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Paradoxically, the best way to hide a secret meeting is often to hold it somewhere extremely public. Locations like this can be selected to be unpredictable to anyone who you might want to avoid, are almost certainly bug-free, and can provide a layer of plausible deniability when the people in question aren't supposed to be meeting each other at all.
The classic situation where this occurs is meetings between members of two different secret government agencies; in that case they're not only dodging eavesdroppers, they're also making it more difficult for either agency's goons to do anything untoward.
Stock locations for this kind of meeting include:
- A park bench.
- On the banks of a river, downstream from a bridge.
- In a noisy Italian restaurant.
Of course, while this kind of meeting decreases the odds of being noticed by the specific people you're trying to avoid, it substantially increases the odds that your conversation will be overheard by random passers-by. This is generally glossed over, though sometimes it's nodded at by selecting an exceptionally loud meeting place, or by having the characters speak in some way that appears innocuous: Trouble Entendre, Talking Through Technique, Spy Speak, or the like.
Compare Public Secret Message.
- In The Big O, Roger always met with his street informant Big Ear in a bar.
- There's an interesting example of this in Death Note. Misa is trying to find Light, so she sends a diary page to the task force saying that they should "show off their notebooks in Aoyama" on a certain day. On that day, Light goes to Aoyama with Matsuda and meets friends whom he hangs out with expecting to perform this trope. Misa, however, finds him first and leaves before he can see her.
Film -- Live Action
- Lampshaded in Hot Shots, where a conspirator mentions that he finds public places to be the best place to have secret meetings. While they're at a boxing match.
- Parodied in the made-for-TV movie Two on a Bench, which is about two people who strike up a conversation on a park bench and are consequently Mistaken for Spies.
- James Bond
- The Man with the Golden Gun. James Bond is scheduled to meet with Bond Girl Andrea Anders at a boxing venue so she can give him the Solex Agitator. When he gets there he finds her dead - murdered by Scaramanga.
- You Only Live Twice. Bond meets with his Japanese Secret Service contact at a sumo match.
- In Fatal Instinct, a woman meets with her lover in a park to plot the death of her husband.
- In The Departed, whenever state police Queenan and Dignam need to chat with Costigan, their mole in the mob, they meet him in some park/riverbank area. This worries Costigan, because if anyone sees him with them, he's pretty much dead.
- The Conversation begins with the protagonist bugging the titular conversation between a surveillance-conscious couple in a public place. He uses a combination of rifle microphones and operatives walking by them at random intervals to assemble a complete recording of what they're saying.
- A favourite tactic of Jason Bourne who typically scouts out the area first and uses this to his advantage if his contact has been followed.
- There's a duck pond in Good Omens which is specifically the place in London where spies from different agencies (and Crowley and Aziraphale) go to meet.
- In The Bartimaeus Trilogy Nathaniel is asked to meet the British agent in Prague at a cemetery at midnight. Complaining about the melodrama, he insists that their next meeting being somewhere more ordinary and they agree to meet in the main square around six - "Harlequin" had wanted to pick the old plague pits. He does cope with the change well, and Nathaniel receives his information in a hot dog bun he bought from the disguised agent.
- Discussed in Harry Potter and The Order of The Phoenix. Harry, Hermione and Ron have a secret meeting in a public location, but choose the most quiet area in the room to prevent anyone spying on them- this fails horribly and their plans are exposed. They are later told they should have chosen the loudest and noisiest place, because while they could never know if someone was watching them, in a noisy crowded place any spies would have trouble hearing them.
- In The Sandbaggers, most of Burnside's meetings with his American counterpart Jeff Ross happen while strolling in the park.
- Stargate SG-1 has a few examples.
- General Hammond has a park meeting with one of his contacts who's so paranoid that he refuses to talk even while they're sitting on a park bench; they have to be actually walking before he'll say anything.
- Sam and her NID contact Malcolm Barrett first meet in his office, where he vocally denies having any interest in what she has to say while passing him a note that says to meet in the park instead.
- In Stargate Atlantis, Sheppard meets his ex-wife -- who works for the Department of Homeland Security -- on a park bench, in order to ask her to illegally dig up some classified information for him.
- In "Spies Five", an unaired sketch from A Bit of Fry and Laurie, Tony and Control meet on a park bench because there's a mole in their department.
- Subverted in Thirty Rock. Jack meets Lenny, a private investigator played by Steve Buscemi, along the banks of the river, in view of the Queensborough Bridge. Lenny thanks Jack for driving out there, Jack says he doesn't mind because discretion is important. Lenny replies "Also, my gym is right over there."
- Spooks: In seasons one and two, the characters frequently have meetings on the benches across from the Houses of Parliament.
- Drug deals in Breaking Bad take place in public places, but for another reason in addition to secrecy: if negotiations go badly, people are less likely to shoot each other in public in broad daylight. Walt, in the first drug deal he participates in, sets it in an abandoned junkyard because that's where drug deals take place in the movies.
- In The Neo-Anarchists' Guide to Real Life it was recommended that runners meet with their Mr. Johnson (employer) at a public place such as a McHugh's restaurant.
- Many of the adventures published for the game had runners meeting with their Mr. Johnson in public places such as restaurants, bars and nightclubs.
- In Covert Action Player Character can meet local informants simply in the lounge of his hotel. Not that it was necessary or alert-safe.
- In the intro to Civilization IV's expansion, an image of Lincoln giving the Gettysburg address Match Cuts to his memorial, where two spies are passing along photos of Soviet missile sites.
- The Simpsons: When Homer is forced into working for the feds he meets his handler in a public park.
- Spies meet contacts in parks because they're difficult to bug.
- Or sometimes in coffee shops.