If I have learned anything about conspiracy theories, it’s that the good ones trace right back to that sweet spot of unimaginable, unrestrained, behind-closed-doors power: the government. From aliens to intelligence, theorizing on the unknown workings of higher authorities is as intriguing as it is intoxicating. In my attempt to navigate this slippery slope, I invite you to look at exhibit A, right here on Boston University’s Bay State Road: government vans.

They’re easy to miss. Nondescript, always empty, shifting parking spots every few days to make you believe they too are not above the Massachusetts parking laws, these vans pepper Bay State, particularly concentrated around the dining hall and MIT frats. Frequenting Marciano Commons as any East campus kid must, I couldn’t help but notice their subtle omnipresence on my walk home. The following is the breakdown of my rationalizations for their occupation of BU sidewalks:

  1. Spies, obviously.

The parked cars are always empty (as one would expect from parked cars), but the windows are usually heavily tinted or have stickers or false coverings to create an illusion of emptiness to hide their true occupancy. I’m thinking we have a classic police-spy-action-rage-against-the-machine movie situation on our hands here: computer screens lining the walls of the insides, wires protruding from planted laypersons and fuzzy communication as the lines are cut by an ambiguous evil force. The narrative I’m personally invested in entails MIT students developing some secret drug, but the FBI is on the case, parked outside and lying in wait for the opportune moment to break their cover and infiltrate.

  1. Decoys, for other spies.

Using government plates would be a perfect way to mask being a spy from, you know, not our government. This theory is a little tricker, with Putin’s own presence in our cell phones being too plausible to be laughable, but there’s always a chance of a good ol’ decoy among us. Either way, there is something insidious in those vans, and I was determined to get to the bottom of it.

  1. The “truth”

Though I had outlined all of these spy storylines throughout the semester with my friends, I think it’s time to come clean about this conspiracy. Sitting in the rotunda of Bay State dining hall, to my horror, I witnessed my own undoing: the ROTC students piling out of the government van that I so wished belonged to the FBI. Of course, (or should I say conveniently?) the ROTC brownstone is right outside where the cars are parked. Good and proper government property use, after all. Above all, we learn that debunking a beloved conspiracy is disappointing and “practical,” whatever that means.