28 February 2010

MISSION: Strip District Surprise

Once again, Affiliated Agent M has brought some more kindness and day-brightening to Pittsburgh.

Date: 27 February 2010, Saturday

Location: 21st Street Coffee and Tea

Time: Noon

And, as always, Affiliated Agent M supplies us with most interesting and engaging narrative:

I'm detecting a pattern with my missions. The initial try or idea seems to fail, and that they usually involve coffee. Two missions in and I'm a one trick pony.

At least it's a good trick.

My original idea was to leave this package at a rest stop while I was traveling the past two weeks. The idea was simple, you're taking a break, driving hours and hours across our land's interstates, you need a break. I do a lot of driving, and know how important taking a half hour break is to driving safer, and always have some sort of game in my car at all times. Sudoku books, Gameboy games, something to gives your mind a break while you're giving your body a break is a welcome change.

And when I departed on my most recent trip, guess what got left behind? A certain blue bag with a bunch of books and a fresh pen.

Now, as it's been almost 3 weeks since I last did a mission, I wanted to do one, and sometime soon. This Saturday, I grabbed a new card, the bag, and headed on down to the Strip District here in Pittsburgh. Those of you reading Agent L's blog not from the Steel City, the Strip District is an area in downtown (pronounced "dahntahn") Pittsburgh that has a collection of large wholesalers, small mom-and-pop shops, and on Saturday mornings is one of the busiest and most active places in the city.

It is also home to one of my favorite coffee shops, 21st Street Coffee and Tea. Lacking creativity, having supplies for a mission, and the overwhelming urge to get my Agent groove on, the answer was very obvious.

I walked around the Strip for a bit, enjoying the atmosphere, even if it was more sedate than usual because of the weather. I'm sure the scene is similar to many larger cities, but it's a pretty unique experience in the 'Burgh, and one that I always enjoy. (Even if it takes 20 minutes to find a parking spot). Eventually I made it to 21st Street Coffee and Tea, ordered a muffin and coffee, and went upstairs to their little loft seating area.

The original plan was to put the package in a little nook that would have been perfect, but I heard another set of footprints on the stairs behind me. I moved over to the couch on the far end of the loft, to maintain a better view of the coming and goings, and broke out the ole' laptop to relax among the bits and bytes of the Net. (What? Walking in the Strip is tiring, I earned that rest...)



While the nook would have been an ideal place, it seemed like I was never going to be able to pull it off, as when ever someone would leave, another would arrive. I'd never have the loft to myself. Time to improvise. I had two options, place it on the bottom shelf under the coffee table or behind one of the pillows of the couch.

In the end, the pillow won out, the key reason being it would lend itself easier to what I'm calling the 'Agent M maneuver'; package remaining hidden until I get up and walk away. And even this became difficult, there were a couple talking at the table near the nook, and while their line of sight to one another were perpendicular to mine, they could easily look my way the crucial few seconds it would take to 'put the package in play', as it were.

(Aside: yes, all my spy terminology comes from Tom Clancy novels and James Bond movies.)

I tucked the package behind the pillow under the cover of fishing for a notebook in my backpack. My cup of coffee empty, the package in play, I clean up and walk out of the coffee shop, grabbing one snapshot of the loft from across the way, noting even from a distance it's hidden enough.

Let's see if I can actually do something this side of creative for mission 3.

{Affiliated Agent M's view as he left the scene of the mission}

Affiliated Agent M, we think you're doing just fine. Keep it up! And THANK YOU!

Click here to see the Twitter response from the person who found Affiliated Agent M's gift!

22 February 2010

MISSION: Nice Notes at Ikea

Okay. If you live in Pittsburgh, it's probably safe to say that you're just as sick of the snow and grey and mush and muck-that's-everywhere-you-look as I am. And now, it's all turned to rain.



