps out your day. I know I don’t. Actors know every line. They’re directed by directors who have considered where, when, and how lines will be delivered. You and I are not being directed by a director, but we are still part of a system that can easily be recognized. As a community, as a township, and as a city, as a nation.

Washington, DC, is different. Washington is a planned city. From the radial patterns of the avenues, to the manicured grounds of the Capitol. Washington was planned.

washington is rife with intrigue

One day I became aware how planned Washington had become. I became aware that Washington is rife with intrigue and that whether I wanted to or not, I was part of this little Passion play.

Aug 30, 2023 02:40 PM