So Much For Privacy

May 4, 2001

Privacy has increasingly become a concern in today’s modern, wired world where every purchase you make is monitored, where your preferences are stored and analyzed by every online vendor whether you buy anything or not, and where advertising is targeted specifically to your geographic region, age group, and speed at closing that annoying pop-up window that tries to sell you crap no one wants. It’s enough to make you think the only really smart people are the ones who’ve fashioned aluminum foil hats to prevent their thoughts being read by shadow agents in black helicopters.

I never thought of myself as a particularly private person until I started riding the bus, where complete strangers will describe in meticulous detail their recent hemorrhoid surgery. Apparently these people have given up entirely on the idea of privacy and decided to live completely unencumbered. They’re living in metaphorical glass houses. (Let’s just hope they stop there.) For the rest of us who would like to keep some level of privacy, I’ve been doing some research, and here are some helpful hints:

  • Never buy anything online. Believe it or not, there are places called "stores" that actually sell many of the things you can buy online. Some of these places, believe it or not, even sell things you can’t necessarily find online. The only trouble with buying things in a "store" is that you generally have to interact with a person who may be able to identify you later.

  • Always pay with cash. Using a credit card means all your movements are carefully tracked. Paying cash for some very expensive items (television sets, stereos, rare jewelry) may attract attention, or you may simply be concerned about carrying such large amounts of money. In these cases, make arrangements to come back and pick up the items after the stores have closed, and when there’s nobody around.

  • Get a post office box, preferably one in a state or province other than the one where you currently reside. The added benefit of this is that every place has better mail service than where you live, so you won’t have to worry about your mail being lost, stolen, or opened, even though you may only be able to pick it up once a month.

  • Always wear a dark suit and dark glasses. When people in the movies dress this way, they’re always able to slip through large crowds completely unnoticed. What works in the movies must work in real life.

  • Have all your plastic surgery done in Brazil. This is especially important if you’re a person who has special privacy concerns (for instance, a serial killer, or if you were believed to have been killed in that yacht explosion and have spent years plotting your revenge).

  • When robbing a bank during normal business hours, always wear a humorous mask, such as a clown mask. This will not only prevent fellow bank patrons from identifying you later, it will also psychologically scar any children present.

  • When robbing a bank after hours, make sure you give the security guard time to fall asleep. About ten minutes after the doors are locked should do it. Also, shoot out all video cameras.

  • Avoid getting an e-mail account at all costs. Getting e-mail is just asking to be subjected to useless and annoying advertising. Avoid getting a television set for the same reason.

  • Finally, enjoy this week’s offerings. They have absolutely nothing to do with privacy, so they’ll be a pleasant distraction while I collect detailed demographic information about every one of you.

(Mother’s Day is still more than a week away, but here’s a preview–CW)

My mother taught me TO APPRECIATE A JOB WELL DONE: 

"If you’re going to kill each other, do it outside –
I just finished cleaning!"

My mother taught me RELIGION: 
"You better pray that will come out of the carpet."

My mother taught me about TIME TRAVEL: 
"If you don’t straighten up, I’m going to knock you into the middle of next week!"

My mother taught me LOGIC: 
"Because I said so, that’s why."

My mother taught me FORESIGHT: 
"Make sure you wear clean underwear, in case you’re in an accident."

My mother taught me IRONY:
"Keep crying and I’ll *give* you something to cry about."

My mother taught me about the science of OSMOSIS: 
"Shut your mouth and eat your supper."

My mother taught me about CONTORTIONISM:
"Will you *look* at the dirt on the back of your neck!"

My mother taught me about STAMINA:
"You’ll sit there ’til all that spinach is finished."

My mother taught me about WEATHER:
"It looks as if a tornado swept through your room."

My mother taught me how to solve PHYSICS PROBLEMS: 
"If I yelled because I saw a meteor coming toward you, would you listen then?"

My mother taught me about HYPOCRISY: 
"If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a million times – DON’T EXAGGERATE!!!"

My mother taught me THE CIRCLE OF LIFE:
"I brought you into this world, and I can take you out."

My mother taught me about BEHAVIOR MODIFICATION:
"Stop acting like your father!"

My mother taught me about ENVY: 
"There are millions of less fortunate children in this world who don’t have wonderful parents like you do!"


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