Affiliated Agent L (not to be confused with Secret Agent L, because, um, that's me) to the rescue! Thanks to another one of my wonderful Pittsburgh Affiliated Agents, a little bit of sunshine was spread right at the local IKEA.

Date: Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Time: 5:30 PM

Location: Women's sitting area in restroom, IKEA, Robinson Township

(Don't let this picture fool you. The snow here in Pittsburgh was nearly two feet tall recently. Yuck!)

(Oh, grey skies...they seem to never go away around here!)

Affiliated Agent L used her smarts and stopped at Target's One Spot, where all items are only $1, to pick up these adorable--and day-brightening--note cards. Well done, Affiliated Agent L!

A happy little note inside to bring cheer and sunshine to whomever stumbled upon it:

A comfy chair for a shopper to relax in after hours of IKEA shopping makes for the perfect spot to drop the little gift:

Affiliated Agent L states: "IKEA was pretty dead at this time of the day so it was easy to slip in and out and get the mission done, and I must say the bathrooms are so much nicer since the last time that I was there! They must have redone them. There was an hourly bathroom checklist on the back of the door, so it seems like people (at least employees) come and go quite frequently. "

And the cleaning crew could definitely use a rest, after the hard work they do to keep those restrooms looking so clean and sparkley! Maybe one of them took a load off her feet in this comfy chair...and found Affiliated Agent L's lovely gift of sunshine!

Affiliated Agent L, well done! Can't wait to see what your next mission is! Keep those acts of kindness coming!

Secret Agent L

17 February 2010

Who says Valentine's Day is just ONE day?!?

This Affiliated Agent certainly believes that Valentine's Day is every day.  Being cooped up at home for days during snOMGpgh, this agent wanted to get out and have some secret-agenty fun. And she took her beloved with her to make it a true Valentine affair.

After loading up on cute and clever Valentines, filing them out with the SAL tag, and adding lots of love, Affiliated Agent V and Boyfriend Agent B hit downtown. 

We stopped off to have dinner at a favorite pizza place and found the place packed. Seems like everyone else had the same idea to get out of the house and celebrate the night of love.  

We left Valentines in the napkin dispensers, on the tables...

And, why not, in the bathroom!

After dinner and with a handful of love left to give, we trekked blocks of downtown leaving Valentines in doors, on windshields, and anywhere else we thought someone could use a little love.  

This night of sharing is just an example of a bigger love, a love that binds all of us together.  And hopefully, these little cards brought a little more love into the heart of the recipient.  

14 February 2010

MISSION: Gettin' Your Valentine's Day On.

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone! Secret Agent L here. I decided to go out and spread a little love across Pittsburgh today, it being The Day of Love and all. But I wanted to remind people that Valentine's Day isn't just about romantic love. It's about all love.

I made some special Valentine's Day cards:

And then I sealed them in envelopes:

(lots of envelopes...)

And then I hit the town.

Now, I must admit, I didn't get to take as many pictures as I'd hoped. There were so many people everywhere today! It would have been dangerous, you know. I would've been caught.

First, I left a card in the pew at church this morning. There's a 6pm service tonight which usually has lots of college kids in attendance. Hopefully, one of them finds the little card.

Then I went to the Starbucks on the corner of Craig Street and Forbes Avenue. I ordered a hot beverage and a treat, and then I proceeded to go to the condiment counter and act like I was getting napkins and stuff. I very stealthily dropped an envelope on the counter and made a swift and quiet exit. One down, many more to go.

Next, I drove downtown and went to the Omni William Penn Hotel. I left two cards in the women's restroom:

And then I left one on a table in the lobby:

And I also left one on the ledge by the front entrance of the hotel. Couldn't get a picture, though. (Secret Agent Fail.)

Then I moved on to the Shadyside neighborhood, to Walnut Street's shops:

I left one card in the dressing room at the Gap:

I also left one on the top of a pile of folded jeans. The problem? I totally got caught. Yup. A girl shopping in the section saw me. (Secret Agent Double Fail.) She just turned the corner and appeared suddenly, and I couldn't move fast enough. I just smiled and walked away. Maybe she picked it up. Or maybe she left it for someone else. Either way, that smile was enough.

