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March 11, 2010


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Privacy? Forget about it; you’re under surveillance

It all started when I went to the fridge to get some of my homegrown chives to put in a salad. They were frozen solid. In fact, everything in the refrigerator was frozen. When I checked the temperature control, it was all the way down, so I set it back to normal and left the door open for a while to thaw things out.

The next day, the same thing happened again, and I also noticed that the little light bulb inside the appliance seemed much brighter than it used to be. When I called the 800 number in the owner's manual, I got a message saying “Your call is important to us,” but no one ever called me back.

Finally I decided to take matters into my own hands. I found a tiny boilerplate on the back of the fridge with the name “Allied International Marketing” and an address on Columbus Boulevard.

I drove down there, determined to get satisfaction, but when I arrived at the old warehouse by the river, all the doors were locked, and no one responded to my knocking.

Using my Boy Scout training, I picked a lock and slipped in through a back door. It was dark, but I noticed a faint light coming from the floor below. Cautiously, I made my way down a shaky staircase, and suddenly found myself in a huge room full of blinking controls and TV monitors.

Dumbfounded, I scanned the scene, and noticed that several monitors had shots of rooms in my house! I saw my dog, Casey, eating you-know-what from the kitty litter box. “Damn,” I said out loud, “I KNEW he was doing that. And I let him lick my face!” Suddenly, I was startled by a voice,

“Welcome, Mister Harris. Have you been enjoying your chives?”

Slowly, a shadowy figure seated at a console swiveled around to face me. He was holding a large rooster that he was stroking in a menacing kind of way.

“Who are you?” I said, struggling to see him in the dim light, “and how did you know about my chives?”

“I am Doctor Know,” he purred, “and I KNOW everything about you, from what kind of food you eat to how often you make whoopee. You see, I am the head of an international conglomerate of corporations. We have bugs in every home in the world, and blah, blah ... ”

His fussy, posturing introduction went on a bit longer, but I drifted off, trying to remember the last time I made whoopee, when suddenly he shouted, “HOMEGROWN FOODS ARE BAD FOR AGRIBUSINESS! Why don't you buy food from factory farms, like everyone else!”

“Well, I just like to eat fresh, local foods, and I ...”

“Quiet!” he shrieked. “I suppose you came here looking to write an exposé for your silly little newspaper. Those idiots at the Lower Merion School District have ruined everything. I should have known better than to contract out to amateurs. Well I'm not going to let you come in here sticking your pad and pencil into my business. Kill, Rocco, kill!”

With that, he set the rooster down, but all the bird did was scurry around, pecking at dots on the floor.

“Oh, that's just great,” cried Doctor Know sarcastically, “That's the last time I get an attack-animal from Craigslist. No matter, I'll use my freeze-ray and turn you into an icicle.”

“Whoa, hold on Doc,” I said, “Before you go messing with the thermostat, I just want you to know that I agree with everything you're doing.”

“Huh? You do?”

“Sure, I’m a team player, and I want everyone to know everything about me. That's the new American dream, isn't it? In fact, I've written several autobiographies that I'd be happy to upload to your database, and I've also been keeping a daily hair journal for the last 42 years. Did you know that in 1972, I tried parting my hair on the right side? Can you believe it? And, oh yeah, I experimented with marijuana in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s, but I didn't enjoy it. Let's see, what else ... ”

“Enough already,” he cried, “Get out of here! If we need any more information, we'll call you.”

So I left his secret headquarters and headed home. I guess what I learned from all this is that you really can't hide, and you can't be a lone wolf. Let’s face it, privacy is an outdated concept. It's great to be a bee in the modern hive. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go buy some Chilean chives.




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