It was a couple of months ago or so, I suppose. I lay in my bed, near midnight and close to crossing over to Dreamland. As I do every night out of fear that I've missed something that couldn't wait until morning, I picked up my iPhone and disinterestedly began scrolling through my Facebook timeline. Not really paying attention, my finger continued flipping the page upward when suddenly I heard a woman's voice. I dropped the phone beside me on the bed and sat up, my ears perking up like a Doberman contemplating an attack. I listened intently to the silence, pondering my next move. Should I reach for my twelve gauge shotgun loaded with double ought buckshot? No, I thought, perhaps the woman that voice belonged to was nothing more than lonely...as lonely as me on any given night. With no further sounds to be heard, I settled back down and resumed my thoughtless stroll through Facebook. Suddenly the sound of a raging bull elephant once again jerked me upright. There are no elephants in west Texas, I told myself and glancing down at my phone I observed a video of, yes, a charging elephant.
For years I have had my Facebook settings set to 'Do Not Auto-play Stupid Videos' and for years, my phone had obeyed. That night something had changed...well, namely Facebook. Not only did videos take on a life of their own, but there were thousands of them and nestled inside nearly every video were ads. Unlike Youtube, Facebook gave me no option to 'Skip Ad.' I had to endure them. I knew then that Facebook was up to something.
Soon afterward, Facebook made an announcement that they 'were returning to their roots.' Facebook's valued customers would now see posts from their friends and family, rather than countless corporations, news outlets, and celebrity gossip mongers. Yes, Facebook was kicking all those folks to the curb. And you know what? For the two weeks following that announcement, I actually began seeing posts from friends I had forgotten I had. Honestly, I've never met many of my Facebook friends, but it was refreshing to see something other than cat videos and 'people expressing their political beliefs' videos.
So, how is it going six weeks later? I'm going to saunter over to my Facebook page and see which of my friends have posted something...be right back.
Okay, here are some folks who have posted in the last few minutes: AARP, Southern Living, Sports Illustrated, Governor Greg Abbott, NBC News, Silver Singles, Yahoo, Netflix...none of these people are really my friends. So, what happened? Money...buddy!
All of these entities pay Facebook money to show their posts. Apparently, the video ads just aren't pulling their weight. To hell with your friends and family! If they want you to see their posts, they will have to pony up the money because Facebook is greedy, greedy, greedy! How much money is enough? Well, in July of last year, Facebook hit the 500 billion dollar mark, so apparently, that's not enough. No sir, they are going to force us to watch thousands of videos with advertising inserted inside them and shoot for 1,000 billion dollars. Is that a trillion? I don't know. I still have a jar of pennies on my dresser.
So here's my beef. I have three Facebook pages where I promote my books, websites, etc. Somewhere along the way throughout the years, folks have stumbled across these pages and 'liked' them, indicating that they wish to see content from these pages on their timeline. Facebook has continually put the squeeze on Facebook pages such as mine, choosing to only allow around 5 - 7% of the people who apparently wish to see this content to actually see it. After this recent change, it has dropped to around 1 - 3%, that is, unless we pay their ransom money. Now, in all fairness, it's Facebook's social media site, not mine and if they wish to charge me and millions of others money, it's their prerogative. But the fact is...it just doesn't work. Here's the other side that most of you don't see:
Facebook: Boost Your Post for $10
Your post "This week's story..." is performing better than 95% of posts on that Page. Boost it for $10 to reach up to 3,900 more people.
Now, my very best post ever was one I paid Facebook twenty dollars to 'boost' on their promise that I could reach up to 13,000 more people. A whopping 493 people were reached through paid advertising. And the results were heartbreaking. I made not a single penny, but Facebook made twenty bucks off of me.
So, how does this affect you? We let the privacy issues slide a decade ago. We overlook Facebook's facial recognition technology. Not only can they put a name to your face, they know where you work, where you live, how many kids you have. They know your friends and family. They know whether you swing right or left, or gay, for that matter. They know if you attend church and where, and yes, they know whether you are happily married or not, and if not, they likely know who you're sleeping with on the side. Yes, they know everything about you, all two billion of you. That's not the worst of Facebook, though.
