Who among us doesn’t want to be the ClearanceJobs secret squirrel? When he’s not running operations from HQ, he’s under deep cover abroad. Kangaroo rats want to be him and gophers want to be with him. How deep does this rabbit squirrel hole go? At branch offices around the world, does he run airborne-qualified cells, and are they called flying squirrels? Are there marmot divisions of mountaineering specialists crawling around the Hindu Kush and the Zagros range?

Who among us doesn’t want to be the ClearanceJobs secret squirrel? When he’s not running operations from HQ, he’s under deep cover abroad. Kangaroo rats want to be him and gophers want to be with him. How deep does this rabbit squirrel hole go? At branch offices around the world, does he run airborne-qualified cells, and are they called flying squirrels? Are there marmot divisions of mountaineering specialists crawling around the Hindu Kush and the Zagros range? These are questions to which we’ll likely never have an answer, because the details are classified and there’s no way he’d break that oath—it’s risky, it’s wrong, and Declassified Squirrel just doesn’t have the same ring. But we can imagine such a life. If you’re reading ClearanceJobs, in fact, you probably have a few things in common with secret squirrel. You might even be one. Here’s how you can tell.

You might be a secret squirrel if…

…you’ve ever grabbed a muffin from the hotel continental breakfast, really liked it, and then wondered if it had poppy seeds in it. Chances are, the next six hours were spent googling “Do poppy seed muffins cause false positives on a drug test?” and then the next 24 hours involved praying that HR’s computer doesn’t pop your name for a urinalysis. Those prayers would be well advised, because wonder no further: yes, poppy seed muffins can trigger false positives on a drug screen. Mythbusters tested it. Snopes has weighed in on it. Even the New York Times wants you to know that when it comes to tasty baked breakfasts, you should go blueberry or go home.

…you’ve ever had a friend say, “Well I guess if you tell me about your day, you’d have to kill me ha ha ha ha!” Everyone thinks they’re the first to make that joke, but the first person to make the joke in print would seem to have been Alexandre Dumas in the 1850 novel The Vicomte of Bragelonne. The line is spoken by d’Artagnan (he, famously, of The Three Musketeers) in the passage:

“It is a state secret,” replied D’Artagnan, bluntly; “and as you know that, according to the king’s orders, it is under the penalty of death any one should penetrate it, I will, if you like, allow you to read it, and have you shot immediately afterwards.”

(The best rejoinder to this might have been uttered by Sherlock Holmes, who said, “That would be tremendously ambitious of you.”)

…you watched Charlie Wilson’s War and stood up and cheered when Gust Avrakotos smashed his boss’s window. You know the scene. Gust walks into his boss’s office expecting an apology, when at the same time his boss is expecting an apology from Gust. An argument ensues and when Gust’s loyalty is questioned, he smashes his boss’s office window with a wrench and says, “For twenty four years people have been trying to kill me! People who know how. Now do you think that’s because my dad was a Greek soda pop maker? Or do you think that’s because I’m an American spy?” (He then suggests that his boss attempt an anatomical impossibility.)

In real life, such an argument really did happen (though Gust didn’t smash any windows). In the aftermath of the argument, Gust was reprimanded, and with a surplus of time on his hands, he found himself fighting Soviets in Afghanistan.

…you’ve ever spent the night before a polygraph thinking about your answers. No, you’ve never done cocaine, but didn’t Coca-Cola once have cocaine in it (hence the name), and haven’t you had an ice cold Coke or two in your youth? When did they discontinue using cocaine, anyway, and did you drink one before that date? What if a really old bottle of cocaine-laced Coke survived, and you happened to drink one? Wouldn’t that mean you have done cocaine? But, no, that’s silly—you didn’t. Right? But what if during the polygraph you think about all of this, and you accidentally register as having had done hard drugs in your ill-considered youth? The stress of it all!

Here’s the skinny: Yes, the recipe for Coca-Cola once called for active coca leaves, but the good news is that unless you’re 112 years old, you didn’t have a bottle of cocaine-laced Coke. (If you’re under the age of 30, there’s a good chance you’ve never had a glass bottle of Coke at all! They were glorious.) Here’s the bad news: during your polygraph examination, all that frantic panicking that you’re doing about your fictional cocaine consumption might register a “lie” response. See, lie detector tests don’t actually detect lies. Rather, they detect the physiological responses that are thought to suggest lies. This is sometimes called the “Pinocchio response.” The American Psychological Association has said that polygraphs are more accurately described as “fear detectors,” and guess what? Your spooked response to a question is nothing if not fear. Polygraph examiners sometimes call people like you “guilt grabbers.”

Yes, you are a secret squirrel

Pathological fear of lying, potential for drug testing, inability to answer the simple question – ‘how was your day?’ – yes, these are just a few of the signs you might be a secret squirrel. The good news? You’re part of an elite club, a club where special access actually means something and where secrets really can mean life and death. The bad news? Even if you leave the clandestine world…you’ll probably never be able to enjoy a poppy seed muffin or a cold, refreshing Coke ever again.

 

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David Brown is a regular contributor to ClearanceJobs. His next book, THE MISSION, will be published later this year by Custom House. He can be found online at https://www.dwb.io.