Saturday, June 8, 2013

Data Mining, PRISM, Paranoia, and The Critical Mom

Edward Snowden, I love you.
What the heck do AOL, Apple, Facebook, Yahoo, Google and YouTube, Microsoft and Skype, and some company I'd never heard of, PalTalk, think they're doing?  Are they picking through my emails, phone calls, conversations uttered while sitting home in my living room for evil thoughts?  Is some lonely government-employed schnook with a headset, an electronic game or a part of his own anatomy in his hand, dully recording the words "Arab," "Terrorist," and "Bomb? on his U.S.-government issued Mac?"  
Do they know about the time I was at JFK returning to Germany with my fifteen-month-old daughter on my back, several suitcases, and my mother trotting along wanting to "help?"  This particular incident would surely make any FBI guy keep an eye on me . . . or at least on her.
 We were standing at the counter.  This was about three and a half years after 9/11 and people were worrying about that and about the guy with the gunpowder in his shoes and the matches.  The woman behind the counter asked to see my knapsack and I handed it over.  As she unzipped it, she read slowly from a list.
"Do you have any sharp objects?" she began.
"No," I said.
"Do you have any--"
My mother interrupted:  "She doesn't have any bombs!"  and giggled, delighted with her wit.  The women questioning me looked very serious.
"I'm sorry," I babbled.  "I didn't say that.  My mother is, is, eighty-eight."  Which is about what she was at the time, but you'd never know it.  She could pass for a spry fifty-six, i.e. my age, and her face suggests something of the glory of the toddler who is always right.  She just sent me a photo of herself, posed appropriately under the Arc de Triomphe, her balletic foot elegantly stretched, her youthful face (she had a cosmetic neck lift at 89) gazing  poetically off into the distance.
You'd never know.
The lady behind the counter did not know, and clearly did not believe me when I stated my mother's age.
"You'll need to come with me, please," she said with the deliberately neutral professional air of someone dealing with a nutcase.
I hauled my suitcases over, my daughter beginning to be tired and howl and pull my hair, my mother keeping up a steady, loud stream of chatter: "My goodness, doesn't anyone have any sense of humor!"  Giggle.
"Please, Mom."
She dug her elbow into my ribs.  "Come, on, lighten up!"
The lady opened my suitcases and looked through the contents, closed them again.  I reminded her that I had not "said that," and that I did not believe the remark to be funny.   I was then allowed to stand online for the metal detectors.  My mother stood with me, discoursing on the lack of humor of folks at JFK.
When I was pulling my suitcases off the revolving belt at Düsseldorf, they looked different.  They had stickers all over them.  I rolled them out the nothing-to-declare door and opened them.  Every folded garment had been unfolded and stuffed back in every-which-way.  All items were topsy-turvy; the contents looked as though they'd been stirred by a Cro-Magnon and thrown back in. 
So yesterday as I sat watching CNN talk about PRISM and President Obama tell everyone their phones were not being tapped, I thought . . . hey!  Maybe someone is reading my blog!  Oh, you, out there underground in Utah, finger held over a button, or oh, you!  Somewhere behind a torn-open bag of potato chips and your own computer deep under the C.I.A. . . . I do hope you're enjoying this blog.  Especially after my teenage son, who was also watching the CNN segment on PRISM made a point of saying, when I asked if the guinea pigs had been brought in from their sojourn in their little cage in the back yard, "You mean the guinea pigs?"  It is hard to convey the degree of insinuation expressed in his tone of voice, followed by every word connected to every terrorist act he could think of.    Just because Mommy is paranoid.  He's a nice kid, really.  He reads Ken Follett and gets good grades.  And those really were little furry creatures who like carrots in our back yard.  Nothing else.  Honest.

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