Former President Obama even touched on it in a conversation with David Letterman on his Netflix talk show 'My Next Guest.' He mentioned that social media decides what America sees and hears, which is obviously whatever they want us to. With all of that information Facebook gleans from our pages and profiles, they determine what they want us to see, or not see. Think of such a powerful sword they swing! And with that sword, they swing the American people whichever way they wish. Welcome to the America that Facebook created.
I am a small town boy. Not really a boy anymore, but that's how we Texans describe ourselves, you know, like 'good ol' boy.' Small towns are full of good ol' boys...laid back and easy going. Small town boys gather at the local coffee shop and drink their coffee black, unlike city folks who hang out at a Starbucks. We put in a hard day's work. We attend our kids' ball games. We wear our blue jeans to church every Sunday. We tend to stand firm in our beliefs and cling to our values and our hunting rifles. All in all, not much riles us up. The outside world is somewhere on another planet. Nobody gets murdered here and there's not too many break-ins because everybody knows we have those hunting rifles and we aren't afraid to use them. Yes, laid back and easy going and that's not always a good thing. Take last week, for example.
My daughter had come home from college for the weekend. She unloaded her car with ten suitcases of clothes which would hopefully get her through Saturday and Sunday, and when she shut the car door, the lock fell off. Just fell in the dirt. I fiddled with it for an hour or so and well, it's a Ford and don't get me started on that. I decided I'd have to take it to the Ford House on Monday which presented two problems. My daughter had to be back at college on Monday and it was highly likely that I'd have to walk home from the Ford House since it typically takes them ten days to fix anything. Luckily we have a spare car that she could drive and we drove the Ford to the shop on Sunday afternoon. I'd just go down on Monday morning and tell the mechanic to fix the lock. It still presented me with the problem of getting the car back home, but I decided I'd cross that bridge when I came to it.
I walked into the Ford house bright and early Monday morning with the defective lock in hand. The man at the service counter nodded and told me they tend to do that, just fall off in the dirt...and they'd get 'er fixed sooner or later. As I walked out to my pickup, my phone rang. It was the realtor.
My dear old mama passed away last June and lucky me, had been cursed with the job of executor of the estate and that's another story I'll tell some other time. I had been trying to sell her house for months. I had an eager buyer since November. They had cash money. And it's February...that's where that laid back and easy going small town way of life comes into play. I would venture to guess that not more than a dozen houses are sold in our podunk little town on a yearly basis, yet three months after the buyer and seller shook hands on an agreement, the house still stood vacant. The realtor had originally set the closing date on December 31st, but it seems the two people working at the only title company in town were out of pocket, one with a surgery and the other having a baby. Reluctantly, the buyer and myself agreed to postpone the closing date to January 31st.
On January 30th, I called the realtor concerning the closing, expressing my fears that the buyer might back out if we didn't close the next day.
"Well, you know they're dealing with some health issues down there. I don't know if we will close tomorrow or not. You know that one woman had a baby..."
I bristled and replied, "That baby is crawling by now."
Apparently, the lawyer overseeing the probate of my mom's estate owns the title company. With the realtor now cracking her whip, he took on the chore of preparing the paperwork, with the assurance that the house would close by the end of the day. But there was another problem...
Keep in mind the original closing date was December 31st. The weatherman forecasted temperatures dropping down to five degrees for several nights during the first week of January. I had kept the utilities on at the house for the six months since my mom's passing. However, it had slipped my attention that during those six months, I had not received a gas bill. On the first week of January, I got a notice in the mail that due to not paying the bill for six months, the gas had been shut off. At five degrees, I knew every water line in the house would burst. I frantically called the city water department and told them to turn off the water.
The girl on the other end of the phone tartly responded, "I can't disconnect the water unless the person whose name is on the bill calls."
"She's dead! I'm the executor of the estate! I need the water turned off!"
"Well, you will have to bring us something official that shows you are the executor of the estate!"
