9. “Seriously mentally ill”
Worked as a PI for about a year once when I was much younger. This wasn’t a case I took, which will be obvious by the end why I didn’t.
We had an office on the ground floor of a building near the county courthouse, with a door that opened to the street. This meant we actually got a fair amount of foot traffic. If I had nothing going, I closed the office round 5pm. Around 4:45pm a lady comes in asking all the usual questions. “Are you REALLY a PI?” “What cases do you take?” “How much do you charge?” Yada Yada Yada, I spend 10 minutes going through all that. This lady seem pretty wound up, which is not unusual, people don’t come in looking for a PI when everything is great. Often it’s because they are having one of the worst experiences of their lives and are desperate for help and haven’t gotten it elsewhere.
I ask her to tell me what brought her in today and be as detailed as possible. She tells me that someone stole her ideas and now she’s being followed. I’m thinking, great, potential intellectual property case. I ask her to start from the beginning, what were these ideas? She starts telling me about here last gynecological exam. I immediately stop her and ask her what this has to do with her ideas being stolen. She flips out.
She begins screaming about how the doctor implanted a listening device inside her and that’s how they are stealing her ideas. I do my best not to react. She screams, “You don’t believe me either! But I have proof!” She runs out of the office and comes back a minute later with a large envelope. She pulls out x-rays of her pelvic region and shoves them in my face. “See! Right there, that white spot on my ovary, that’s the listening device!” I agree that there is a small white dot, but tell her I’m not a doctor or an expert in listening devices and can’t confirm that it is one. In reality, it didn’t look like anything to me, I know it wasn’t an electronic device of any kind, let allow one that can capture you ideas and transmit them to vans that were following you around now.
She goes on to tell me how the doctor was in on it and they were stealing her ideas and making them into TV shows for Telemundo. This is the part where I tell you this middle aged, blonde haired, blue eyed lady didn’t speak a word of spanish.
I ask her about the vans that were following her. They were different colors and often different drivers. But they were definitely following her around and that’s how they were collecting her ideas. I’m looking for a polite way to tell this lady I won’t be taking her case, but she won’t let up and insists I do something about it. I finally catch a break. I tell her the retainer amount I would need to get started. She responds, “Well I don’t have that kind of money. When we win in court you can have half the settlement.”
In the state I live in, only lawyers can work on contingency. Meaning their payment is contingent on them winning the case. PIs and all people that might work for these lawyers still have to be paid no matter what. I tell the lady this. I thought she was about to explode. I tell her I can’t break the law, but if she were to find a lawyer willing to take up her case, I could work for that lawyer as their PI.
She calms down and says thanks for hearing her out. I say no problem. I ask her if there was a family member she could call or a doctor she did trust that she could see. She tells me she’s not crazy and storms out. I felt horrible for her, she was obviously living in terror and needed professional help. This was the first time I encountered the seriously mentally ill. In retrospect, I should have called the police and tried to have them intervene, I regret that. I can look back now and cut myself some slack for being young, and caught alone and off guard, but I still wish I would have done more. At the time I just wanted to get her to leave peacefully.
That was the most bizarre thing that ever happened to me during my time as a PI, but there were a couple of close runners-up.
Not a PI here, but someone who was confronted by one and told it was the weirdest thing he’s had to do.
A roommate I had in college was a strange guy. This guy came from the other side of the country (I’m US). He went out at all hours of the night, never showed up for class, slept during the day, and drank more energy drinks than is healthy. His parents were worried about him, apparently, and hired a PI to trail him.
Now, living in a college dorm in a part of campus where only freshman live makes an adult who isn’t janitorial staff stick out like a sore thumb. So, I picked up fairly quickly that this guy was hanging around the dorms. Thought he was just cruising for some freshman, and didn’t bother him.
A few weeks later, I was walking back from the dining hall, and he approached me (it was a public place) asking if we could talk somewhere private. I was weirded out and told him we could talk right here.
He told me he was a PI hired by my roommates parents to trail him because his parents were concerned, and he wanted to ask me about my roommate’s dorm habits. We then left to the coffee shop to talk about my roommate.
My roommate apparently liked to go walk on the beach at night for stupid amounts of time, hang out at Steak and Shake playing games on his phone and Nintendo DS for hours on end, and cruise thrift shops for some reason. I told the guy that the dude just slept and didn’t even have any personal affects in the room besides his clothes.
The PI and I both realized that this kid pretty much had no direction or motivation in life, and his parents usually pushed him to do everything. He said that this kid’s behavior was the most bizarre pattern of activity he’s pretty much seen.
To explain the kid’s actions, college was the first alone time he’s ever had, and he was savoring it doing whatever he wanted. I ended up feeling for the guy and reached out to him. He changed majors from engineering to a psychology degree because he wanted to learn how the mind worked, and he suddenly became super-interested in college. Ended up being a cool guy once he realized he was not in his parent’s grasp anymore.