"From this hour I ordain myself loos'd of limits and imaginary lines, going where I list, my own master total and absolute, Listening to others, considering well what they say, Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating, Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me."
Walt Whitman (1819-92)
"When I look back now over my life and call to mind what I might have had simply for taking and did not take, my heart is like to break."
Akhenaton (d. c.1354 BC)
And now, the current weather, from some random person we pulled off the street:
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
spec-ta-tor Function: noun Etymology: Latin, from spectare to watch 1 : one who looks on or watches 2 : what we are becoming a world of.
I was just browsing.
It was the slow time of night when I usually stop doing important things and just play around. In other words, technically it was morning, but still night for me.
This night I had hooked up a webcam to my computer, and since none of my friends were on Yahoo I figured I would visit some of the hundreds of webcam communities that have popped up in the last few years.
Technology fascinates me.
So I flip through my search engine and find a service that doesn't seem to feature naked women, and load it up for a look see.
Looking at webcams is oddly addictive. Here on my computer screen is a window into other lives, other stories, other lifestyles.
Maybe this one is a student, his college books piled high as he studies and chats simultaneously. Maybe that one is a mother, absently monitering some chat room or other while she is ironing. Or maybe here is an old couple, perhaps talking to their grandkids 1,000 miles away, or just hoping to run across some long lost friends.
They had the whole parade. Ugly, pretty, fat, slim, young, old and everything in between.
I was flipping from one to another, finding all of them interesting but none enough to cause me to stop for any length of time (there was way to much to see, after all) when I came across one that looked like hundreds of others, but ended up stopping me in my tracks.
The image was of a lady from the neck down to the desktop, wearing normal clothes, and impossible to tell what age she was or anything about her except that she was not too fat, not too skinny, etc. I was just clicking on the next cam when a man's torso came between her and the camera. But right there, centered for a moment, was something I will never forget.
The man was hiding a gun behind his back.
I froze mid click.
I watched as they proceeded to do a sort of a dance, walking to and fro, obviously talking animatedly, moving back and forth and at times even all in a circle. Yet, the entire time the man kept the pistol hidden behind him, out of her sight.
Oh my God, I thought. What on Earth was I watching?
I started another browser and loaded the cam's profile. It was blank. Nothing. Not even a home town. Not a name. I didn't know what this lady looked like, how old she was, who she was, where she was, who she might be friends with. There was nothing I could do.
I watched in rising panic as they continued to move around, more and more agitatedly. Still, he kept the pistol hidden, finger on the trigger.
Then suddenly, he appeared to push her off to one side and they went off screen. I stared for what seemed like eternity at that empty chair. "She'll come back and I'll know it's all right. She'll come back and sit down."
Thirty minutes later, the man appeared on screen and sat down. He seemed to be typing, but the server said he wasn't in chat. Then, the cam froze and the connection was lost. She had never returned.
And, I realised, in the horror of the moment I had not even remembered the nickname on the cam.
Did I witness a charade? Or was it something far worse and more sinister? I'll never know.
But, had there been any information in the profile, perhaps some authorities could have been notified. Then again, we have a right to our privacy, and in the case of women on line, there is a serious safety issue that arises when too much information is given out. That's why so many on cam sites won't show their faces when they are in public view. It's too dangerous.
But after seeing what I saw, I don't have to tell you I was shaken. Deeply. When someone gives us permission to look in on their lives like that, what do we do when something appears to be going terribly wrong? Do we even have any responsibility in such a case?
Stella: We've become a race of Peeping Toms. What people oughta do is get outside their own house and look in for a change. Yes, sir. How's that for a bit of homespun philosophy? Jeff: Readers Digest, April 1939. Stella: Well, I only quote from the best. --"Rear Window", Alfred Hitchcock