Later that afternoon, having appeased that wench down at the water department, I pulled up at the house. A city water employee was getting into his truck.
"We got it shut off for ya!" he shouted in his good ol' boy accent and drove away.
I went into the house to drain the water out of the pipes. For thirty minutes I drained the water, but it kept coming...a stream about the thickness of a pencil. The water wasn't completely off. I called the wench back.
"The water isn't completely off! It's supposed to get down to five degrees tonight. I need it off!"
"No. It shows the water has been disconnected. It's off."
I held the phone to the faucet so she could hear the water running.
"Well. it's four-thirty. We're all winding down for the day..."
And as one would expect, a pipe in the bathroom burst that night, flooding the entire house.
The good ol' boy from the water department came out the following day.
"Must be a defective water meter. I'll just pull it off and that will stop the water. I know you'll need water when the plumber comes to fix that leak. Just give me a call and I'll put another one on for ya."
Fast forward to last Friday:
The attorney called to inform me they had the paperwork ready but wouldn't close on the house until the leak was fixed. I called the wench at the water department and explained the situation.
"Well, we can't put a meter on until the buyer comes down here and puts up a deposit."
"But we can't close on the house until a plumber fixes a leak and he can't find the leak without water."
"I will have to have a deposit from the new owners, that's final."
Well, it wasn't final. I called the realtor and at exactly 11:40 that morning, the good ol' boy from the water department pulled up to the curb.
"Yeah, just let me grab some lunch and I'll be back at one. Go ahead and call the plumber."
"Okay, but whatever you do, don't turn the water on. You'll flood the house."
I met the plumber at the house at exactly 1:15 pm. We walked into the house, which was flooded because the good ol' boy from the water department had turned the water on. The plumber lumbered out to his truck and came back into the bathroom with of all things, a hammer. He watched me mop the floor for a moment and with one powerful swing, destroyed the wall.
"Let's see if we can find where that leak is." he said in his good ol' boy tone of voice.
An hour later the leak, which he discovered was in the attic after tearing up the bathroom wall, was repaired. I stared at the gaping hole in the wall as the plumber handed me the bill.
"You know of anyone who does sheetrock work?" I asked, thinking surely of all people, a plumber with a hammer might.
"Naw," he drawled in his good ol' boy tone.
Standing in three inches of water, I called the attorney.
"The leak is fixed."
"Just bring me a copy of the plumber's bill. Oh, and you'll have to fix that wall before we can close on the house."
My eyes darted around the tiny bathroom, searching for a hidden camera.
I walked into the attorney's office last Thursday. He was leaned back in a leather chair in typical good ol' boy fashion, his hands behind his head. Sitting upright, he reached toward his desk and handed me a check.
"That's what you've been waiting on." he said in his good ol' boy tone of voice.
"Yeah, for three months," I replied, forcing a smile.
"I'm sorry it took so long. That's just the way things go around here."
"Oh, I know," I responded with a guffaw, "believe me, I know how things go around here."
As I stepped out into the sunlight with a check in hand, my phone rang.
A sultry southern voice on the other end spoke in my ear, "Hi, this is the Ford House. Your car is ready to pick up."
I stared at the check and shrugged it off. I had forgotten about the car.
"Think I'll go down to the Dairy Queen and get a steak finger basket," I spoke out loud to no one in particular in my good ol' boy tone of voice. I let out a sigh of relief as I felt that laid back, easy going good ol' boy feeling sweep over me
I just read an article about a law enforcement officer who was asked to leave an Outback Steakhouse in Cleveland, Tennessee because he was in uniform and carrying his weapon. Outback, as some other national establishments, prohibits their patrons from entering their premises with firearms, apparently including law enforcement officers on duty. Digging deeper into this story, it seems that on this particular occasion, there had been another customer dining at the Outback who became unhinged and feared for her life when the officer walked by her with his holstered weapon because 'police are shooting people.' Even after expelling the officer from their establishment, this customer demanded to be escorted to her vehicle for fear of being shot, by the hungry officer, I presume.
