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Joy in the Journey

March 14, 2013

by Linda Beerman
My only sister, Julie, called one day from Logan, Iowa, and told me she was flying to Fredricksburg, Virginia, to see her daughter and family. Because her husband doesn't do airplane trips, she said I should go along. I replied, " Yes, I should. And I think I will." So the process began, to get a ticket, pack a couple bags, and off we went early in the morning of February 28th. We flew out of Omaha on Southwest Airlines, making one stop on our way in St. Louis. We arrived in Washington D.C. at Reagan Airport by late morning. It is just amazing how quickly one can get clear across the country!

If you have never flown Southwest, I would recommend it. It is a very relaxing atmosphere, and there is plenty of leg room to stretch out on the ride. The people on board who are in charge usually are funny, but respectful, and in the business to make sure you fly with them again. They have never disappointed me yet! I try to greet the pilot in person as we board, to make sure they look and act alert! (Especially after I saw the movie, " Flight".) It may sound funny, but if they are outside the cockpit they seem to like to engage in some friendly conversation. Checked baggage is still free on Southwest too, and a couple carry-ons, so that is a plus.

Getting through security can be a problem if you didn't check what could and couldn't be carried on with you. Or if you don't have the right ticket or documents with you for their liking. This was the second time that someone commented on my name "Beerman". For some reason, young men like that name! Pretty crazy.. on another flight two guys took my license and said they would be right back. A very long ten minutes later they returned, laughing. They wanted to show a co-worker my name "Beer man", as they said they had never seen that name. This time a young guy said it would be "cool" to have that name, even though he liked his own!

My favorite part of flying is the take-off. It is just so astonishing how we head up in the air and settle in to a smooth ride. Amazingly, it seems like I am just sitting in a living room chair as I look outside. We don't appear to be moving at all. And of course the view, when the weather is clear, is fantastic. This was my first time to fly into D.C., and it was awesome to see the patterns of the Washington city and countryside. From my years of teaching social studies, I remember that D.C. was a well planned out city. Definitely you can see that from up above.

We spent most of our time with my niece and her family, visiting, eating out, shopping, and then celebrating their daughter's third birthday. Several young families came to this party at their home, and my sister and I helped with preparations beforehand. During the party our job was to help with "crowd control". We laughed a lot but sure enjoyed watching and guiding the "little people". Lots of food, bursting and flying balloons, presents, games, and finally the "bouncy house" outside in the backyard kept the afternoon flying by. Sydney, age three now, still enjoys singing "Happy Birthday to me". What fun we had with her taking walks, reading books, and watching Strawberry Shortcake movies.

On the Sunday before we left, all of us took the Metro into Washington, D.C. It was Sydney's first time on the train, and her little nose was just pressed to the big window watching the scenery fly by. Our destination for the afternoon was the International Spy Museum, just across the way from the FBI building in downtown Washington. I have seen many sights in our capital before, but had never been there. What an intriguing place! We were there several hours and did not see everything. It was just fascinating to hear spies, in their own voices and words, describe the challenges and "game" of spying. It is an authentic tradecraft that has been used throughout time and around thee world. It was stated that it is the second oldest profession!

This museum was broken up into several exhibits. One of my favorite was called "A School for Spies". Here you could find out what it takes to be a spy. You could gather information about innate skills, special training, and expertise needed for success. We could see and touch some 200 spy gadgets, weapons, bugs, cameras, and technologies. I realized quickly that a spy must live a life of lies. An agent needs a cover identity just to try to stay alive. Many things motivate people to become a spy, including patriotism, money, compromising situations, and yes, even our ego.

Another section was named " The Secret History of History". Here light was shed on many famous men and women considered above suspicion, therefore making them doubly effective as spies. Some of these spymasters were: Harriet Tubman, George Washington, Elizabeth I, Joseph Stalin, Moses, and Cardinal Richelieu. All of these relied on intelligence to be effective leaders. At this display we learned about codes, even the earliest ones, who made them and who broke them.

Probably the most unique and eerie site was "Spies Among Us". Spy rings were highlighted from World War II, showing fronts that concealed both German and Russian operations. Or unheeded intelligence that warned of Pearl Harbor. It was here also that we learned about code breaking successes that shortened the war. And I was surprised by the deceptions that made D-Day a success! The biggest secret of the 20th century, the atom bomb, was part of the tangled weave of spies.

There were so many fantastic "spylights" to rouse our curiosity. Did you know that shortly before WWI the Germans experimented with using camera-carrying pigeons to capture photos of military installations behind enemy lines? Are you familiar with what is referred to as "The Kiss of Death" ? It is a 4.5 mm single shot weapon disguised as a tube of lipstick, and easily hidden in a purse. Or do you know about the puzzling German machine that produced a code thought to be unbreakable? Allied cryptanalysts succeeded in cracking it during WWII.

For those of you movie fans who love the Bond films, there is a special exhibit there right now called "Exquisitely Evil", showcasing 50 years of Bond villains. On display are over one hundred artifacts from the films, including a Sea Vac drill, a nerve gas sphere, and an inhaler. Even more spectacular are two of the cars: a modified Jaguar XKR with a rear mounted Gatling gun, heat seeking missile battery, and hydraulic rams......and....the ultimate spy car, the fully loaded Aston Martin DB5 with tire shredders, machine guns, and rotating license plates.

On our way back home to the midwest, my sister and I were talking about how we are more alert to those around us now, and what if they are spying?? We chuckled thinking about it all, but whatever your motivation would be to take a trip through this museum, you will be challenged to think about all of the intellect used in this profession of spying!

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