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Like many of the Blips, this was written from a GPS location, used as a writing prompt.
This one got me thinking about issues or privacy and what it actually means, in a world where every word you speak in private is recorded by the technology around you. Is privacy a right or is something that you earn?
And what better way is there to discuss this delicate topic than by writing a silly short story about a man in a toilet?
So, this is what happens when boredom and caffeine hit a creative mind in equal quantities.
Video - Hunk - Flashes
Everyone Needs a Hobby
She sat down in a hard wooden chair and the metal legs scraped noisily along the tiled floor.
The room was small and impersonal and the lighting was far too harsh. When it closed, the door did so with a very secure latch and left no doubt in your mind that you weren’t getting out. Fortunately, she was a lawyer and was free to come and go as she pleased, but just being in there always filled her with a mild sense of dread, as if something was crawling around in her mind, hunting down her own sense of guilt.
She had mentioned all this to a friend one night, during drinks after work, and they had laughed about it. Her friend, a more experienced legal representative had told her that, as a lawyer there was plenty of things on their minds to be guilty about, but, also as a lawyer, they didn’t really feel guilty about any of it.
“I’m here to represent you, Mr Mann,” she said with a sigh. She hadn’t had the fortune to meet him before and her first impression wasn’t entirely positive. “I’m working Pro Bono for the under-privileged, and I’ve selected your case.” In fact, she had simply asked for the simplest one. She didn’t feel guilty about that at all.
He was hunched over the table that stood between them, and there was a faint aroma of something that her brain could only apply the tag ‘apathy’ to, since he smelt, for all intents and purposes, of a complete lack of personal attention. His clothes visually screamed it out, in case anyone’s nostrils didn’t receive the message His shirt was vaguely cream-coloured but might not have been white at some point; it just as likely may have been. It had a yellow stain running across the left shoulder that appeared to be in just the right place where you would expect it to be if he had leaned over and wiped his nose on it. She felt unpleasantly certain that this was exactly what had happened. She wouldn’t be touching this appalling man, she decided.
His hair was closely cropped in some places, less closely cropped in other, and faded from dark brown to grey around the sides. His face was beset with deep lines and his face had the rugged quality of a sun-bleached gravel path.
He grinned, flashing a set of yellowing teeth at her. “I was arrested,” he said. “I didn’t do anything wrong, so this should be an easy case for you.”
She rolled her eyes and snapped open the brass locks of her expensive, tan leather briefcase. “Quite,” she said, pulling out his arrest report. She paused briefly to run her eyes over it. “It says here that you were arrested installing a camera in a public toilet.”
“Exactly,” he said, nodding in agreement. Clearly, inside his head, this was all perfectly fine.
“The report states that when the police entered your house, they found over two hundred videos of people in toilets,” she said. She felt herself sighing inwardly, and cringing a little bit too. This was going to be another weird one, she thought. He certainly looked the part. But, if her career was to progress, then this had to happen. Sleeping with her boss certainly hadn’t helped.
“Exactly,” he said again, but slightly more darkly. “They had no right to enter my house.”
“They did have the legal right,” she told him. “You’d been arrested and changed with several offences, and the suspicion of several even more serious ones.”
“Then the law is wrong,” he said, narrowing his eyes beneath a pair of bushy, unkempt eyebrows.
“Sometimes,” she admitted. “But, in a case where a man is discovered putting up surveillance cameras to watch people in toilets, I think the law is probably largely correct.”
“I disagree,” he said firmly.
She sighed to herself and wished she was in a bar, sipping a cocktail and telling this story to friends, rather than being in the immediate vicinity of someone who was very slowly making her regret her ability to draw breath. She said, “I’m not saying that I don’t care what you think, just that that would likely be the judge’s position. You see, it doesn’t matter what you think about the law, it only matters about the law, and when you take videos of people in toilets, you’ve broken the law. I think that’s pretty clear.”
“How?” he said with a sickening smile and she found herself presuming he was single. She checked the form to confirm it because, for some reason, she found the question fascinating.
“It’s not legal to take videos of people on the toilet!” she told him with a frown. “Everyone knows that.”
“It was a public toilet,” he said.
“Yes,” she admitted with a grumble, “But a public toilet doesn’t mean you can come and take pictures of people using it. It means it’s free for anyone to use.”
“Exactly,” he said. “And that’s how I use a public toilet. I take videos.”
“I think the intention is that you use it as a toilet,” she huffed indignantly.
“Well that doesn’t matter,” he said with a cruel little laugh.
“What?” she snapped in surprise.
“Well it’s not that I don’t care what you think,” he began sarcastically, “it’s just that we’re discussing the law here and what you consider the intention to be doesn’t really come into it. It’s about the fact that the toilets are public, and not private.”
“That doesn’t make any sense,” she said and then frowned. “Wait, what do you mean? All toilets are private!”