Of course, in the aftermath, Outback has publicly made a confession that perhaps it was a bad judgment call on their end and extended to the officer a peace offering of a gift card to 'make things right.' I'm just guessing he still needs to leave his gun at home before taking them up on their offer.
It is not my intent to bash Outback Steakhouse, but rather to shine a light on what kind of people are out there. The customer who over-reacted at the sight of him obviously is living in a superficial bubble, oblivious to the real world surrounding her. I've mentioned before that I worked inside a prison for twenty-three years. I am not one of those living in a bubble. Cops carry guns for good reason...namely, there are very bad people out there on the street. Most of you who think you're in touch with the real world have no clue how bad some of these people are. Two weeks before my retirement date, I had a man stand before me in the middle of a prison yard and say,
"I should kill you where you stand."
He meant it. He didn't have a gun and neither did I so we both just shrugged it off and went on our way, but had he been in that Outback Steakhouse, he might have said the same thing to that customer who fears police officers who carry guns. There are worse people than that guy out there. They don't tell you they want to kill you...they just do it. From the heights of a hotel in Vegas, or standing at the door of a church in rural Texas, they kill people.
The church I attend is assembling a 'safety team' and sending them to training just in case there ever comes a time these men are needed to thwart some individual who walks in with a gun and starts killing innocent men, women, and children. This is the world we live in and we can't allow our society to get the point where we force those who are willing to lay their lives on the line to protect us to leave whenever some 'bubblehead' gets twisted at the sight of a gun on the hip of a police officer.
There are a lot of dangerous people out there and not all of them want to kill us. If enough of the 'bubbleheads' like that customer at the Outback join together, the safety of our country is in jeopardy. We cannot just 'wish something away.' We cannot spend our lives staring into our smartphones and pretending there is not evil in the world. The rest of us 'normal' people do not have to take on the responsibility of appeasing the 'bubbleheads.' Had I been the manager of that Outback Steakhouse who found himself confronted by a customer who has problems with police officers, my response would have been,
"May I get you a 'to-go' box, ma'am?"
As I mentioned, there are more than a few of what I consider dangerous people walking around amongst us. For example, the chick who flushed a live hampster down the toilet on an airliner because she wasn't allowed to bring it on board. Flushing a live hampster down a toilet is a red flag in itself, but as she claimed, having the need for a hamster as a 'support animal' is a really big red flag for me. If someone cannot get through their day without a hampster clinging to their shirt, they have issues. They definitely belong in the 'bubblehead' category. If I were flying, I'd rather sit next to a cop with a gun than some chick pining away for a hampster she just flushed down the toilet. I wonder which situation the woman from Outback would prefer.
We sit, on a nightly basis, and watch TV shows about bad people. They usually shoot a cop or two before the entire force shows up and kills them. But that's just make-belief, it's pretend...fiction, right? Eventually we turn off the TV and pick up our smartphones and head off to bed where we sleep soundly with not a fear in the world because just outside our window we know there are police officers patrolling our street, their guns strapped to their hips, protecting us from all those make-believe 'bad guys' who don't really exist...not in the bubble we live in. You know, that world inside our smartphones? Maybe we're all bubbleheads...
At precisely 1:00 pm on January 31, myself and my short-legged dog loaded up in the pickup and drove down my dirt road the length of a football field to the mailbox. I held my breath as I reached out and opened it. It was at that moment my biggest fear of the past thirty-one days became a stark reality. My very first retirement check ever in the entirety of my sixty years on this earth...was not in that mailbox.
I had awakened every morning throughout January with a gnawing fear that something would go wrong. The prospect of actually achieving retirement seemed surreal. It had been too easy. I had walked into the boss's office and told him I was retiring. Three weeks later I signed my name to a stack of paperwork and walked out a free man. And every day since then I had this feeling of anxiety building to a climax. Had I really retired...or was I just unemployed? As I stared into that empty mailbox, my heart sank to the pit of my stomach. My bowels groaned in distress. But that could have been as a result of eating three-week-old taco meat for lunch that somehow had managed to hide itself in the back of the fridge.
