You’re a PI? That Must Be So EXCITING!

27 Nov

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I’m often asked what it’s like to be an investigator.  People tell me all the time my job must be exciting or interesting. What I tell people most of the time is that my job is tedious. I’ve finally come to realize that people are disappointed because they misunderstand this answer. They seem to think “Tedious” is a bad thing. I LOVE tedious. Tedious makes me happy out in the field. If things get “Exciting” or “Interesting,” something has gone wrong.

A few weeks ago I got made in a casino by a Subject. Things got “Interesting” and security swooped in to separate us.

A redneck with a fundamental misunderstanding of his civil rights and my ability to affect them confronted me recently after informing police dispatch that he was coming to see me with his gun. Things got “Exciting.”

A friend once asked if I fantasized about solving a murder someday. I told her absolutely not. I fantasize about people who do the same thing every day at a set time.

I’ve heard that there is an old Chinese curse that goes “May you live in interesting times.”

Nope. Gimme tedious any day. “Tedious” implies no surprises. That’s the way I like my surveillance. No surprises.

So here, for your personal edification, is my idea of the perfect day on surveillance.

Up at about 4:30 AM

This allows me a good hour to shower, eat, have a cup of tea and read the news/surf the Net. Or as I like to call it… take some time to become human. I can hop out of bed and go from zero to sixty in 3.5 seconds, I just don’t like to.

(Ok… that whirring noise you just heard is the beating of the wings of the Too Much Information Fairy heading full tilt boogie for this blog. I would advise my more delicate readers to skip the next paragraph.)

Go to the toilet

Hopefully the full range of options. Why? Because if I don’t go now that means I will likely have to go in my van sometime in the next few hours and while I’m equipped for that it isn’t pleasant. If it is a simple matter of having to pee I have a large-mouth juice bottle or similar. And no, that isn’t me trying to be funny or immodest. I’ve been in a public toilet or three in my time and I know for a fact that there are guys out there who can’t hit a target a foot and a half wide. While I flatter myself I’ve got better aim than that, going in a soda bottle with an opening less than ¾ inches across is just asking to have something unpleasant happen to one’s upholstery. For anything more complicated I have a supply of garbage bags and toilet paper. Always double bag. One of the first questions asked of potential new-hires is “How do you feel about taking a dump in your car?” Indelicate? Yes, but it’s a deal-breaker for a few folks and it saves all the involved parties some time & heartbreak. Oddly, they never show Magnum having to deal with this.

Leave the house about 5:30 AM

We’ll assume that my surveillance is less than half an hour away because at 5:30 in the morning no single point in Las Vegas is realistically more than half an hour’s drive from any other single point in Las Vegas.

The Setup

Arrive at the residence hopefully to find that the house sits on the north side of an east-west street and that there is a large tree about 3 doors east on the south side of the street. Here’s why that would make me happy: Most of the time it is just stupid stinkin’ hot in Las Vegas. Seriously. Triple-digits with overnight lows in the 90’s for weeks on end are not uncommon out here. I can’t run the engine (Not what we in the biz call “Stealthy”) which means no AC. The tree will afford shade for my vehicle. Most of the year the sun is just slightly to the south, so a tree on the south side of the street should shade the curb for most of the day. I want to start the day to the east so that the sun is to my back as I look toward the Subject’s house. I get a clear view and they get the glare of the rising sun if they happen to look my way. An added bonus would be seeing the vehicle registered to the Subject sitting on the driveway. If there is a garage I don’t want the dark tire marks that accumulate on all Vegas driveways to extend to the door. This means there are no vehicles regularly kept inside so there are no additional vehicles that I’m unaware of.

The Subject

If I’m really lucky they come out to do something in the yard or on the driveway. What they’re wearing gives me an idea if we’re going anywhere soon. PJ’s? I’m probably going to be sitting a little longer. Picking up the paper or bringing out/retrieving a garbage bin on the drive gives me a shot of range of motion. Knowing what they look like before they come out and hop right into a car is also helpful. Some people assume that I want to see the Subject do cartwheels down the street (If this is an insurance case, which 99.9% of my cases are). The truth is I don’t care what they do. My function is to document the Subject’s activities and accurately report on them to the client. That’s it. I have no personal interest in whether or not someone is misbehaving.

On the Move

In my perfect world the Subject leaves about 10:30 AM to run a few errands. Stopping at a gasoline station is nice. Standing still to pump gasoline allows me to get a good identification shot. Staying within a few miles of home is handy. Best of all possible worlds? They hit a gasoline station and then go someplace nice for lunch. While at lunch they sit at an interior table away from the windows. While we’re fantasizing, the restaurant serves breakfast all day and they make really good pancakes and nice, chewy bacon. After lunch they hit a grocery and pick up a 24-pack of Cokes and several items from the freezer aisle. The Cokes tell me they’ve busted any lift restriction of 20 pounds or less (A can of regular Coke weighs in at almost exactly 1 pound) and the frozen foods tell me they’re going home.

Back home

They go inside about 12:30 and stay there. I was on-site at 6:00 AM so 2:00 PM means I’ve done an 8-hour day. Time to go. A nice sizable budget means a couple more days on this perfect Subject. Learning the next day that they are a creature of habit? Priceless!

That’s it. That’s how I’d love to spend my days. No thrills. No spills. Tedious.

Just the way I like it.

Take good care.

© 2012 Roy Guill, The Naked Investigator

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2 Responses to “You’re a PI? That Must Be So EXCITING!”

  1. Andi Newton November 28, 2012 at 6:07 am #

    I’m bookmarking this in case I ever write a story with a PI in it. So, if the subject goes somewhere for lunch, do you get to go in the restaurant and eat, too, or do you have to stay in the van?

    • the naked investigator November 28, 2012 at 9:15 am #

      The ultimate aim for insurance cases is to keep them in view as long as possible and document their activities, so for this specific type of investigation I’ll follow them in if they are not visible from the parking lot. The vast majority of the time you can’t see someone inside a building while the sun is up because of the reflection on the glass. The client pays for my meal as an expense related to the investigation, since sitting inside the restaurant allows me to continue filming and I have to order to be allowed to remain inside. If the point of the surveillance were something else, say following them to their residence to determine where they live, then I’d stay outside and just wait for them to leave. It all depends on the aim.

      Some other specifics;

      It is helpful if they sit away from the windows. The covert cameras we use are very sensitive to high contrasts in lighting. It is next to impossible to get a clear shot of someone back-lit by daylight.

      Pay the check as soon as the food arrives. I generally tell the waiter that my boss may call me to return to work any minute. That way when I see the Subject start to leave all I have to do is stand up and walk out.

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