“Public toilets aren’t!” he told her. He sat back and looked thoughtfully up to the ceiling, huffing to himself. “Have you ever been having a conversation at a bar when someone comes over and listens in?”
“What?” she said, a smile cracking on her lips at the ridiculousness of his logic. “It’s hardly the same thing.”
“But you know the situation, where some self-righteous person will suddenly say, ‘excuse me, this is a private conversation’, ignoring the fact that they chose to have it in the middle of a public place,” he said.
“Yes!” she scowled. “Don’t tell me you do that too?”
“Don’t worry,” he grinned. “I didn’t get arrested for it.”
She rolled her eyes.
“It’s the same with toilets,” he told her. “You see, when you get right down to it, all of your actions are in the public domain. It’s even more true if the action is done in a public place.”
She narrowed her eyes at him. “Don’t be ridiculous,” she said, allowing herself, against her better judgement, to be drawn into his nonsense. “If a person was making love, for instance, that’s a private thing. You have no right to know anything about it.”
“You’re being ridiculous!” he told her with a slightly smug smile. “What if they’re having sex in public, down a alley behind a pub. I didn’t get arrested for that, either, before you ask.”
“Well that’s their own business!” she told him firmly, as her temper began to fray and her frustration grew to replace it. The image in her mind sickened her, especially since it reminded her of the promotion she hadn’t been offered.
He laughed and it was the sound of a fluffy, beautiful puppy with the sweetest fur and big, round eyes gazing at her with innocent wonder, being shoved feet-first into a wood-chipper.
“What a load of crap,” he said as his laughter trailed off.
She was so angry that her words temporarily escaped her.
He continued, “If people are having sex in public, they can actually be arrested for it, can’t they? It’s actually classed as ‘public indecency’ and that’s a crime, right?”
She frowned deeply, highly offended that he was undeniably correct. Rather than admit that, or that she herself had been guilty of it, she said, “Have you indecently exposed yourself too?”
“Of course not,” he told her. “I’m a very private person.”
She gave him a sneering smirk and said, rather unnecessarily proudly, “Then why do you insist on stealing the privacy of others by recording them in a public toilet?”
He gazed back with an even expression. He said simply, “Because it’s public.”
“You really don’t see what you’ve done wrong, do you?” she said, not wanting to get any further drawn into a pointless debate.
“Explain it to me,” he said with a grin.
“You’ve recorded people during a private, vulnerable moment,” she snapped.
“… in a public place.”
She rolled her eyes at this impossible man. “There were locked doors between you and the people using the toilets. Didn’t that tell you something?”
“Yes!” he said, nodding as if she was finally catching on. “It told me that they didn’t expect any real privacy. They were behind a door with a gap at the top and bottom and were right next to other people, separated only by a thin sheet of wood. The lock would have broken if someone pushed against it, so the only reason nobody would have seen what they were doing is if nobody chose to.”
She shook her head in dismay. How could he be so horribly adjusted, she wondered to herself.
“Can you tell me why you did it?” she said, hoping to get this over with as quickly as possible.
“No,” he said firmly. “That’s private.”
“What?” she cried out. “That’s private? You’re seriously telling me that you think your reasons are more private than the poor man who was taking a dump?”
He grinned widely. “Of course!”
She looked at the arrest record for a moment. The victim was a quite handsome man, but he was certainly at a disadvantage with his pants around his ankles and an expression on his face like he had just found out that his puppy had died and, as a consequence, his wood-chipper needed cleaning.
She just shook her head at all this. It was a case that meant nothing, and the meeting should have ended. She decided it was time for that to happen.
It seemed he felt otherwise. “You see, the reasons I do things, the thoughts inside my head are the only things that are really private,” he told her. “What actions I take, the things that I do, anyone can see those. I can’t control who sees me doing what, and don’t have any control how they feel about it. What I can control, and what is only my business and nobody else’s, is what goes on inside my head. Nobody can see that, so that’s entirely mine.”
“You’re insane,” she told him, but frowned curiously.
“Will you tell me why you think so?” he said. “Will you tell me why you’re a lawyer? Will you tell me what you think of me?”
“I think it’s best if I don’t,” she told him.
He nodded. “There is no privacy and there never was. There are only secrets, secrets we trust others to keep for us. We never had any power over our actions and the way other see us. It’s a delusion, if you ask me.”
She glared at him. “I didn’t.”
“Because you never thought about it,” he suggested. “It’s like internet privacy. People always moan about webistes stealing their information but they know those websites will, and they use them anyway. Privacy isn’t a right, it’s a privilege. It has to be earned.”
“The law doesn’t agree,” she said coldly.
“Have you ever thought about it?” he asked.
Succinctly, she replied, “No.” As far as she was concerned, the matter was now closed.
“So you’ll defend me?” he asked.
She gritted her teeth angrily. “Yes,” she said. “It’s my job.”
“And you do it for free,” he said. “You must be a really good person.”
She looked at him and narrowed her eyes. She nodded and said sourly, “Yes. I am a very good person.”
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