In December I had received a letter from the Employee Retirement System of Texas, the folks who oversee all the state employees who had been turned out to pasture. It was very clear in stating that I would receive my first retirement check on the last business day of January, but it might be direct deposited or mailed. I'd began checking my online banking app the previous evening, and again every hour on the hour that fateful Wednesday. I had resolved myself to the fact that it would be in my mailbox. Yeah, if there is anything I learned from working for the state of Texas for twenty-three years, it's to never expect things to go as they should.
Back at the house, I sat and fretted. I should call the retirement people in Austin, I thought. My head swirled at the idea. The one time I had called them, I received that all too familiar recorded message:
'Hello, all representatives are currently busy. Your call is very important to us. Please remain on the line. Anticipated wait time for the next representative is twenty-two hours and eight minutes.'
"Okay," I told myself out loud, "do you really need this money today?"
I shook my head. The fact of the matter is I had decided to retire because I didn't need an eight to five job anymore, nor did I have time for one. But, it was the principle of the thing. They said I'd get my check on the last day of the month and I didn't.
But the anxiety would not pass. I paced the floor. I flipped channels on the TV. Finally, I broke my own cardinal rule. I laid down in the middle of the day and took a nap. I was awakened two hours later by a bad dream. A voice had kept repeating over and over, 'Your call is very important to us. Please remain on the line.'
I wiped the perspiration from my forehead and sat on the side of the bed, staring at the clock. I was literally going to give myself a heart attack worrying about that blasted retirement check. I needed a distraction, I decided, heading toward the bathroom for a shower. As the warm, soothing water hit my face, I decided I'd go up to the church and check out that Bible Study the pastor had mentioned last Sunday.
There was a mere handful of people gathered in the chapel that evening. We sang 'The Old Rugged Cross' with only a guitar accompanying us, me lip syncing right along with the others. Then we opened our Bibles for an hour and a half of just what I needed, a distraction...and what better distraction from my self-imposed distress than studying the Word.
As I drove home that night, I found myself very disappointed in me. Where was my faith? Not my faith in the Employee Retirement System of Texas, but my faith in God? Today I had doubted that God would take care of me. Had He ever failed before? Had I ever missed a meal or slept on a bench in a park? Never.
At precisely 1:00 pm on February 1, myself and my short-legged dog loaded up in the pickup and drove down my dirt road the length of a football field to the mailbox. I hesitated briefly and reached my hand toward the mailbox. Peaking at the bug-eyed canine in my back seat, I withdrew an envelope from the mailbox and exclaimed,
"Buckle up, Stinky! We're heading to the bank!"
A few years ago a local television station did a feature on a man who was legally blind. He had caught their attention when he joined a search for a neighbor who had been missing for over a week, mounting a 4-wheeler and scouring rugged terrain searching for a body. A young and very attractive reporter sat across a table interviewing the man and she finally asked the question that had been on my mind.
"So, how does a blind man such as yourself search for someone?"
He took a breath and smiled, looking her straight in the eye, and responded, "Well, I'm legally blind with 20/100 vision but I can still see blurry images. Take you for example. If you were sitting over there completely naked, I could tell you were naked. I just wouldn't get the full effect."
I fell out of my chair laughing. That man must surely be kin to me for I could see myself saying something stupid like that. Now, I told you that story to tell you this one:
I had cataract surgery last week. Everyone said it was no big deal. Wham Bamm and it's over. Liars, every damn one of them.
I showed up on time that morning and seated myself in a small crowded waiting room where a dozen or so other victims sat nervously waiting. One by one they disappeared behind a wooden door, escorted by a ravishingly beautiful blonde woman wearing bright blue scrubs. Finally, she appeared at the door and called my name, pointing to a small restroom just a few steps past the wooden door. She instructed me to remove my shirt and don one of those infamous backless hospital gowns. I spent fifteen minutes trying in vain to tie the thing behind my back when a knock came at the door.
"Are we doing alright in there? Do you need me to tie your gown?"
Well, this affair was starting out nicely, I thought as the nurse tied my strings much like a kindergarten teacher might do. She then led me to a staging area, telling me to make myself comfortable in a recliner of sorts, where a barrage of blonde nurses swarmed toward me.
