top of page

Freak-Out Time

Cartoon sketch of a man on a laptop computer, surrounded by eyes hovering around him. Illustration by Earle Levenstein.

Now, I'm not just talking to you, as in "you and me."

Or you and I.

I mean all of us.

They're watching.

No news to me; I'm pretty sure it's no news to you, right?

I've sort of known in a kind of detached way that some computer program somewhere is keeping track of whatever I do on my iPhone, my iPad, my laptop, the big screen, or when I'm engaged by something on Facebook; anywhere that's connected to the internet.

I sort of had reminders of this when I'd Google a question about a phrase, or a symptom of some kind—my neurotic self, certain that I'm suffering from some dread disease—and next thing I know, I see some allergy medication ad pop up somewhere on the screen.

I just sort of notice, but nothing more. Who cares, you know? What's the big deal? Small potatoes. Somebody's selling something and looking for potential customers. Right? That's advertising, something I was involved with for many years: identifying the audience, marketing, groups, automobiles, lowest to highest cost, incomes, taste, "this is like that" and so "this could be the same" customer, focus groups, test-marketing, panels, mostly generalities, assumptions, less specific than now, same goal.

But different world.

I mean, in the past, from watching people passing by in the street and categorizing them by the estimated cost of their clothing to the actual price of everything they're wearing, plus, where they bought it, the location of the store and neighboring restaurants, what food they might have eaten, and so forth. Detective work.

But if you bought online, jackpot.

Your name, address, everything you've done, and wherever you've gone in the past, and and and…

Well, guys, it's a big deal.

My example: totally personal, creepy specific, freak-out.

I mean, I write, I draw; stuff goes on in my head day and night. As I've mentioned before, the big question I'm asked from time to time is "Where'd you get that idea?" And I'd respond, truthfully, "I really don't know." I just have some free-floating image, a fleeting thought or a feeling of kind; it's really impossible to nail down.

So here's what happened a few days ago.

I'm not only a procrastinator, I'm a re-reader. I check every thought, word, or sequence of ideas before committing to printing a blog post, a book, or a cartoon, and this time, I've been spending inordinate hours of time going over each of last year's blog drawings and redrawing several.

I got to one drawing —accompanying the blog about pharmaceutical companies and my rage at their commercials; images of happy, dancing people while a voice races through the difficult-to-read warnings at the bottom of the screen— of a fast-talking traveling salesman holding a bottle and grinning at us and I just didn't like it and I started sketching and what I drew — from where it came, I do not know— was someone holding up a drug package and grinning at us and his nose was very long and of course, he was Pinocchio.

So, then, I —typical me— Googled Pinocchio and instantly up popped a series of Pinocchio book jackets, prices, the works; very and there in the row was the original I remembered: Pinocchio by Collodi, a wooden character, no joke, not a cute nose at all;

Back to my drawing, and that was that.

First thing in the morning, I'm up, checking the news, and what do I see? Out of the blue, an ad: that very page of Pinocchio books I'd seen the night before. Lined up, with prices and a vendor.

No rhyme nor reason for it to be there.

I mean, who's looking for Pinocchio?

Disney's animated cartoon was many moons ago.

Since then? Nada.

Until me.

I mean, They —whoever "They" are— got it, nailed it, posted it. An ad; who bought it? Somebody? Nobody? Who knows?

Suddenly, for me, the whole deal creeped me out; it was an ad totally posted for me, personally; they saw me, they can see me, that's all I needed to start up my paranoia, knowing that I'm being watched.

They know what I read, what and where I eat, about my migraines, about my flights, where I go, where I stay, who my friends are, family, schools, feelings, ideas, eyeglass prescription, what I read, my plans…

Me. Me. Me.

Creepy-crawly folks.

Watch it.

Not my paranoia talking.

That's all I can say.

Watch it.

bottom of page