Too Much Information: A Cautionary Tale

This morning I continued reading a book that I had gotten from the FREE BOOKSTORE in Jersey City.  It a biography of Frida Kahlo and anyone who knows me, knows how her striking paintings changed my life.  The woman’s life was just amazing.

So I’ve been reading since this morning.  It was sort of like this: made some breakfast, went back to reading, made some lunch, went back to reading, went to the bathroom, went back to reading…you get the idea.  Each page was so much more compelling than that idiot tube we call “television” or sitting in my living room like a zombie ready to gobble up my neighbor’s brains–

But the book has these reference points in it where you can flip ahead to see old photos of Frida or her family members as well as various works created during specific moments in her life.  In one of these flip-page moments, I had an awkward moment where my beverage came very close to spilling all over and as I instantaneously put my cat-like reflexes to good use salvaging the book, I saw some slips of paper stuck between its pages.  Now, these moments quickly spark the imagination of any artist, especially writers like myself.  We immediately go to that creative place where we imagine that some profound old note to an unrequited lover had been found after having been lost in the mail during a military conflict–or, some such historical event.  We imagine a secret exchange of notes between friends in the library, attempting to adhere to The Golden Rule.  We imagine a famous quote penned by its author just before dying which will somehow come out now to inspire mankind.  Or, something like that.

What I found though was something more worrisome, not sinister.  There were two receipts of a prior reader of the book (a woman) which included her credit card information and her social security number–in its entirety.  What was more disturbing is just how many times it was printed on the receipt: three times so anyone who was nefarious enough to want to steal this person’s identity could do so quite easily with this vital information.  Being the ethical person that I am, I quickly “blacked out” the person’s personal information but it set my writer brain into motion.

The receipts were from the past (2003), and I know that security has boosted up quite a bit.  However, during the holiday season, Target had a breach that amounted to customers having to get “new” cards issued and resulted in the company’s offer to pay for a year’s worth of security for its customers.

We live in a world where everything is fast-paced and readily accessible.  I can’t even ride the underground subway system without using more “convenient” methods of handling the morning rush crowds.  However, I’ve often been swindled out of cash because I’d lost the flimsy Metrocard, or just didn’t know any better and was taken advantage of by Smartcard hustlers who prey on unsuspecting commuters trying to figure out the system.  It’s gotten so I can’t think straight sometimes when it comes to the various choices I have in Shampoo brands or types of way to watch television (wait, honey should I get Hulu Plus or Netflix and how much will it cost extra if I get the Apple TV module to connect to my SmartTV?).  It’s all become TOO MUCH.

So maybe this person was just careless.  Maybe they didn’t realize that their personal information was all over their store receipt.  Most companies now issue receipts without the full digits of your credit cards and social security numbers.  Maybe they were preoccupied with other things like perhaps the book I’m reading was a library book that was way overdue or was a borrowed book which she longed to return to her friend who then pawned it off to the free bookstore before perusing its pages.  I’ll never know.

But I issue this post to remind people to take their time.  The only reason I almost spilled my glass of its contents was because I was trying to rush. There was no reason really; I was just trying to be more efficient, get it done, be quicker and it would’ve cost me a damaged book.  Some things when they’re lost can be replaced: your house keys, your wallet, cash.  Other things are terrifying to lose and can result in long-term consequences: one’s virginity, self-respect, identity theft.  Some things are so precious and cannot be replaced once lost: one’s innocence, a letter from a sick or dying friend, the last photograph you took with someone you love.

Guard your hearts, your lives and your minds.  Remember: Less. Is. More.

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About Mema

I've been at this blogging thing since 2005, but I don't consider myself a veteran AT ALL. My posts are mostly well-meaning, fun anecdotes with the occasional random thought and a dash of humor for good measure. So sit back, relax, and stay awhile. And if you decide to browse elsewhere, just remember...you're missing out on an opportunity to meet (arguably) THE GREATEST PERSON THAT EVER LIVED. Overstated? Well, why not stick around to find out? Your call, tough guy. Or, gal. Or, martian.
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