" Do you have any dentures or partials that you need to remove before surgery? Are you wearing any contact lenses?"
Well, I put one in my good eye this morning so I could see to drive up here."
"You drove yourself to surgery? Take the contact out. Did you bring some glasses to wear?"
"No," I shook my head, "the last pair of glasses I bought was back in nineteen-ninety something. I still put them on when I go pee in the middle of the night. Never know when there might be s scorpion lurking about."
I obediently removed the contact and placed it in the container I had remembered to thrust into the pocket of my jeans just in case. And that's when everything went fuzzy. Another blonde nurse approached me, seating herself on a stool beside the recliner. She was close enough that I could tell she was even more attractive than the nurse that had tied my strings. Informing me that she would be putting a variety of crops in my eye, she reached toward me, digging her fake and very sharp fingernail into my eyelid. I let a whimper escape as she flooded my eye with one drop after another.
"Now I am going to place an IV in your hand for the anesthesiologist You might feel a little sting."
I let out another whimper which turned into a yelp as I felt her twirling the needle beneath my skin, trying to hit a vein.
"Nope, we will have to try again," she said as she again jabbed the needle into my hand. I screamed in agony and began kicking my legs as she floundered again with a needle buried deep in my flesh.
"There, all done. You can quit your kicking and screaming now. They will come and get you for surgery shortly." she muttered sarcastically as she rose and sauntered away.
I sat in my recliner and surveyed my surroundings, futile to say the least with my contact in my pocket. There were at least twenty nurses scurrying around, all wearing bright blue scrubs, all 5'2", all one hundred twenty pounds, and all with long blonde hair. I found myself utterly frustrated. Here I sat staring at what might be a collection of some of the most beautiful women on earth, or at least in Texas...and I couldn't see! That's when the blind man on the four-wheeler came to mind. I found myself wondering if more blondes choose the nursing profession or if this particular doctor just prefers blondes. I didn't finish my train of thought. A possibly beautiful blonde nurse suddenly appeared from the operating room, wiggling a finger which I could hardly see, summoning me. My time had come.
The surgery itself was much like waterboarding at Guantanamo Bay. Not that I've ever been to Guantanamo Bay, but there surely must have been some blonde nurse standing over me with a fire hose, flooding my eye constantly as the surgeon removed my cornea with a dull pocketknife. Pain seared through my body as I wondered if maybe the anesthesiologist had called in sick, or if perhaps the blonde nurse had just given up on hitting a vein. Between the waterboarding torture, I could feel the surgeon attaching a new cornea, wondering if it was manmade or if it had been lifted from some unsuspecting dead corpse. I bit my lip as I felt a needle suture the thing onto my eyeball.
"There, all done!"
A green veil was lifted from my face and what might have been my doctor peered down at me with a smile as some blonde nurse unstrapped my head from the gurney.
See, that didn't take long, did it?"
"Neither do executions," I muttered under my breath as the blonde nurse taped a clear plastic patch over my eye with duct tape. Not sure about the duct tape since I couldn't SEE!
Fifteen minutes later some blonde nurse pointed me in the general direction of the door, giving me a wave goodbye. I stepped out into the bright sunlight and withered like a vampire, a terrific pain shooting through my eye. Of course! The evil blonde nurse had dilated my eye, and a mighty fine job she did at that.
I felt my way to my vehicle, stumbling inside and groping for a pair of sunglasses, which wouldn't fit over the patch. I finally found reverse and secretly hoped I wouldn't back into anything. Just forty miles to the house, I thought, crossing my fingers. And off I went in search of home, blinded by the bright sunlight and the glare on that blasted plastic patch. A pirate patch...I've always wanted a black pirate patch and what do they give me? It might have been worth going through all this for a pirate patch! I mean, a plastic patch? You just don't get the full effect...
