Benjamin Franklin once commented that “any man who would trade liberty for security deserves neither.” Now we know that there are a lot of unsavory characters out there and I guess one actually tried to get to Put-in Bay again this summer. Thank goodness we are so well protected here on America’s northern border with Canada. On any given day you have the US Coast Guard, the Border Patrol, Customs and Immigration, the ATF, and Homeland Security working hand in hand to defend our border to keep those pesky Canadians and other foreigners (like people from Michigan) from coming here by boat to visit Put-in-Bay. I want to tell you about one such character who slipped through the gauntlet two years ago, his name was , well lets just say “Bob”. Thanks to the Patriot act and effective profiling, our government has made it nearly impossible for these covert “tourists” to cross the border, but Bob managed to pierce the veil.
It was 8pm on a Friday late August, and after just having a last minute cancellation at our B&B I was a bit dejected and looking to get a beer. My story about Bob could have happened to anyone. A chance meeting in a local pub, and a subsequent conversation that led to a story of intrigue that will amaze and remind you of the evil lurking about our island…We all know that Homeland Security, which is one of America’s “black budgeted” departments, has spared no expense in keeping us all safe since they were put on the payroll in 2002, well at least on weekends. Islanders tell us that they have installed a monitoring and tracking station on North Bass that follows all the vessel traffic great and small in the western basin and they have a couple of high speed chase boats that would make any rum runner swoon with envy.
Never the less “Bob” got here on the Jet express in broad daylight on that Friday afternoon. Dressed as a tourist looking for “Margaritaville”, Bob who appeared to be about 60 years old, had made it to the island equipped only with his Blackberry® and a wallet. He was here in his words “to study the short term dating habits of single women.” But the 48 hours he spent here changed my perspective on what an undercover agent is all about, and would send shivers up the back of any dutiful protector of liberty and justice.
Bob is an Englishman, now a US citizen and said he was a CIA operative retired, ( I am not making this up), though he said “you never really retire”. While sitting at the bar finishing dinner he told me this story. He was a young nuclear physicist working at Cambridge University in the early 70’s studying the decay of certain types of nuclear fuels when one afternoon he was hastily summoned to 10 Downey Street (The office and home of the British Prime Minister). It seems that Richard Nixon had just signed a nuclear disarmament treaty and the US needed to disarm some bombs from the cold war era immediately. Bob it turned out had the exact skills to do this specialized task. So he was immediately flown on Air Force 2 to just out side Washington DC and whisked by the Secret Service to the White House. Less than 12 hours later he was standing in the oval office with Richard Nixon being sworn in as a US citizen. Bob told me he spent the next few years involved in nuclear espionage and as a covert operative in Southeast Asia. Trained as a pilot he flew helicopter gunship rescues into Laos and Cambodia before heading off to Taiwan to “negotiate” with the Chinese, then he decided it was time to retire.
After living such an exciting life, Bob told me he had decided to take up the “low stress” hobby of day trading. Bob explained that he had written a web based search program that would send specific stock trading updates to his Blackberry® on trends so he could make quick trades while he roamed about. How he had ended up on South Bass Island is still a mystery to me, but he was looking to spend the night. It just so happened that I had an empty room. Perfect timing. The next morning at the breakfast table Bob was the center of conversation. He had everyone laughing and sharing stories of first dates and overseas vacation nightmares. After breakfast Bob asked me to take him to Fox’s Dock so he could leave. The following day when I was back down at the dock I spotted Bob now in all new clothes from one of our PIB fashion stores with a youngish lady boarding the boat. It appeared that Bob had completed his primary mission and now was ready to escape the island. I am sure there have been other Bobs, but I will always wonder what Bob did with that missing 24 hours after he left our B&B. One can only wonder what possible “tourist” activities Bob managed while here.
If this had happened this summer, with Homeland Security’s beefed up presence, their helicopter with a belly mounted camera with sensitive optics and remote tracking for profiling anyone walking about on the island, I am sure Bob would never have escaped. In fact on June 20th that helicopter played a key roll hovering over the island downtown to track the “tourist” that had made it here from Canada. When they had confirmed that the “tourist” was on loose, and I am not making this up, they sent dog sniffing K-9 units to the Miller Ferry just in case he tried to leave. I have always suspected that Canadians smelled different and this just confirmed it. For all the “Bob’s” out there thank goodness for the local profiling by our government, so when you see the helicopter hovering be sure to wave and smile. you just never know who might be your next chance meeting.