Nowadays, it’s harder to be sneaky. Google Nest Cam indoors. Blink or Ring outdoors – with motion-activated floodlights and loudspeakers. Camera eyes, watching us at home, watching out for us on vacation. Our lives on camera everywhere.
Makes me paranoid in my own home. I’m a sporadic insomniac. Sometimes, I’ll wake up shortly after midnight, check for the new Creative Caffeine prompt so it infiltrates my dreams, and then I’ll read. Choosing a book or written article that’s not too exciting; boring enough hopefully to put me back to sleep before dawn.
In the morning over a cup of strong black coffee (because, of course, I never really went back to sleep,) my husband will say, “What were you up to last night?” He’s checked his cam videos and seen me padding around. Downstairs for a tablespoon of peanut butter that I can lick off the spoon as I page through my iPhone messages and the news, which is guaranteed to keep me up. Or, true confessions, I play Wordle. For whatever reason – no distractions, focused brain – I solve the 5-letter word puzzle faster in the middle of the night than during the day. There’s no point in being elusive with my husband. My whereabouts have been recorded.
In the old days, there were more ways to get away with being sneaky. You know, the trick of going to the “Corner Store” for milk for the kids. Lately, my daughter has been tracking me on Google Maps using location sharing. She says it’s for my own safety as I learn my way around SF. I feel watched, tracked, in jeopardy of losing my autonomy. I got sidetracked last year on my way walking to her house. She suspected something was up. “Why’d you stop at Clement and 30th?” she grilled me. “Your tracking pin didn’t move for 15 minutes.”
So I had to come clean. “I saw a garage sale, and couldn’t pass it up,” I confessed and held up the lacquerware box I bought for one dollar. A find, even though I didn’t really need it.
There are many levels to sneakiness. My toddler grandson has a newly developed interest in scavenger hunts. The obsession most likely started with last month’s Easter egg hunt. He loved collecting the plastic eggs filled with gold-foiled chocolate coins and miniature plastic dinosaurs. Now, he’s hiding potatoes, small Yukons that I prefer for making “smashed” potatoes from The New York Times No-Recipe Cookbook. When I go to the pantry drawer for the tubers, I find it empty. And the search is on. Potatoes in the play kitchen, nesting in the pasta bags, guarding the stuffed “lovies” napping in their beds. He squeals with delight when we find them one-by-one.
His sneakiness is innocent. I’ve met adults whose sneakiness is obsessive. At a support group for alcoholics, a recovering mother/wife divulged her secrets as part of her healing journey. (Must have been a long trip.) To fool her husband, she emptied the Chlorox bottle and refilled it with vodka so she could sneak a drink while doing the laundry. She did a lot of laundry. When she drove, her backup cocktail was stored in the car’s window wash container. That’s sneakiness beyond my imagination.
I’m going to stick with my own devices. Short paragraphs written in a journal while I’m sitting on the sand at an empty Ocean Beach or claiming an isolated bench in Golden Gate Park. No cameras nearby, no spying eyes. Then, returning home, I’ll hide the journal where no one will look. My back to the camera’s eye, blocking my body as I lean down and tuck it into the laundry basket with clothes that have their own dirty secrets.