It's fairly common knowledge to those who have followed me for any length of time that for the first several years of my writing endeavors that I exclusively wrote under the pseudonym of The Rusty Goat. I've explained many times I felt the need to do so because of those early stories I penned about all those crazy women I was dating. It was a safety measure. I couldn't afford a bodyguard so I wrote under an assumed name. I really don't feel that any of those loony chicks would have brought me bodily harm...except for that preacher's wife, who intended to kill me there at the end but she inadvertently left her gun at home. But that wasn't because I was telling stories about her.
I haven't been completely honest, however. The women were only part of my decision to write under the pen name of The Rusty Goat. Just as some of you, I had an employer who felt the need to keep tabs on my activities off the clock as well as on. I worked for an agency within the state of Texas, perhaps the largest employer within its boundaries with the exception of Walmart. Given the nature of the job, I can concede there may have been some merit in their actions. When one accepts employment with the Texas penal system, one assumes some responsibility of professionalism. There are matters of confidentiality and there are matters that may compromise one's ability to do their job. With all that at stake, we as employees had to accept the fact that our employer at any given time might be stealthily creeping around our Facebook pages to see what we were up to on our free time. Hells bells, we could have former inmates poking us on Facebook, or their wives checking in to see how their incarcerated husbands are faring behind the fence. We could be dating their mamas. There are a lot of lonely mamas out there, you know.
And that, my friends, was the primary reason I chose to write under the guise of The Rusty Goat. Yes, social media can be used irresponsibly and has gotten probably millions of folks in hot water throughout the years. I'd wager old high school girlfriends is the number one culprit. I've been down that road myself but hey, I'm a single man and have no control over whether she confesses she's married or not.
It disturbed me to no end that somewhere in the state was an entire task force lurking through our social media tediously day after day in search of any infraction we may be guilty of. Unfortunately, the boundaries had been stretched beyond the original purpose of maintaining security within our department. Employees mysteriously disappeared after posting less than flattering comments about their boss on their Facebook pages. And...Oh, here's a picture of you sitting in your recliner after a hard day's work, wearing your uniform and drinking a beer. You're fired! It's much like they are standing on the other side of the wall with a drinking glass to their ear.
To be fair, we were warned at almost every staff meeting that there are eyes on our social media, and I had no problem, really. I just assumed an alias and went about my business. But I was prudent in my actions. Not once did I ever mention my employers in the ten years I published my work. Even in my books, if a character happened to find themselves in jail, you can bet the farm it happened in some other state. I refused to write anything that could get me in the hot seat with my employer should they discover what I was up to.
It's not so easy to control your social media accounts. With thirty-one thousand Twitter followers on my Twitter account, there is a good possibility there is a deviant or two lurking in the shadows. It's possible there is an ex-con or a drug dealer or even a murderer on my list of followers. Might even have a terrorist reading my tweets or Satan himself, who knows. But, hey boss, it wasn't me...see, that's some guy who calls himself the Rusty Goat.
As you might guess I am somewhat of a rebel. I am also a staunch advocate of the freedom of speech. It is the scales of balance for our nation. I question to this day the legality of an employer terminating anyone because they spoke out about their working conditions, or their unruly supervisor, or the need for a raise. Or time off...don't get me started on that. An employer who sees the need to scope out your children's pics on social media, or what you and your spouse did on that vacation that you finally got some time off for...I used the word 'creepy' earlier. That's not even a fair assessment. It's stalking, plain and simple. I suppose if one has an issue with that, the easy fix is to not have any social media or assume an alias.
There are companies who operate with the mindset that if you work for them, they own you. That's the definition of slavery in my opinion, not that anyone wants to hear my opinion. That is another story to tell some other time but I believe this topic falls squarely under that umbrella. My belief is that when I punch that time clock and walk out the door at five, what I do afterward is not your business, boss.
I've ranted myself silly. I have retired and no longer have to be the Rusty Goat. I can return to my Facebook page and post something, I've not that done in years. No, shaking my head, the State Gestapo may come after me anyway. They could probably take my retirement check away! This post may be all it takes for them to send in the swat team.
Naw, I'll just tell them The Rusty Goat wrote this. Me, I've been sitting here watching Netflix the whole time. I've got an alibi!