Tuesday, July 28, 2009
I walked into the air-conditioned bank, and within two seconds, a voice said, "Hello! Welcome to Chase!" Those poor Chase employees, serf descendants of J.P. Morgan's money machine, now have to greet every customer who enters the bank with this corporate mantra. Adjusting from the blazing heat outside, I usually can't even tell who's talking to me. I don't need a faceless platitude when I walk into my bank. I want to be left alone, and maybe get a box of Chiclets at the end.
I walked up to the teller, and, since there's little to look at inside a barren, modern bank while your transaction is being processed, I eventually noticed the cameras overhead. Five overhead; two by the vault; one by the front door—no, two - no, wait, three.
"There sure are a lot of cameras in here," I said.
"Yeah, and that's not counting the hidden ones."
Hidden ones? I scanned the walls. Was that a camera or just a random wall nipple?
She handed me my receipt, and I said, "Hello! Welcome to Chase!" She almost laughed, and beneath the overt cameras (and probably some hidden ones) we secretly agreed that the new greeting policy was vapid and insulting.
Driving, some minutes later, I started noticing how many cameras decorate our major intersections, and even our minor ones. Cameras, cameras everywhere! Cameras in banks make sense. Cameras at every major intersection kind of make sense, I guess. The watching, however, doesn't stop there.
Recently, my West University Historic District apartment complex of about 30 or so units got seriously camera-happy. The building manager (instead of finally having the place painted) installed no less than a dozen security cameras around the premises. Some focus on the same spot, but from different angles! There are probably more than twelve, but I became self-conscious that maybe he was watching me counting.
That's not just paranoia, either. One evening, I borrowed the building manager's ladder. When I returned it the following morning, I saw him (liquid-nailing something else onto our historic building), and I said, "Hi. By the way, I borrowed your ladder. I just put it back."
He smiled wide at me, and drawled, "I know." An awkward second followed, then I realized he had watched me take the ladder on camera.
A couple days later, as I walked to my car, the building manager slyly said, "You go in and out a lot." What did he mean by that? Suddenly, I felt like a crack dealer.
Listen, I have faults. My girlfriend says I have many faults, and I have to respect her good judgement. Now, around the grounds of my own domicile, these faults are recorded 24/7 by the building manager who sits on a swivel chair in his bachelor pad in front of several flat screens of voyeuristic witch-hunting in the name of security.
It doesn't feel like security, though. It's just creepy.
I certainly can't stop technological progress. It seems Mrs. Privacy and Mr. Technology will continue to walk into the future together, hand-in-hand, slapping each other with their free hands all the while.