Saturday, August 04, 2007

The black helicopter crowd

By Libby

So let me ask you this. If there really are helicopters, is it still paranoia? Because here's the thing. Miltary helicopters buzz me two or three times a month. This has been happening since about six months after I moved here, shortly after I was visited by an "insurance salesman."

It was a sunny afternoon in late May or early June. I was outside working on my flower boxes when he arrived. I saw him drive down the street. It's not a through street so you notice new cars. He was gone for about 20 minutes and then he came back and roared into my driveway, bypassing several of my neighbors. There was a certain urgency in the sound of the gravel spitting off his tires.

He was maybe in his late 30s, clean cut, very well built, wearing kahkis and a blue and white pin striped shirt. He said he was selling cancer insurance. He never told me which company he worked for, nor did he produce any ID. He didn't even have a brochure. All he had was clipboard with some names on it. My neighbors' names.

When I first agreed to talk to him, he took that as an invitation to race across the yard and barge straight into my house, well ahead of me. I had to kick him out and told him we could talk outside. He didn't talk much about insurance.

He did engage me in a long conversation and told me a lot of personal things about my neighbors though, which he used as springboard to ask me a lot of personal questions, and not about my health. He wanted to know who I was, what I was doing here, how I made my money, how often I worked and how much I made, among a host of other questions.

Now I know sometimes an agressive salesman is just a salesman but this guy never talked about his product unless I specifically pressed him for details, on which he was very vague. I hung around with drug dealers in the 60s. I can smell an LEO from a mile away and this guy might as well have had a neon sign on his chest flashing, undercover cop. I didn't tell him much and I finally just asked him to leave.

Within a couple of weeks of that visit, I saw my first helicopter. I was pretty excited about it. One of the things I didn't like about moving here was not being near a municipal airport anymore. In Northampton, I was on the flight path for the local pad. I missed the small air traffic. I used to watch it from my front porch all the time.

I love light aircraft so when I hear one, I go outside to look, sometimes I even wave if they're flying low enough to see me. When I saw it was a military chopper I figured it was the annual marijuana search and destroy thing starting up for the season.

I believed that all summer, but they never stopped coming. It's not a regular pattern but I've seen them more than once, every month, for two and half years. They don't always show up on the same flight path, or on the same days of the week but they're always flying slow and low. When I moved across town, a significant geographic shift, I didn't see any here for about the first three weeks. I see them now.

Last week, the day after I wrote my much maligned martial law post, there were two of them, flying so low I could practically hand them a cup of coffee. I was sitting on a deck about five miles from here in a very residential, upscale neighborhood.

And then there was the time I was on vacation. I had rented a third floor condo on the beach for a week. They were still developing that end of the island and there was a wide space between me and the next tall building complex. One evening, just at sunset a big ass helicopter, flew into the middle of that space and hovered directly parallel to my deck. It looked black in the failing light. They stayed there a long time, I'm talking minutes, not seconds, and they manuvered the chopper so it was facing me directly.

I, of course, was delighted and stood on the deck, waving and motioning them to land on the beach so I could get on board. I always do that when I see a helicopter. I've never flown in one and I keep trying to hitch a ride. I refuse to pay $100 for some ten minute tourist tour. I want to fly with somebody crazy enough to pick me up... But I digress.

Moving on, there's the phone problems with my land line. In the old place, the phone started clicking and arbitrarily cutting out shortly after the "insurance salesman" paid his visit. I never did anything to fix it. I didn't care. I hate the phone. It just stopped one day. Every once in a while the problem resurfaced for a couple of weeks and then it would fix itself again. I chalked it up to an old wiring system.

But when I moved here, to a big apartment complex, it took three tries and several days to get my phone hooked up. The regular guy couldn't figure out what was wrong and had to call in a specialist. He said it had never happened before. I spent a lot of time on the phone with the various service people and got to know them by voice. Shortly after it was finally resolved, I got a wrong number call from a woman who sounded like she knew she wasn't really calling Jennifer's number. She wasn't from the phone company.

When some apartments in my building turned over last month, the techs were here for two whole days. On the second day, the same specialist showed up. Shortly after they left for good, I got the exact same "wrong number" phone call from the same woman.

Coincidence? Probably. I'm sure there's a reasonable explanation for these odd occurrences. I'm just a small voice in Blogtopia that nobody takes seriously anyway. I don't do anything illegal. I'm not organizing any mass movements. It's implausible to think the government would bother to waste its limited resources on putting me specifically under surveillance. Or so I keep telling myself.

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