When I read that a 1976 Baltimore purse-snatcher —nabbed after crank-calling his victim— may have been the legal groundwork for today’s NSA snooping on telephone records in the name of protecting us from terrorists (Whew!) I had a pretty good laugh. If crank-calling equates to being labeled a terrorist in this country there’s at least two individuals I know need reporting. Yours truly, for shameless crank calls I made as a kid (I refuse to give up my gargling partners in crime) before the introduction of caller ID/*69 and the woman who began phone call harassing my family circa 1985.
This lone serial dialer required the intervention of the local authorities and consisted of a series of events that would forever alter this former eleven year old’s life. I consider those phone calls my personal ground zero. Certainly, I can blame the situation for my hatred of phones to this very day. If not for my kids I would not own a cell phone or land line as the ringing creates a Pavlov reaction. Instead of drooling, however, my blood sets to an immediate boil. I also like to blame this time period for my inability to get along with marriage, one lazy eye, and two cowlicks, among other factors that began that very year with a telephone ring that never stopped.
OK, the lazy eye and cowlicks is silly but when on a blaming roll why stop?
Anyway, what I find interesting, as an individual who has had several (unrelated) incidents of being stalked and harassed over the years is the current NSA snoop-a-thon. I take privacy very seriously, which is ironic given the fact the Great Phone Harassment of 1985 would have gone on and on without the intervention of tracking. Combined with yours truly having to answer the phone, listen to the breathing on the other end and make recordings of date and time before the hang up, of course. This was an awful experience, by the way, and I should have refused to be a part or at least gargled in the serial dialer’s ear.
Now, I would like to think I am not the type to hold a grudge, to place blame on the past for the actions of today. A philosophy of admitting wrong, making amends (if able) and forgiving those who’ve done us wrong (reconciliation) sure beats a lifetime of hatred. Dwelling doesn’t do much good, anymore than being hung up on the excuse of being the product of how one was raised. (Yes, you probably are but being aware is more than half the battle). But there are moments when a rather un-charatible uneasiness takes my thoughts to a time when a young life was irrevocably changed. When a child should not be an answering machine much less a detective. It is hard sometimes not to look back on such life-altering occasions and look for someone to blame, to point a finger at —to call a terrorist.
While it may have done well and good that authorities were able to track down the purse snatcher from 1976 … or the woman harassing my broken family sometime around 1985 … this is not in the least a viable excuse to eradicate our privacy today. As founded this week by U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon who doubts both the constitutionality of the NSA’s metadata collection program and reduction in terrorists threats. Good thing, because as much as I would love to name the serial dialer from the 80s a terrorist, she wasn’t anything more than a sad individual who cared nothing for those she was hurting. Such people as she are a dime a dozen but they are not terrorists, as much as I would love for such ilk to spend the rest of their lives in Gitmo-style makings.
Bethany J. Royer is the mother of two munchkins and has a serious case of psychology student senior-itis. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.