It's incredibly useful to know how to disassemble and clean your gun, pick locks, make explosives out of the household cleaners you keep under the sink, hack, and survive a three-story fall, this blog will teach you how. Just kidding. The spies we see on the silver screen and read about often have abilities and skills that death-defying, dangerous or take years of training. At the same time, some of the tricks they use are not only completely doable but are things that the average person could benefit from using.
A spy needs to be able to bolt with moment's notice. Whether they have been found out, have an assassin after them or are needed on a mission, they need to be able to run without taking the time to pack. Spies aren't the only ones who need to be prepared; everyone should have a bag packed in case of emergencies. What goes in your bag depends on who you are and where you are, but start with the basics then add for your circumstance. Pack a midsized bag that is light enough you can carry it easily. Include two changes of clothes, sturdy shoes (leave the stilettos out), protein bar, bottle of water, pocket knife, flashlight, Mylar blanket, trash bag, tooth brush, tooth paste, emergency cash in small denominations, first aid supplies and prescription medications, duct tape, spare phone charger, and copies of important information like id and health insurance. From there you can add other things you need, like a spare inhaler. Take into account where you are. If you are in an urban area you won't need that wilderness survival guide, if you are in a more rural area you may need to add a fire starter kit or a sleeping bag and tarp. Only pack what you really need, leave the curling iron and the ps4 behind. When you have it packed, keep it someone out of the way but accessible in an emergency. A coat closet is a good place or it could be in the garage, laundry room or spare bedroom. Next step is to just leave it, now you're all set if a blizzard, wildfire, flood, tornado, or hurricane hits your area. Remember to check your bag every 3 months or so to make sure your food and prescriptions haven expired. It's also a good idea to rotate out the clothes you pack ever few months with the changing seasons. If you packed your bag in the summer and get hit with a blizzard in December, lose power for days on end and have to evacuate you might not have warm enough clothes.
Between the number of marks, competing spies, coworkers, and an ever growing list of enemies, spies need to be able to remember names and faces. For those of us who don't need to be able to remember if that guy walking angrily towards us is the guy we shot two months ago or the guy who's parking spot we stole, remembering names is less of a life and death skill but it's still useful. It's really awkward to be introduced to someone and instantly forgotten their name the moment they say. There are a few tricks that can help. When they said their names say it right back to make sure you have it right. A few sentences later say it again, preferably in asking them a question about them: "and how was your weekend, Bob?". People love hearing their own name, and saying it early in conversation makes them statically more likely to trust you. Be careful not to overdo it, say their name too much and it gets weird or makes them suspicious. You can also try to link their name to something else, like their favorite color, where you met, something that rhymes with their name or two objects that start with the same letters and their first and last initials. If you forget you can offer to swap number and hand them your phone so they type in their full name. Social media is also a good way to match faces to names.
Most of us don't need to hide intelligence files we stole, a thumb drive with blackmail content or a stack of fake passports, but we do have valuables that shouldn't be left out in the open. If you have something you want to keep safe avoid the tank of a toilet, under the bed, underwear drawers, the freezer or medicine cabinet. These are the most common places thieves and motivated snoops will look. The perfect places to hide your things is one you think up yourself if I tell you where to put it anyone can read where to find it. Picking a good spot depends on a few things: what size object you are hiding, how often and quickly you need to get it back out, who you are keeping it from, how much effort you are willing to put into hiding it. If you want to hide a thumb drive or a micro SD chip you have millions of possibly hiding spots in your home, but if you want to hide a shoe box you have fewer options. If you are hiding something you use every day like a journal it needs to be access able, but if you are hiding jewelry you hardly ever use you can put it somewhere much more secure. This is an area is where having some basic construction knowledge comes in handy. Most doors installed in newer houses are hollow, drywall is pretty easy to patch, and there is enough space under the refrigerator for a file. It's also helpful to consider possible risks to your valuables in hidden spots. Refrigerators can leak so wrap that file in plastic, don't hide anything flammable by electrical outlets, and don't put something in the vent that will rattle or rustle with air currents. Get creative and find a spot that works for you and your things.
Spies, law enforcement, members of the armed forces and many others are trained to be aware of and watch entrances and exits. Spies need to be able to react fast if trouble walks in or they need to bolt before they get caught. Knowing where the exits are can save a life even if you don't expect to be hunted by a drug cartel or a disgruntled hitman. In the event of an emergency, you will save time if you don't need to turn in circles looking for the exit and you can lead others to safety. Many public buildings have to have a posted floor plan with exit routes highlighted, glancing at these and exit signs keep you aware and safer.
So maybe you don't need to stay calm while defusing a bomb or while staring down the barrel of a gun, but there are plenty of everyday situation where panicking is not helpful. The first step it to notice you are getting angry, scared or just overwhelmed, then use a method that works for you to calm down. One option is to slow your breathing down. Breathe in for four counts, holds it for four then breathe out for four. This will lower your heart rate and calm your body down, which often calms your mind down. As tempting as it is, try to stick to the facts and don't catastrophize the situation. One bad grade on a paper does not mean you will be homeless for the rest of your life, just because you had a fight doesn't necessarily mean they hate you, just because you can't find that thing right now doesn't mean it's gone forever. It also helps to switch from focusing on things you can't change to things you do have control over. You can't guarantee you will get the job after the interview but you can raise your odds by following up afterward. Rather than worrying about the past or the future refocus on what you can do in the next hour. It's also easier to keep your cool if you go into a new situation expecting to be flexible, you can't anticipate everything so when somethings changes be ready to change with it.
Good spies know that it pays to pay attention, be creative and flexible and that a little preparation goes a long way. There are a few things we can learn from them to make our own lives a little easier.
Hunting Holly is a registered copyright. All rights reserved. No reproduction, storage in a retreival system, distribution or transmission in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, recording or otherwise, unless permission is obtained in writing from the author. Hunting Holly is published and designed in association with Armchair Publishing. Cover design by Tony D Locke. Any likeness to persons living or dead is strictly coincidental.