Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Your Life an Open Book

From time to time you become aware of another drenching wave, hitting the shoreline, wreaking its damage.  Unlike many an aggressive tide from the ocean, this particular wave is one of metaphor wherein the shoreline represents sanity and the attacking surge is paranoia related to the government knowing too much about "us," using this information to play on our fears, weaknesses, and potential for behavior.

Starting at about the time you were responsible for some satirical materials in the then UCLA campus humor magazine, extending to the time when you'd acquired a title from a former FBI agent who'd been hounded out of the FBI because of his religion, you more or less acquired a reputation and a dossier.  In more than one instance, you'd been informed that the FBI had been "In," asking questions about you  and your political beliefs.

Your overall impression is that you'd been noted rather than any serious surveillance, with the probable result of your dossier saying of you, "known to be a smartass, openly associating with English majors and Theater Arts majors," rather than any serious political rabble rouser designation.

In your way, you were quite political, your attitudes toward government attitudes and witch hunts well on the scale toward the virulent.  Watching the televised hearings on Anita Hill and her allegations of intimidation and misconduct from Mr. Justice Clarence Thomas, your distaste surged once again to the point where, although you effectively voted for him twice, you've never forgiven the current Vice President of the United States who, at the time, was Chairman of the Senate Judicial Committee.

To put the matter in as simple terms as possible, you regard government as an instrument to be used to enact positive legislation in keeping with the expressed intent of the United States Constitution.  You are capable of mistrusting both sides of the aisle.  Although by no means a centrist, you mistrust in particular the conservatives on both sides of the aisle.

That said, you are not nearly so suspicious of government as you are of  what has become Big Business, in particular their manipulation of information in general and as the information has effect on you in specific.  It is no secret that you are a recipient of Social Security benefits, which are deposited directly into your bank account.  Either the bank or the Social Security Agency, or both, have allowed this information to circulate, no doubt to some financial benefit.  

In consequence, you are not surprised to receive mail offerings for free cremations, burials at sea, inducements to buy walk-in bath tubs, powered scooters, hearing aids, erection stimulators, powered wheelchairs, and invitations to investigate potential retirement living facilities.

Not long ago, for reasons adjunct to your Social Security status, you also heard from your mother.  Well, you Latin mother.  Well, your alma mater, UCLA.  They called to see how you were doing, which in context is creepy.  In fact, they were disappointed to learn you were formidable, flourishing, because in fact, they wanted to remind you that after your long and distinguished career, you might wish to leave them a token of your appreciation for the education you received there and for the many connections you made there that led you to the distinctions you've undoubtedly earned.

They were a bit tricky about this latter, diplomatic in the way they asked me to provide a list of my honors and achievements to blend with those they had on file for you.

By this time, you've become cynical.  "Read me what you have,"  I said.  "No sense duplicating things."

Long moment of silence.  This was not on the script.

"We have you graduating in--"

"And nothing since then?"  This is you, being snarky.

"Well, we have here that you were once--"

"Aha,"  you said.  "You heard about that little legal business.  Nothing serious.  Charges dropped."

More silence.  Delicious silence.

"We wish to remind you of those formative years when you ran the student humor magazine."

"And brought down the FBI."

More silence.  Then, "And your rears on The Daily Bruin.  News editor.  Feature editor.  Desk editor.  Night Editor."

"Anything in there about my career with a traveling carnival?  Or cleaning out dead chicken remains from a chicken-processing plant?  Or what about--"

More silence.  This was not going the way they wanted.

You are also of an age where, in grocery and drug stores, individuals ask you if you've found everything you're looking for.  The questions are based in what you have come to think of as corporate sincerity, meant to convey their genuine pleasure to see you there, shopping.  Never mind that since you've got your new Garmin Vivio step counter, you also use market and drugstore aisles to help you achieve your ten thousand steps a day minimum.  You can see the subtext of their question of you finding things to your satisfaction meaning, Do you in fact remember what you came here to purchase?

Every time you sign on to the Internet, Zappos wishes to know why you've not bought any shoes from them since January.  Ralphs' Market wonders why you haven't bought any cat food there since early April, and why haven't you used any of their discount tickets to claim your discounts on bathroom disinfectants.

You order a book from Amazon and you are confronted with a list of previous purchases, and when you think to watch a streaming video, you are offered special discount rates in motels along California's historical Route 49, the so-called Gold Rush Country.

Sly's, a favored restaurant of yours, only last night informed you that whenever you call in for a reservation, Table 70 will be considered your table.  When you go for Sunday breakfast at Renaud's Patisserie, the person taking your order asks, "The usual?" and Bill, the feisty proprietor of The Surf Dog, assures you the sauerkraut is fresh.  Katie at Cafe Luna knows you take a pitcher of steamed milk with your oatmeal, and Carlos, the night chef, tells you in Spanish that yes, there is indeed carino en esa casa.

Even on your evening walk, you cannot go gentle or unnoticed in that goodnight because the owner of the Riviera Market greets you with a booming hello and tells you the neighborhood is better when you are out on your walk.

Complete strangers greet you on the phone by asking you how you are today, meaning they want money from you for some reason or another, which they invariably do.

Netflix and Amazon Streaming video know what you've watched and, without hesitation offer you things based on what they suppose you will like next.

If the government know as much about you as businesses large and small,  the IRS would telephone you each April.  When you answered, they would say, "Mr. Lowenkopf?"


"How are you feeling this afternoon?"

And you would say, "How much do you want?"

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