A Long and Winding Road Through Technological Delirium

During our time in Houston last week and weekend, I had several wonderful conversations with my niece, many of which led me to ideas that would make great stories. Naturally, my memory of said conversations is only of the “this would make a great story” moments, not the actual stories themselves. My failure to remember perfectly good story lines upsets me, not so much because I’ve lost a story concept, but because I seem to be losing my mind memory.

The solution, I’ve decided, is to have a video camera permanently installed in my forehead. But, because I’m generally a practical guy, I’ll have to figure out a few things first. Number one, because the device will have to run on batteries (who wants one’s movements to be limited by the length of a power cord?), I’ll have to figure out how to easily change them out. And, because a large video camera protruding from one’s forehead would startle and upset some people, I’ll have to install a very small camera, something in miniature that’s easily hidden by make-up or hair carefully positioned to cover the thing. The on-off button must be hidden, too, as must the button to record, zoom in and out, etc. The installation of this permanent device will require considerable time and talent, not to mention money, two of the three of which are sorely lacking and the third (that is, the first) is an unknown quantity. I suppose I need to consider how I will transfer files from the device to my computer for playback and permanent storage, as well.

You’d think the practicalities I’ve already addressed would be all I’ll need to consider, wouldn’t you? Well, there are legal issues to factor into the undertaking, as well. Some states require two-party consent to record audio and, I assume, video. Others require only one party to know of the recording. Yet others may not require any of the parties being recorded to know it. So, I’ll have to install a computer with a real-time link to state statutes so that, as they change, the device will be updated accordingly. Naturally, because it would be impractical to physically update the device with the legalities of recording based on knowing whether I’m in one state or the other, the computer must include a global positioning satellite (GPS) link so there’s no question which state I’m in (and to ensure the correct links to state statutes).

The device must have some method of notifying me whether recordings are being made and whether I must notify others. I envision the projection of a holographic image that only I can see, informing me of the laws governing recordings, based on my location as calculated by the GPS. If I’m in a one-party state, the hologram might read, in green text, “One-party state. You’re good to go.” If I’m in a two-party state, the hologram could read, in red text, “Two-party state. Inform others of  recording.” If that latter message flashed before my eyes, another message could follow—something like this that I could read aloud: “You’re not going to believe this, but I have a video camera implanted in my forehead and I’m going to record our interactions, okay?” My guess is that the other party or parties would assume a mental meltdown had caused those words to spill from my mouth and would readily agree. Or, if not, I’d just insist. “All I need to do is to inform you. As far as I know, there’s no requirement for consent, only for notification. So be forewarned: anything you say can and will be used to enlarge and enhance my video archives.”

It occurs to me that the cost, both financial and mental, of a permanently installed video recording device might bankrupt me, monetarily and emotionally. A less expensive and, perhaps, less intrusive way of tracking story ideas would be to write notes in the little spiral notebook I carry with me almost everywhere I go. Why I do not write these ideas down is beyond me. I do, on occasion, but more often than not I’m too much “in the moment” to interrupt the conversation by jotting notes that, in many cases, would have to be extensive.

There MUST be a solution that’s not so intrusive and costly. Aha! I have it! I simply need to hire a very small, almost invisible secretary, someone unemployed for so long that even the meager salary I could offer would seem a windfall. I would need to find someone small enough to fit in a shirt pocket. He or she would be held accountable for keeping track of where we are and for monitoring state recording statutes. And, because I’ve never bought tiny little steno pads for someone so small as to fit inside my pocket, the responsibility for purchasing those products would fall to him or her. I would, of course, pay for the cost of those work-related tools. Now that I think of it, though, writing notes that would then have to be typed seems silly. I’d need to get him a tiny little computer with a tiny little keyboard. The issue with batteries would be much like the issue with batteries for implantable video cameras. I’d have to feed this person, wouldn’t I? What does a tiny person eat? And what about eating in restaurants—would I need to bring along tiny plates and utensils? I mean, one can’t assume restaurants keep a stock of such things for people of all sizes, right? Ach. There’s so much to think about, not the least of which is the concern about why this very small person has remained unemployed for so long. Could it be that he is simply not good at being a secretary? Or was he caught embezzling from a former employer? Does his prison record have anything to do with his difficulty in finding work? There are too many variables here. I think I’ve talked myself out of hiring him. I’m sorry, fellow, to have wasted so much of your time in interviews. Good luck in your job search!

Well, that was a blind alley, wasn’t it? I think I might just pursue something that’s been right under my nose all along. All of us are under constant surveillance everywhere we go. No matter where we go, there’s a video camera keeping an eye on us. Grocery stores, department stores, even on freeways. Cameras constantly watch us. It’s 1984 on steroids, folks. And our electronic devices monitor where we are and who we’re with. How many times have you been in a restaurant when someone takes a photo of their meal and, an hour later, you notice on Facebook that you are in the background of the person’s poorly-framed food shot? That’s what I mean! Everywhere we go we’re being recorded. Maybe not all video, but we’re being watched.  Inasmuch as someone already is recording us, the trick is simply to hack into the Universal Network (some people still call it the World Wide Web or internet, but it’s become the Universal Network where all data are collected, logged, and available for the right price). The Universal Network is as solid and stable and as impenetrable as the records in the Equifax credit database, so an early teen with a Kindle Fire should be able to get it and retrieve anything I need.

Even after all I’ve written, I don’t remember the stories that triggered my “I need to remember that so I can write about it” moments. But what I’ve written may be worth another look some day to see if there’s sufficient seed and adequate soil for a story to grow from the manure I’ve spread by tapping the keyboard with my fingers. More coffee. That’s what I need, more coffee!

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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