Privacy? Where?


Okay, I admit to being a techno junkie, but there are times it just goes too far.   Two weeks ago I was trying on a bathing suit in a large chain store dressing room when I looked up to see one of those signs warning me that the dressing room is under surveillance.   Me. . . naked as a jaybird. . . one foot in a spandex torture chamber and the other poised to join it. . . when I realized that somebody, somewhere was watching a bank of security cameras and probably falling on the floor in laughter.   I couldn’t wait to get out of there.

Then last night as I was in Target waiting at the pharmacy, I looked up and spotted a rank of security cameras that looked like German pillboxes on the ceiling.  Not one or two, mind you, but at least a dozen ringing the pharmacy. . . all I could think was “must. . . not. . . scratch. . .”

What does it take to get a little privacy these days?  I mean, a simple late night run to the convenience store for some M&Ms or a six pack. . . and suddenly you’re on the You Tube!

And then there are those fashion nazis who apparently hang out at WalMart with cameras and nothing better to do than take pictures of people who just wanted to dash in for a minute to pick up a few essentials.  They did not ASK to be photographed and put on web sites and sent around in tasteless e-mails.   Hmmm.   Except maybe this guy. . .

I mean, you don’t wear a shirt like that unless you WANT somebody to read it.

But seriously. . . where can you go these days to get away from the cameras?  Many workplaces have now installed cameras, not so much for external threats, but to spy on employees.  Who filches office supplies?  Who naps in their cubicle?  Who starts the conga line through the cafeteria?  Who is doing something they would PAY to keep a secret?

I have heard that you can ward off the camera by covering yourself properly with. . . well, it wouldn’t do to give away all the secrets of anonymity.

Seriously. . . is all of this snooping and prying necessary?  I mean, what if you’re having a bad big hair day and just want to get out of the house?

Or maybe you and the hubs just felt like hanging out and picking up some ammo at the local WalMart. . .

But it doesn’t stop there.  People have embraced the “spy on you” culture to the point that they’re wiring up their homes.  Nanny cams are the order of the day.  You can’t even give your kid a sip of your beer without worrying that it’ll come up as evidence against you in a custody hearing!  And then there are those lunatics who leave a nanny cam in their house to see what their pets are doing all day.  The only thing dumber than setting up a camera to record what your pet is doing is going through hours and hours of nap-chew-sniff-lick-nap every night!  But there are times when pets and actual nannies do interact and, I have to admit, that footage may be priceless someday.

This last photo is from a video of a cat protecting a child from the nanny.  I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it.  It’s on You Tube somewhere.  Seek and you shall find.

Here in Florida, everybody is jumping on the red-light camera band wagon.  They’re going to photograph cars who run red lights and issue tickets based on the camera evidence.  You have to pay or you’ll be hauled into court.  My personal thought is, they’ll just get millions of  photos like this:

Anyway, it just seems to me that life is getting waaaaay too public.   And despite all those crime shows where security camera footage helps to catch the bad guys, I’m not convinced that all of this spying and surveiling is necessary. . . much less good.  I mean, you ought to be able to go out for a drive without being watched or penalized for making a “pink” light.  Right?  I guess this means we’ll just have to make our cars as anonymous as possible. . .

I’m resigned to big brother hanging over my shoulder all the time, I guess.  But I don’t have to like it.  I’d like to think there are still places you can go skinny dipping.  Places you can let your hair go and take off that girdle without becoming an internet sensation.   But those places seem to be fewer and further between these days.

You know, if I were WalMart, I’d be posting photographers along with the greeters at store entrances. . . offer to take a photo for free in exchange for being able to post it on MY web site.  Then those strange folk who look so scary will be facing the cameras, smiling, and the promo would be dynamite.  Good idea or lame one?

What do you think?  Are we over-watched?   Do you get those People of WalMart e-mails?  What do you think of them?  Do they give you a laugh or do they make you mad?  Or is it the Jerry Springer phenomenon– where some people will do anything to get noticed and have their 15 minutes of fame?

And the biggest question of all:  have you ever gone to a store in your pajamas?  Come on, fess up.  What’s the worst outfit you’ve ever been caught in?

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24 Responses to Privacy? Where?

  1. Leanne Banks says:

    Fabulous blog Betina! I loathe and love the new lack of privacy. Love it for when it can be used to catch criminals. Loathe it for when I can find a webcam of my home on the web that I didn’t film!:/ I have not technically worn real pjs to the store. I have, however, been known to sleep in yoga pants and a tank top and, during deadline, wear those same yoga pants and tank top with a sweat shirt during a quick trip to the grocery store.:) There are times when I’m really hoping there won’t be any cameras on me!

