Privacy on life support

John Connelly is a retired state legislative worker from Sacramento

On a spring Saturday, I entered a Midtown theater to see a local production before they “pulled the plug.”

I met a cashier who must have recently returned from Guantanamo Bay, where she was undoubtedly an intake worker for the U.S. detention facility. Dropping two $10 bills on the counter, I indicated my preference for an aisle seat and was immediately subjected to a real-time interrogation, as she entered my responses into her computer.

Name, address, age—I stopped her there. “This is a cash transaction, and all I want is a ticket to tonight’s show,” I said.

“We’d like to know a little bit about you for our files,” she replied. Didn’t Simon and Garfunkel already use that line?

“If buying a ticket involves completing your questionnaire, you can keep the ticket,” I told her and stalked out.

Clearly, the purpose is to create a customer database for the theater. The resident playwright may tailor future shows to conform to the profile: a sparkling comedy about a docile gray male who responds readily to an officious tone. Perhaps they’ll sell the data to other venues peddling the same stuff.

Are we all sheep? Does the business community—including the showbiz community—believe we all will stand still and be processed? Have all those phony discount cards the supermarkets push conditioned us to relinquish personal data on command in hope of a freebie?

Google reads your e-mail, and the post office probably lifts DNA samples from the backs of stamps. Every piece of consumer junk carries a “warranty” card on which we sheep dutifully enter our name, rank and serial number. Just try to execute that warranty, though.

At California State University, Sacramento, virtually every document—including the parking pass—contains a reference to your Social Security number. The banks would have us all believe that accounts are strictly confidential, while the state of California announces that some hacker has penetrated the personnel files.

Just say no! Don’t tell nobody nothing. Make the them come and find you; don’t spend your life handing around your life’s story.

About that show: The plot probably involves brain-dead women conning the audience into revealing all.