3 things no one tells you about private investigating

I didn't start out with ambitions of becoming a private investigator.

Until recently, I had never given the profession much thought. Except to dismiss it as a quaint second job whose existence had gone the way of zoot suits and switchboard operators.
There's a reason you won't find too many color photos of these guys.
Everything I knew about private investigating had been derived from old movies and 80's TV shows...

Yet despite my ignorance, I knew that a red Ferrari does not a good surveillance vehicle make.
... and it always struck me as kind of a shady occupation. But in one of life's odd little twists I happened to fall into a position at an investigation agency. So now when I'm not dealing with felons, I'm a hired creeper.
Yup, I'm the lurker in the background of all your photos.
In the time that I've been working, I've come to the conclusion that for the average person, private investigating has been either heavily romanticized or viewed with extreme suspicion.
In reality, it's neither. And definitely not all hazy bars and blowsy dames with legs for hours. Bad news written all over her like October of '29...
Because mostly, it's just...

1. A waiting game of epic proportions. 

I have spent upwards of eight hours just sitting in my car. I realize that may not sound so bad. Most of us spend that much time sitting at an office desk every day. Unfortunately, it's an office without a bathroom, so don't even think about drinking coffee to help you stay awake. Or really anything for that matter. Peeing is not an option for you. Unless you get really good at inserting your own catheter...
"Kind of eerie isn't it? Like looking into your future.."
Or are a dude, in which case you'd just pee into that old Mt. Dew bottle anyway.
Because you're gross.
I bet you have some pee bottles hanging out on a shelf somewhere, don't you?
The bathroom was literally ten feet away, but no, this, this is much better.

You will get cranky and desperate while waiting, but god forbid you zone out or get distracted by your phone and miss something.
Please let something happen. Just something.
Yet you can't focus too much on one area either, especially if it's dark out, or else your eyes will start playing some truly horrific tricks on you.
Like zombies and other unpleasant things...
Go ahead, stare for awhile and tell me you don't think the apocalypse is nigh.
Fortunately, in this day and age, there's a lot of portable technology to help stave off boredom. So, as long as you only glance at your phone/tablet/computer for a few seconds at a time, you'll be good to go.
In the meantime, get cozy. You're going to be here for a while.
And are about to discover a whole new level of boredom.
Here's some "Helpful Tips" for things to bring:
-Pack a cooler with water (no diuretics) and snacks to keep your energy up.
-Bug repellent, for when it's hot and you need your window open. The ones that clip on can be attached to your sun visor and work surprisingly well.
-Your camera! "Duh" right? I actually forgot mine once. Thankfully I was able to correct my error with no harm done, but you better believe I've been paranoid about it ever since.
-Invest in a socket converter and some extra batteries and thank me later.
-A flashlight. It's seriously handy.
-Change of clothes, or at least an extra shirt. There's no telling when you may need to "reinvent" your look.

There's about a million other things that you can also bring, but this is a blog post not a book, dammit. Essentials only.

It could always be worse though, like...

2. Hanging out in bars. Definitely not all it's cracked up to be.

You know what's not fun? Following people around during their "night on the town".

See this? This is the worst.
I know, I know. It sounds hard to believe, especially since you get to move around, things are actually happening, and most importantly, there's usually a bathroom nearby.

I promise to never take you for granted.
But in reality, it's pretty damn difficult. You need to blend in, keep constant tabs on your person without staring a hole through their head, and be ready to follow them at a moments notice without looking like you're following them.

And you're probably going to have to enlist a buddy.

The buddy system is necessary for a few reasons; if you're female and working alone, you may be mistaken for a hooker, an easy hook-up, or a weirdo. If you're a guy working alone, you may be mistaken for an easy hook-up, a stalker, or a weirdo.

Some things are just awkward for everyone.
Traveling in pairs lets you blend in and achieve some degree of normalcy. But it's still not all giggles and good times, because, guess what? It's a bar, and you're going to need to get a drink in your hand.
Damn this delicious amber liquid.
Seriously, you do not want to be the only odd duck drinking water, but you've got to keep alert too. Even if you just stick with beer, you'll get tired faster and be less focused.
So what's a professional stalker to do?
Try this: have the bartender give you a short glass of cola or water with a lime in it. You won't get tipsy, and it'll still appear as though you're imbibing like a good little bar fly.

This is my eighth H2O-tini.
My kidneys may explode...
Also, carry cash and TIP YOUR WAITSTAFF! Nobody needs the bartender giving you the side eye and/or calling you out while you're trying to film some nefarious activity. Good tips get most staff on your side, and paying with cash is preferable to anyone seeing your name on a credit card. Or worse, losing the person you're following because they've already left while you're still trying to close out a credit tab.

But no matter how smooth you may be, just remember...

3. You're going to screw up.

It's inevitable. There are far too many variables in play and people are the most un-frickin-predictable creatures on the planet.
Like those who only use turn signals some of the time.
(Yeah, following these guys is a breeze..)
In between that, equipment malfunctions (these bastard cameras just will not focus fast enough in low light), and good old-fashioned fuck-ups, this shit is not as easy as it may look.

During a particularly stupid moment, I was so confident that my video camera was in my bag I didn't even bother checking just to make sure. Got to the location, started rummaging around... No camera.

Then, while just about breaking the sound barrier trying to get home to retrieve said camera, I got a flat tire...
Fortunately I keep a jack, tire iron, and full sized spare in my trunk...
Got back on the road in under five minutes.                                         
Personal best, bitches.
But the nuttiest thing about that entire experience was that none of it mattered. (Thankfully) nothing happened that entire night that was worth filming.

I've had other screw-ups too, I've been burned, my timing has been off, my ghillie suit got caught on some bushes and I would up dragging half the forest into my car with me...
Shockingly, this thing is also not great for blending into all backgrounds.
But hey, shit happens. Learn from it and move on. 

Oh, and check your blind spot.

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