Then I went to Ann Taylor. I tried on some really cute stuff...only so I'd be able to leave a card in the dressing room:

All in all, it was a fun day of spreading love. With all of the snow, though, and the lack of parking due to said snow, it took me about 3 hours to complete this entire mission. Needless to say, I was exhausted when I returned to Command Central.

Happy Valentine's Day, friends. I hope you've spread love today and have had love returned to you. It really does make the world go 'round.

Secret Agent L
p.s. Rumor has it that there were some Affiliated Agents dropping little Valentine's Day goodies in other parts of the city today...perhaps you'll stumble upon them. :)

10 February 2010

MISSION: Panera Bread on Centre Avenue

Ladies and Gentleman, I present to you an amazing narrative and mission completed by Affiliated Agent M of Pittsburgh. This guy's awe. some. Please keep in mind that we've been experiencing some pretty crazy blizzard-like conditions here. But it didn't stop this Affiliated Agent.

He's so hired. Permanently.

MISSION: Panera Bread, Centre Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA

Time: Agent did not specify.

Date: 1st attempt: Saturday, 6 February 2010

2nd attempt: Tuesday, 9 February 2010

The package:

  • A card and magnet combo, both with the phrase "To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world."
  • A hand written note on the card:
"A small gift of kindness
Left plainly in full view

A treat of sweets and warm drinks
Is left here just for you."
  • A five dollar Panera card.
  • All held in a tiny gift bag, bespangled with yellow ribbons

The plan:

People always clamour for the seat near an outlet in a coffee shop, to power their laptops. The idea was to claim one of these seats, get some work done, then leave, 'forgetting' the gift so who ever took the seat next would find it. The idea was to try this on Saturday, as I figured the people who braved it out during the snow storm would appreciate it even more, but I couldn't leave a Secret Agent L card. How ever, I was able to do a test run.

Went to the Panera and got 2 gift cards. One would be used in the real mission, in a bag all fancied up. I had another small gift bag, put the card in, and planned to just a gift card as part of my dry run. I grabbed a sandwich and coffee, sat down near the window, plugged in my laptop, and did the usual Facebooking / Twittering time wastes, before settling down and getting a bit of work done.

At one point, I glanced around, saw no one was looking, and pulled my practice package out, and set it down on the chair next to me, behind my bookbag. Now all I had to do was pack up when I was done, leave, and mission complete! Yay!

Except, a few hours later when I went to get up, I knocked the package into the aisle as I was packing up my laptop. A few heads turned, intent on watching the mild scene. Picking it up and just leaving it there would no longer work, someone might say something, plus it would be very odd to just leave a small gift bag there when everyone is watching. Defeated, I grabbed the small gift bag and stuffed it into my backpack.

Agent - 0, Forces of anti-good - 1.

Cut to Tuesday, February 9th.

No work due to the roads, I decide this is the perfect time to try again, for real.

Bagel and coffee, check.
Laptop out and plugged in, check.
Little bag hidden behind my backpack, on the chair next to the wall, check.

It occurs to me that I won't be able to get an image of the package in it's final set up, but I've already gotten this far, I can't stop now. I can only hope Agent L doesn't punish me too much for this broach of protocol.

This time, when I'm packing up, I'm actually a bit nervous. Will someone notice the bag, and do their best to try and help me by pointing it out? I put the earbuds of my iPod in tight, maybe I can just pretend I can't hear them. I so want to look around to make sure no one is noticing me, but doing so will only increase the chance of someone noticing me.

