Picture this: there’s a full moon on a dark night, you arrive at the scheduled meeting place with little more than a picture and a few pertinent facts about the person you’re meeting. When you enter, you scan, looking for signs of recognition, looking for someone who is also looking for you. When you see that person, you nod and begin walking toward them.
What I just described is a first date with someone you met online, of course, but it’s also not too far off a scene from a spy thriller. These two scenarios might seem very different at first, but it turns out they have more in common than you might think.
On that first meeting with someone new, I know that I’m trying to determine if I’ve met up with the right person. Usually I’m not concerned with mistaken identity, but I am looking for clues—I want to see if there is more here than just two people meeting and chatting. I’m looking for signs that this person is a potential double agent, or if they have the makings of a partner in crime.
I’m not out to trick anybody myself. I’m not looking for someone who isn’t looking for me (although it seems like spies often fall in love when they aren’t looking to, doesn’t it?). At the end of the day, I think we all want to have someone we can drop the cloak and dagger with, knowing that we have each other’s backs, no matter what happens.
There’s always that chance that you’ll get your wires crossed. Someone will say the code word accidentally and you’ll think that they are your person—and they aren’t. Maybe you really will fall for a double agent—they are good at what they do and you might not see it coming.
But I have a feeling that one of these times, when you walk into that coffee shop, or restaurant, or concert venue, that when you scan the room and nod, someone will nod back at you. That nod will be the beginning of something, a covert operation shared between the two of you, something you work on a little more each day.
As with any spy mission, you’ll hit your fair share of snags. It’s likely that at some point you’ll forget to pack the cable you need to scale a building, or that flame-thrower you meant to bring. These are okay things, you can work them out together.
But before all of that happens, when you’re still trying to make contact, don’t forget the most important thing every spy needs to survive: listen to your instincts. Don’t be afraid to call it, to decide that this isn’t the person you were waiting for after all, even if they do know the code word. Don’t be afraid to try again another day. And on the other hand, don’t be afraid to find that all of your training and equipment and hopes have led you to just this adventure, with just this person. When it’s time, let it begin.