After decades of living in cities, a quiet life in the woods might seem challenging, but the peace and quiet is something you get used to very quickly. Sitting outside, under a blanket of stars, the visions are accompanied by Nature’s soundtrack. The wind in the trees may carry the hoot of an owl after the hawk retires. A frog along the creek announces its presence, and there may be rustling in the blackberries as a stray cat hunts nocturnally.
If the skies are clear, we might see a plane in the distance, flashing its lights, but it’s so far away we can barely hear it. After years of living in Burbank with planes departing and arriving at all hours, I brace for the noise before realizing the planes will pass over without deafening us.
There’s no traffic, nor do security officers or police drive by. Even if someone had the address, it’s doubtful they’d find it on their own since there’s relatively no signage, and GPS stops working miles and miles before arrival. In cities, I’m acutely aware of surveillance cameras. There’s never a moment to escape the Orwellian world of unrelenting observation.
No one is being watched in these woods; at least that’s what I thought. I’ve always been comfortable with online shopping, even after I learned advertising based on my previous searches was targeting me. Amazon is so thoughtful to send frequent e-mail, letting me know the vanilla beans I ordered last year are going on sale or that there are additional recommendations based on a set of sheets I’d checked out for price comparisons.
Annoying, yes, but occasionally they send me useful information. Therefore, I don’t change my preferences and allow them to intrude. Some mornings when I have only one or two e-mail, it’s nice to find out I have ten new messages even if they turn out to be useless advertisements.
However, I’m now paranoid and wonder just how they get their information. I search all sorts of things on all sorts of sites. The dryer went out last year, and after reading reviews and checking prices, I received a lot of notifications for appliances and household products for months afterward. I searched for an out-of-print book, and suddenly I received offers for films based on novels within that genre. But when Gary asked me where I’d put the bag of rubber bands one Tuesday, only to be greeted on Thursday with an office supply e-mail announcing a great buy on rubber bands, I was sure the house was bugged.
How else would they know we were “searching” for rubber bands? We weren’t out of them; I’d just moved them from a cabinet in one room to the other end of the house. I got an offer for Swiffer refills a few hours after straightening up the living room, and products in “Lawn and Garden” popped up after I spent 15 minutes looking out the window, wondering how I would remove those scraggly branches from that 40’ pine tree.
There is a line from Gossford Park where Dame Helen Mirren says, as the housekeeper, that her job is to anticipate. She knows when the aristocrats are hungry before they do. She knows when they will be tired long before they themselves will know it. They will have certain needs at certain times, and her job was to meet their needs before they had to ask. That’s all well and good if you were to work for me and provide comfort without my requesting it, but online advertisement proves what we’ve all heard about “too much of a good thing.”
It could be that online marketers have really figured out what we want before we know we want it, but when a national spice company notified me that they were offering free shipping for allspice berries within a day of my purchasing ground cinnamon from the grocery store, I reached for the back of my neck and shoulders to check for a chip implant.
© 2015 by Patrick Brown
Visit my author page at http://www.amazon.com/Patrick-Brown/e/B005F0CYH2/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1419885131&sr=8-1 to learn about my books “Moral Ambiguity” and “Tossed Off the Edge.”