I pack up, grab my coat, and intentionally make sure the last thing I do before leaving the table is pick up the backpack off the chair. It's 93% nervousness of getting caught, 6% excitement, 4% wondering if I could've gotten better pictures or chosen the correct spot, and 2% butterscotch ripple. Hefting the bag on my shoulder doesn't topple the bag over, and I'm doing my best to walk steadily out the door and trying not to let this huge grin that's appeared on my face all of a sudden tip anyone off.

Can't wait for mission 2.

Neither can we, Affiliated Agent M. Neither can we.

09 February 2010

MISSION: Help the Animals. PLEASE.

See this handsome boy? His name is Myles. And that puppy? Ooooh, Secret Agent L just wants to smooch his slobbery little face! This photo makes her very, very happy. Do you know what else makes Secret Agent L happy? Kindness to not only people, but ANIMALS as well. Big time. (Secret Agent L's not a vegetarian for nothin', you know.)

Secret Agent L's darling friend Melissa told her about her little brother Myles' great love for and super quest to help the animals of the Maryland ASPCA. Talk about heart-melting! Since funds are pretty tight here at the Secret Agent L project, helping others outside of the project is a great way right now to keep the spirit of kindness going.

If you have a love for animals, if you want to see that they are protected, loved, and valued--as they should be--won't you consider making a donation to help support Myles and the Maryland ASPCA? Any amount--even $5 (the typical cost for a Secret Agent L mission)--is greatly appreciated. What a beautiful way to celebrate a young boy's love for animals and desire to make a difference in the world through kindness.

BUT WAIT! That's not all!

Secret Agent L's other lovely friend, Angela, recently informed Pittsburgh about an absolute atrocity that occurred at a local animal shelter. A bunch of jerks broke into the shelter one night and stole $500 worth of heating oil, which has forced the employees and animals to work and live in freezing conditions. (Remember that time Pittsburgh got over 2' of snow dumped on it? Oh, wait. That was this past weekend. Hmm. Bet that makes for some pretty cold temperatures.)


Angela is raising money through her blog to donate--every cent--to the shelter so that these animals and their caretakers at the shelter can be warm again. PLEASE, dear readers, consider donating to this cause as well. Even $5! Would you consider giving up your Starbucks tomorrow to help freezing, unadopted animals today? There are only three days left to donate, so please look into your heart and see if you can find a way to help.

"If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who deal likewise with their fellow men."
--St. Francis of Assisi


08 February 2010

MISSION: Snowpocalypse 2010.

Hello, All!

Secret Agent L here. For those of you living in the Mid-Atlantic, you know what I'm talking about. Snow, snow, and more snow. Mother Nature has made it rather difficult for me and my Affiliated Agents to get around and complete some missions, and it doesn't look like it's going to let up, as weather reports indicate another--yes, another--snow storm will be arriving starting Tuesday morning. Needless to say, I haven't left Command Central since Friday. But I did get an email from an Affiliated Agent who informed me that he's got something planned and is going to try to get out there soon, regardless of the weather. That's what I like to hear!

Late Friday night, I decided to go out into the beginning of the storm to take some pictures. There's something so peaceful about snow. It was nearly midnight, and I couldn't help myself from just standing in the middle of the street and breathing it all in. There were people out walking, enjoying it just as I was. And we all said hello to each other, which made me feel that much more connected to the people in my neighborhood. This snowstorm has bonded us. I love it.

For your viewing pleasure, I present to you some photos from outside Command Central:

two neighbors enjoying a snowy, late-night walk

a secret agent hand, catching snowflakes

secret agent toes, snuggled and warm

secret agent snow angel

secret agent love note...just for you

Please check on your neighbors, families, and friends to make sure they have food, power, and heat. Secret Agent Boyfriend actually went without power for more than a day, and still others in the Pittsburgh area might be without power until Wednesday. I ask that you please extend any kindness you can to those around you during this time. Grab an extra shovel, share some of your sidewalk salt. Even saying hello and talking to those you see walking down the street, to show that you're in it with them, is an act of kindness.

Stay warm, everyone. And, most importantly, stay safe. We're in for more!