Yesterday morning when I arrived at work I received an emergency call from one of our remote locations. Tuesday they had a new floor laid and needed to empty the office. This included the computers and all the networking equipment. When they plugged it all back in, naturally, it didn't work (this isn't the first time they've done this sort of thing without telling us). I got to drive 110 miles up the Columbia River (and 110 miles back) in order to correct the problem. Despite the fact that it is a beautiful drive, I had things I needed to do and this kept me from them.
On my way back I stop at Wells Dam, Douglas County PUD's river spanning dam on the Columbia. There's a rest stop that overlooks the dam and because I am not allowed to smoke in my work car, it's scenic and a nice place to stop for a while. And I was there a while. For fun, because I'm kinda weird like that, I was checking the security a bit, finding the shadows in the surveillance system and what not. These dams are considered major terrorist targets. I know this because my work just put everyone through security awareness training, and seeing that I already had a hobbyist's interest in the subject, I though I might hone my skills a bit.
However, I got a bit more than I bargained for. When I walked back to my car, I noticed the fellow I was parked next to was still there. This was odd because I had been at the rest top for quite some time and he was still sitting in his car starring at the same map in his road atlas (and I'm pretty sure it was a map of the Grand Coulee area, which is odd because Grand Coulee is quite some ways away from Wells). I approached him and asked if he needed help with directions. He simply pointed at his ear so I leaned in and repeated the question, louder this time. He waved his hands and pointed at his other ear. "Oh, you're..." I started realizing the futility of making such a declaration to someone who's deaf.
I started to sign (I know about as much sign as I do German, I can order pizza and get directions to the bathroom) but he turned into his car scrambling for a pen and paper. He doesn't have a notepad handy? That's odd, I thought. One of the first things he grabbed was his vehicle registration, which he starred at for quite some time before realizing it was important and moved on to the next scrap of paper in his cluttered car. Finally he found something disposable on which I wrote my question. He peered at it and shook his head with a look of annoyance. Fine, I thought, it never hurts to be helpful. I smiled and walk around his car to mine, and I noticed he had camping equipment in his hatch.
Not even a mile down the road I started to think about the encounter. You know, he did sorta looked French. If he was and he had an accent, feigning deafness would at least throw someone off if not contain suspicions all together. That's something a spy would do. He never said a word to me, only hand gestures. Could he have been information gathering for the Frenchies?
Do they let deaf people drive? I had no idea. I know you can't listen to headphones when driving...you need to be able to hear, as well as see, what going on round you. (Today I discovered that deaf people are perfectly capable of driving.) And it was a rental car; do they rent cars to deaf people? That was it, I'd had enough double guessing. One of the things they taught us in security awareness training was to report anything you felt was out of the ordinary, and I certainly felt that way. I pulled the car over, called up the dam, and informed Wells security of my suspicions. (Yeah, I have the number memorized if you can believe that. My father has worked for them for 13 years now.) And that was that.
I called my dad today, told him this story and asked if he had heard anything about it. He said he hadn't but he works in fisheries, not security. At the time, I was fairly certain the man was a terrorist or spy or something. I kept rolling out scenario after scenario, each more ridiculous than the last, of what he might be up to. All from the extremely limited amount of information I gathered in our brief encounter. But now I can't be sure. For all I know he was a deaf traveler planning his next route. And I released the hounds on him. But at least America is safe.
Why does it matter if this is true or not? But because I've been getting a lot of messages about this, yes, it's completely factual. I really called security on the guy. I know, I know. But I kind of had to. When I am "on the clock" I am obligated to report these types of things. Also, because I told my employers what happened, I had to take it a step further, and I reported it to the State Patrol. I understand how ridiculous some people think this is, which is exactly why I wrote it down.
For what it's worth, they never found the guy...I must have scared him off...