Monday, July 22, 2013

My Private Business

There I was, feeling like a Louis C.K. bit, wondering how I ever got here. To be less than discreet, I was sitting in the bathroom, multitasking. I had my fancy new tablet PC with me, and I was checking my e-mail. I was surprised to see that Amazon had sent me a note letting me know that air mattresses were on sale. Wow! How about that for service? There I was, minding what would naturally be considered my own business when, out of the blue comes this reminder that I have had my eye on replacing the inflatable pad which we have used for years and years as the floor of our NewYear's Fort Floor. Our dog's nails should be trimmed sometime around Christmas in order to limit the number of tiny little holes that can be left by just one night of pawing about on our oxygen-infused platform.
Back to my marveling at the preciseness of Amazon's simple offer: It took me a moment or two to realize that I was receiving this message based on a search I had done a few weeks earlier. The clever bots in the deepest, darkest Amazonia held on to that piece of the shopping I had done in an idle moment while sitting in front of the computer, waiting for the latest batch of cute cat photos to load. Then, when the time was right and deals were at their very hottest, a nerve impulse shot out from that entrepreneurial being named after the second longest river in the world. Suddenly, this gesture felt invasive, probably because of where I was sitting, but also because I am the type of guy who never buys anything from a telephone solicitor. If I need something, I'll go out and find it, thank you. I don't need someone to ring me up to let me know that there is a special deal on security systems in my neighborhood. I hang up on them. That's why I deleted the message, though well-intentioned, from the world's largest online retailer.
But I know it won't make any real difference. I've already left my little digital footprints all over Al Gore's Internet. If someone really wanted to sell me something that I really don't need, it would take a very few clicks to find out hot to insinuate themselves into my little world of preferences. I also know that if I were truly vigilant about where I surf and how I give out my e-mail address and to whom I ask to find that crystal blue blender, I could avoid such automated invasions.
Then I thought about all the business I conduct on Mister Gore's Masterpiece. How many times have I gone looking for that perfect gift, appliance or service without even trying to guard my identity to the rest of the cyber-community? "Hey, look everybody! I'm trying to find a place that sells Quake Cereal in bulk!" Why would I care if the National Security Agency listens in on the phone calls I make to customer service, trying to return it once I remember just how awful that stuff really was. Finally, I used the GPS app to navigate myself from the bathroom back to the couch in the living room.

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