    • Betina says:

      Yay, Leanne! It’s a brave woman who admits to not changing her clothes from bed to store. I’m with you. Except I used to sleep sans bra. . . but never left the house without one. Nothing else would change, however. Still, we do see a lot of PJs at the 7-11 these days. Maybe it’s always been that way. ::grin::

  2. michelehauf says:

    I’ve explored that site that posts teh People Of Walmart pictures. Oh dear. I guess I don’t think about all the cameras when I’m out and about, which is probably a good thing.
    I’ve never worn pajama bottoms, but I do have occasion to wear my slippers to stores, and don’t feel weird doing it. Heck, a pair of snazzy slippers will dress up a plain pair of jeans any day. 😉 And besides, I’m the chick who can go all day without combing her hair, and goes into stores that way, so apparently, I don’t care much what people think of me.

    • Betina says:

      Slippers, flipflops. . . down here they’re sort of one and the same! And yes, I have gone out with bed-head more than a few times. In the old days we went out with curlers only in dire emergencies. Actually that was the cut-off between classy and clueless: whether you wore curlers out and about, even under a scarf.

      Confession ahead: On my wedding day I was caught in a department store by some of my students. . . with curlers in my hair! (In my defense, I had realized we didn’t have a proper cake knife and had to get one stat!) They asked when I was getting married and when I said “this evening,” they nearly collapsed with shock. Guess I didn’t look too romantic.

      • michelehauf says:

        Okay, here’s my author in the spotlight horror confession: Once I made an emergency trip to Target for you know, feminine hygiene products. It was early, i was wearing sweatpants, no hair combed, no makeup. But that’s not worst part. I grabbed a couple boxes, then saw they were on sale, so grabbed more. I had an armload of tampon boxes, plus some for my daughter as well. So I’m wandering toward the checkouts in the nearly empty store, and suddenly someone yells “There’s my favorite author!” (my mother worked at the store then and her friends knew me). So I’m standing with an armload of tampons and the entire store (only half a dozen people, thank goodness) turns to see who the famous author is. With arms full!
        Never been so embarrassed in my life. Who cared about the uncombed hair? 🙂

  3. michelehauf says:

    Oy. Don’t read that sentence that starts ‘I’ve never worn pajama bottoms…” and then think about it, too hard. 😉 I do wear them. BUt never in stores. 😉

    • Betina says:

      That’s all right with us, babe. What happens at Hauf’s house STAYS at Hauf’s house, right guys?

    • Betina says:

      I LOVE it Michele! My-favorite-author nightmare stories! And with your arms loaded with tampons! ::snort:: I had a similar situation when I arrived at an eye appointment in a shirt decorated with salad dressing from my lunch. The receptionist called to everyone in the office, “Come over here and meet our famous author.” You should have seen them trying NOT to stare at the vivid stains on my shirt! ::glurg::

  4. cindygerard says:

    Speed cameras are EVERYWHERE here in Iowa. The state needs revenue and they are getting in from those cameras. On one hand, I think, ‘fine’. Speeders are breaking the law. On the other hand, I think, “Damn. I have to get up earlier to get where I want to go on time now.” LOL

    I’m like Leanne. Like it that some bad people are getting caught doing bad things but get a little nervous about the thought of being watched constantly. For certain I’m going to be much more watchful, myself, for hidden cameras now. In a dressing room? OMG

    • Betina says:

      I know, Cindy, TERRIBLE IDEA! Cameras in dressing rooms! Or do they just post those signs to scare people straight?

      Judging from the number of camera bubbles in a place like Target, there must be a whole bank of people manning monitors! Or do they just put those bubbles up there to make you THINK you’re being watched? Anybody know? I’m gonna ask somebody. Call it research for a story.

  5. Kathleen says:

    Didn’t you know “big brother” is every where.. That’s why I don’t try on things in the store.. I take them home and then take them back if they don’t fit… It is an envesion of privacy that should not be allowed..
    As for some people.. they should never be let out of the house with out a keeeper… OH BOY…

    • Betina says:

      Yes, Big Brother IS everywhere. . . I just didn’t expect to confront him in my altogether! They say you can’t walkd down a street anywhere in London without being caught on a camera. New York is trying to do the same thing and have lots of federal money to carry it out. I’m going to be looking up and around from now on. . . to see how much I’m being watched. I’ll be watching back.

