The Goddess Speaks
Every now and then someone will ask us what we do for a living, and my husband and I will look at each other and grin. Our eyes meet as if to say, "You tell them!" The bravest one will reply, "We run a private investigative company." Then we brace ourselves for the reaction that we've experienced for 21 years. "WOW, PRIVATE EYES! How cool! How interesting! How glamorous! It must be soooooo much fun!"
A private eye leads
no glamorous life
The only adjective that isn't too far off-base is "interesting." It's not your typical 9-to-5 job. If you like working evenings, weekends and holidays, getting up at 3:30 a.m. to catch a 5:15 a.m. flight, well, this may be a job for you!
"Cool," not really, especially when you're sitting in a hot car for hours, waiting for your subject to move. But the "glamorous" part specifically needs to be put to rest. Being a private investigator is, by far, one of the least glamorous professions there is.
For some reason, most people associate private investigators with cheating spouses, and yes, we do receive those calls. But we usually discourage the caller from hiring a detective and offer suggestions for what they can do on their own. There is nothing more discouraging than proving to someone what they most likely already know, and tagging a bill to it, along with photographs. This definitely does not fall under the "fun" category. Matter of fact, it's very difficult and sad. In some situations, however, especially when it comes to the welfare of children, a spouse may need to be investigated for reasons other than infidelity.
Investigators have different specialties. Ours is insurance fraud and my husband and I are hired mainly by attorneys and insurance companies.
Some cases involve surveillance, which is investigating an individual without them knowing. Most days, by 5 or 6 a.m., our investigators are already on the road. Not in Ferraris or Lamborghinis, but just everyday SUVs that blend in with traffic. No special air-conditioned vans to cool them off. Laptops, maybe, but no peepholes or TV monitors. No tracking devices like in the movies.
A position is taken near the subject's house and the watch begins. Four or five hours may lapse before we finally see some activity: the subject leaves the area.
In television shows and movies, investigators rarely lose their subjects. That's Hollywood for you! On a good day, if traffic and other circumstances are favorable, we're able to follow our subject to their destination.
But the variables are endless. A person may run a yellow traffic light and we're stopped when the red comes up. A slow-moving vehicle may pull out in front of us, causing us to lose visual contact. Our subject may make a sudden, unexpected move that we can't duplicate without being detected.
Road construction seems to be a popular activity here in Hawaii. Three lanes can merge into one and that's the end of your surveillance. Poof, just like that, they're gone! Sure, if you stayed right at someone's bumper, your success rate would be 100 percent. But they call us private investigators for a reason. Surveillance is to be conducted without being seen and, believe me, it's not easy! Even seasoned investigators can lose someone, due to circumstances beyond control.
Normally our investigators are in their cars all day and are unable to leave their "vantage points" for hours. When it's hot, it's typical to want to sip on something cool. But because their vehicles are not equipped with "powder rooms," liquid intake must be limited. It takes discipline and patience to sit in a car for hours.
After their assignments, our investigators come into the office to do paperwork. Their clothes are wrinkled and their hair damp with sweat. In all my years here, I have yet to see any investigator at the end of the day looking anything close to Tom Selleck in his aloha shirt and freshly pressed khaki shorts.
If you don't like paperwork, this is not the job for you. Investigations are for fact finding. Along with that are endless searches through a multitude of databases. Interviews are conducted, statements taken and question after question asked.
Just one missing fact can stonewall your investigation. Or, one good lead can take you to another piece of information that may be the icing on the cake for your case. Once the investigation is complete, the compiling of information begins and each case is processed into a narrative-type report. From setup to the end of an investigation, the work and details are immeasurable.
So why be in this business at all? Well, first of all, I believe you must have a passion for what you do in life to be successful at it. Insurance fraud is a very serious thing and we take personal offense at it. It hurts everyone. Fraud is reflected in everything you buy, from your insurance policies to your groceries.
Your groceries?? Fraudulent claims cost the employer a higher insurance premium, which is offset by higher prices to customers. Evidence obtained through our investigations have saved insurance companies literally hundreds of thousands of dollars. Anything we can do to help prevent and expose fraud is extremely gratifying.
A private eye, you say? Cool? Definitely not! Fun? Not really. Glamorous? Not by a long shot. Satisfying and worthwhile? You betcha!
Carol Lee Ramie runs Island Investigative Services with her husband.
The Goddess Speaks runs every Tuesday
and is a column by and about women, our strengths, weaknesses,
quirks and quandaries. If you have something to say, write it and
send it to: The Goddess Speaks, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, P.O.
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