"Attempting to define Suspicious Activity"
One man's suspicious is another man's quirky.
While driving to the in-laws the day before the annual turkey slaughter last week, I passed a number of blinking neon signs that were notifying drivers to 'report suspicious activity.'
I was in the midst of an Ipod shuffle that was a bit too mellow for my liking (think Elliott Smith following Morrissey) and after passing the third of those signs, my mind started to wonder about what exactly constituted suspicious behavior.
I was feeling suspicious just listening to such melancholy music behind the wheel of a car. I could have swerved into traffic at any moment just listening to the Pied Pipers of 'Debbie Downers' everywhere.
If you think about it, 'they' (and you know who they are) routinely listen to us talk on the telephone while we do normal daily tasks like ordering hot wings with seven special dipping sauces. So if chatting with your mom on Sundays is enough to constitute unlawful snooping into your privacy to prevent 'suspicious activity', then I'm sure that there will most certainly be things that were happening on the open road that would be deemed suspicious by 'them.'
For example, in hour three of our trip, somewhere on Route 97 North, we were cut off by a Ford Focus who I figured was trying to get to the airport and either pick up a loved one or wait in line to get on a flight. Since I saw that sign, however, I started thinking maybe his bad driving was in fact suspicious driving.
Sure, I was angry that someone had cut through three lanes of traffic at 70 mph when I had my wife, kid, dog, and turtle in the car, and if I had watched enough Fox News that day, I may have felt the need to pick up my trusty mobile phone and dial the 'suspicious activity' hotline. Maybe the Ford Focus that cut me off was not a person that was trying to get home to see their Mammy, but rather a would be terrorist that had wired the engine of their little Ford Focus with enough explosives to put a hole the size of Montana into Terminal A.
You never can be sure. And thankfully, I knew the number to call.
Look I realize that terrorism is a possible threat to us all. It makes the hairs on our necks stand up and if you say that you aren't scared of it, you are either lying or you are asking for someone to compare your patriotism to a rogue Frenchmen (and who wants that?). My point is that this long after 9/11, we are still trying to conjure up a fear that is not bloody likely to happen.
Those signs on the highway are about as useful as Rudy Guiliani's campaign strategy. Both are hoping to be effective based on a fear that was established (and warranted at that time) almost half a decade ago.
The song and dance is in dire need of a new tune.
I pose questions in this column, but rarely do I do it directly, as if I'm almost begging for an answer. But, here it goes: Does it make me a cynic to think that the best that can come of Dubbya being the mediator for the Palestinian and Israeli peace talks is a nice photo of the three of them looking at the same camera and possibly shaking hands?
Furthermore, does it make me cynical to think that since his approval rating resembles Josh Beckett's ERA, Bush is trying for a good old fashioned photo op to make the masses think that he is actually trying to spread 'freedom and democracy' in the Middle East?
I don't know, but it seems like suspicious activity to me. Now where did I put that number?
I get a lot of emails either agreeing with some of the things that I say or simply questioning how I can look at myself in the mirror after saying some of the things that I do. One such email that I got this week stemmed from me mentioning that I was Italian and that I liked to eat during last week's Thanksgiving column.
This was the actual email that I found in my inbox:
Good article except the beginning where you say "I'm Italian, I like to eat". Italian Americans are the most annoying people in this country. I like to eat but you'll never catch me saying, "hey I like to eat , I'm Polish".
While I'm at it here's a few more things I can't stand: Sinatra music. If I want to hear an old guy talking into a microphone with a drink in his hand, I'll invite my grandfather to happy hour with me. And the Sopranos ... enough said. Also, your food is lousy too. How many different meals can you throw tomato sauce on and it's still the same thing? Spaghetti, Rigatoni, Penne, Linguini, etc •€¦ enough already.
I also can't stand the accent that your culture invented. Nobody in Italy talks like that. A third of you idiots have never even been to Italy. -- Joe, NJ
I guess the thing to take from that email (other than that guy is not a Sinatra fan) is that no matter what you do or say in this instance, however harmless you may think that it is (like saying that you like to eat), someone will think that you have hidden agendas, are being a poser, or you are just plain weird.
With technology the way that it is, everyone on the planet can look like a spy or a tech support worker (depending on how you wear your Bluetooth). We live in a time where information is streamlined at an alarming rate. We get speculation before we get facts, and we are left looking at normal everyday situations and wondering if we're watching the lead story on the 6 o'clock news unfold before our very eyes.
Is it the things going on in the world that our making us so unbelievably paranoid, or is it the way that we are being told to handle the things going on in our world?
I'll leave you with this Jim Morrisson lyric to put it those neon signs in perspective:
'People are strange/when you're are stranger/faces look ugly when you're alone. When you're strange/faces come out of the rain/When you're strange/when you're strange.'
We are all a bit suspicious and strange, but don't make my holiday travel worse by making every driver on the road think that their SUV is a 'Freedom Tank' that is on a vigilante mission to stop terror.
I'm just trying to survive the holidays 'Ovah Herrrrre.'
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