      ::two fingers from my eyes to theirs, a la Robert DeNiro::

  6. You made my day, Betina! I love this post, Betina. It deserves the revelation of a family secret.

    I used to go out of the house fairly often in a pair of sweats Clyde called “the green garbage bag pants.” If I had them on, I was on my own. No one would go with me. The pants mysteriously disappeared. If you see them on the street, say hello for me.

    • Betina says:

      Oh my gosh, Kathy– I think I just saw them on somebody outside a WalMart!! That’s where all the great and terrible old clothes go to die.

      I love this! You guys are the best blog partners ever. Now when I see you, Kathy, I’m going to try to picture you in sweatpants your family won’t be seen near. They must have been something!

  7. But seriously, I really detest the demise of privacy. Sci Fi and futurist writers warned us that this day would come, but when we were reading books like 1984 back in the 60’s we said, “Thank God this can’t happen in the US of A.”

  8. kylie brant says:

    The people of Walmart emails crack me up. Sadly, they aren’t surprising. I’ve never gone anywhere in my pjs but think nothing of a quick trip to the grocery store in my sweats. No make up? Slap on a pair of sunglasses, LOL. I’m sure they think I’m hiding hangover eyes instead of naked eyes but don’t much care 🙂

    • Betina says:

      Sunglasses hide a multitude of beauty sins. Not, however, the back boobs I just saw on a woman on the WalMart people web site. Oh, the tragedy, the humanity. . . Must. . . go. . . wash out. . . eyes. . .

  9. I don’t think the cameras are actually watching you in the dressing room. They watch you going in and out, I think. (And if I’m wrong, do not tell me!)

    I just got back from the RT conference, spent a looong day doing my taxes, and now about to enter into, oh, twenty months of back-to-back deadlines. I figure I won’t get out at all, so will be able to maintain my privacy!

    • Betina says:

      Christie, come on, fess up– you never have a bad looking day, do you? Some gals just have all the luck. Speaking of RT– I bet there were some great (or greatly horrible) costumes this year. Care to unburden yourself and entertain us all?

  10. catslady says:

    Those who have nothing to hide, hide nothing lol. I think I got that from Dr. Phil. I use to put on full makeup and change my clothes to go to the grocery store. Then I just did the makeup. And now… My husband still changes his clothes to go to the hardware store!!!! And hopefully most of the cameras in those dept. stores aren’t looked at unless there is a reason. I hear a lot of them don’t even record (like a lot of buses). It’s suppose to be a deterrant since you don’t know which ones really work. I know one places that has a million working cameras and that’s a casino. My daughter works at one and you get away with nothing there lol.

    • Betina says:

      Yes, I fear we do let standards slide as we get on in years. The funny thing about it is, we wonder why we didn’t do it earlier. I mean, what’s so wrong with a bit of straight hair and some unpowdered facial skin? Lips probably got plenty of attention before the invention of lipstick. Hey, anybody know when that was? And truth be told, stretch pants and elastic wastbands are comfortable.

      And as to casinos. . . yep the cameras all work. . . or so I’ve heard. And I have a hard time believing every camerea bubble hanging from the ceiling actually contains a camera. But which ones DO? That’s the question.

  11. Kristina Mathews says:

    I was a teenager in the 80’s. I spent a whole decade wearing ridiculous clothing in public. I think I even made it into a shot on MTV wearing pink and aqua striped pants with matching tank top and oversized sweater. I wore men’s pajama tops (the more wildly patterned the better) as shirts and I had these highlighter yellow shoes. Yikes.

    Now that I am an adult, I often leave the house without makeup, but usually keep my clothing choices rather tame- jeans and t-shirts. Unless I am running to the paint store, then I wear this old Giants t-shirt I wear for painting and I can just point to the color smear I need to pick up an extra quart of.

  12. Betina says:

    Kristina, I LOVE your reply! Looking back at the 80’s styles and hair– whew! They were something for the ages. Talk about distinctive. . . those water-spout bangs and fish net stockings and leg warmers and fingerless gloves.

    And I adore your way of picking paint colors! Just wear the shirt in and point to the patch of paint. . . gimme some more of that one. Just too good!

  13. Helen Brenna says:

    Late in chiming in here, but I have a love/hate feeling about this issue, too. I deal with it by trying not to think about it, especially in changing rooms!

    I feel no pain for the photos of people wearing T-shirts with ridiculous sayings – they obviously intend to raise eyebrows, but there are some Walmart photos that make me cringe for the person. It’s a cruel world.

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