All I wanted was an address. It was innocent, really.
I had to send a thank-you note but only had a phone number. For some reason that escapes me, I didn't want to call and let them know I needed their address.
As if the reason I wanted their mailing whereabouts could somehow be perceived as nefarious.
“Yes … you got me …
“After your son came to my son's birthday party and gave him a really thoughtful gift, I wanted to come to your house late at night and toilet paper your trees.”
No. Really. A part of my mind thinks that way.
And my husband – often called upon to be the voice (at least in telephone calls) of our social life – can attest to how ridiculously hobbling this can be to an otherwise normal human.
So it is with genuine (but as yet undiagnosed) insanity that instead of phoning and asking for a mailing address, I turned to the internets, determined to find it myself.
After all, there is a reason I've been tossing printed phonebooks into the recycling bin since the turn of the century -- Switchboard, the online phone book.
But it wasn't so simple this time.
The name I was seeking didn't show up the way I expected. It was there all right, sandwiched between other similarly spelled names in different localities, but when I clicked on it for more information it led to a site that promised to tell me everything about this person.
And I mean everything.
Every conceivable record from marriage, birth, death, arrest, debt, college aptitude, political affiliations, and whether they “Liked” Coldplay on Facebook.
All mine for the snooping.
Oh, right … and it was perfectly secure. The person I was spying on would NEVER, ever, ever, in a million years, know that I was diving into the digital dumpster of their lives.
Truth be told, I felt a little slimy. I knew what this was, but still I found my clicker finger pressing down on the “Continue” button.
I felt a twinge of guilt as bright green bars of light scrolled through a time clock, as if it were uploading data from police stations, divorce courts and skip tracers from all over the country for my perusal.
I cringed as each imaginary upload accompanied flickering words … “Searching … arrest records.”
“Searching … court judgements.”
I knew where this would end. It would end at a page that demanded I not use this information to coerce, harass, evict, determine employment or otherwise infringe on the privacy rights of the person I had plugged into a search engine. And of course, I needed to give them a credit card number and pay them $99 for the information.
I was laughing, but it wasn't funny. Had it been free I would have been tempted to swim in these embarrassing waters.
“What are you laughing about?” Ittybit asked.
"All I wanted was an address, but in order to get it, I would have had to join NSA.”
“That doesn't sound good. Now what are you going to do?”
“I'm going to have your father to call and ask them for their address.”