Empress in her City: That Cryptic Authority
Be wary traveler of the trickster god in your GPS and traffic circles!
April 4th, 2018
There is always something curious to be found in museums. A mystery, a story, but most importantly a lesson. The question is what lesson will you actually learn? The one presented on placards or the one hidden in plain sight. In our observances of historical information, challenge what you read. Question in a way that isn't answered on Wikipedia. The spring break journey to the National Cryptologic Museum provided questions I never thought to have, and some government mishaps. I hoped to see the plot of National Treasure in real life, but Nicholas Cage was not anywhere in sight.
In the Early Stages of a Wrong Turn:
Setting out into the wooded Maryland suburbs Afrocutie and I were tingling with excitement on our planned mesuem debut. With our gps set, and our playlist bumping away we went! After a pit stop for gas and dunkin donuts nothing stood in our way! Or so the anime beauties thought. While traversing the skeptical Maryland roads, we made one dastardly right turn. Turning towards a line of cars, we begin to wonder if it was the right way to the musuem. As we drove closer to the gated check-in, we noticed people handing something to the security guard. A giant sign says "ID's Required". At this point Afrocutie and I are pulling out our ID's and wondering what requires identification to even drive through. We approach the brisk looking security man and hand over our ID's and he asks us what business do we have with the military base. Woah. Wait. What.
Afrocutie handles the situation flawlessly. My panic and I in the passenger seat are like how did this happen? Mr. Security Man says we need to turn, with no real indication where and nothing but glare behind his shades of authority. So we pull away thinking we need to drive and make a U-turn. Suddenly we hear his screaming voice and frantic hands pointing at the open space next to him. Still panicked, we make the sudden U-turn and peel out there before it gets anymore hectic. It was the type of scenario that didn't feel real. An unsure but chaotic adult experience that neither of us anticipated having. Where were the signs? Why was it so easy to turn into a military base? All we wanted was a functioning GPS and to not be scared out of our wigs by security guards. So, despite the tiresome experience we still clung to the hope we would find the museum. Who would have thought that the Cryptologic Museum is right next to the National Security Agency (NSA).
The NSA Lore:
Upon entering the museum we greeted by some lovely gentlemen. Who introduced us the museum and showed us how to navigate. One nice man, asked if we knew anything about the NSA and their history. He then invited us to watch a brief 20-minute movie before touring, so we could enjoy the museum with plus ten intelligent points. He asked us if were in college, while I wasn't Afrocutie is. Then he asked to take down our information cause the museum was looking to hire! During the movie, which I feel if you looked hard enough you could find it on Amazon, we learned about the inner workings of the NSA. Well what we could from this documentary. Afrocutie and I had a chuckle at the narrator saying that the area we were in was the "wooded Maryland suburbs". Certainly feeling it was a silly description and could literally apply to a lot of the general Maryland landscape. Little did we know that a 15-20 minute movie would actually be closer to an hour. Towards the end of the movie thanks to the question Afrocutie proposed earlier, I wondered if it was possible for a conspiracy theorist to be hired by the NSA. Worse a social media fanatic and blogger being hired to safeguard such important information. Stepping out into the once empty museum we were greeted by small crowds of people circulating and kids playing the spy museum. No Nicholas Cage in sight. Just kids bumbling past and never ever saying excuse me.
We danced our way through the quickly growing crowds and towards the museums' library. As always dear friends I was tempted to check out a book, and it did not help that my friend also asked if I was going to. Was I tempted? Absolutely. Our nations spies, their memoirs, our secrets all to be devoured by a bookworm or student of literature. Still, like I said previously if I check out a book at a museum then it means I have to return it faster, and that's a commitment my non-driving behind can not make. However, among the books, there were several selections that caught my curious eyes.
Engima & Jade
In all of the technological advances in society I still actively want a spy kids set. Seriously, I'm ready to live out my Kim Possible aesthetic to the fullest. Despite the hour-long intro into the history of code breakers, there was still a lot of questions and information to understand. One thing for sure is that people of color have been a part of code-breaking for a long time. Consider dear friend looking into the African-American cryptologists during World War II, and learning more about the Native American Code Talkers. I have a lot of commentary about my experience with looking at the sections on people of color, but I'll save that for another post. I am happy, that one of the museum attendants provided both of us pamphlets on Women and African Americans in cryptology informing us that they no longer had these out.
There was one section that sparkled my inner vanity. Her name was Jade. If you're wondering if I geeked out seeing my name on the display, the answer is yes. I absolutely geeked out. I can't even find a coke-cola bottle with my name on it, but there's a Japanese Type-97 cipher named Jade? That's even better. She was a part of a triple set of code-breaking machines in World War II. However despite the display in the museum Americans were never successful in correctly cracking Japanese codes. The machine on display was captured in 1944. So free my sister code breaker, cause she was not looking as fabulous as she could be. History has moments where perspective really changes how you interpret the wins of America.
What I love about this, is the adventure doesn't end in museums it's now time to explore what you discovered and hope the museum hires you. Till next time, Empress Jade