All eyes on me

They’re watching me. I see them watching me.

Walking through the shopping centre, I’m acutely aware of all the surveillance cameras in operation. On corners. In ceilings. Hiding behind tinted domes.

And it’s not just here. I’m noticing them almost every public place I visit.

My heightened awareness started a few weeks ago while on a family holiday. We were staying at a private home a few hours out of town, and overlooking the home’s outdoor area was a fairly obvious security camera.

It wasn’t a big deal, but there were definitely times when I couldn’t fully relax, knowing I was being recorded. I couldn’t fulfil those natural urges. Picking my nose. Scratching. Nude yoga on the deck.

I’ve never liked being watched. It makes me anxious, even when I’m not doing something embarrassing or illegal.

I think privacy is a major issue, especially in this digital age. We hand over our private information to governments and private organisations without fully evaluating the risks of misuse and data falling into the wrong hands.

Our privacy is being eroded and I worry about what it means for our society and the very nature of democracy. When everything we do is being monitored, will we speak out when we notice injustices? Will we gather in groups and protest? Will we actively seek out and spread the truth?

There are journalists imprisoned around the world who would certainly have a few things to say on the matter.

Funnily enough, today’s shopping trip is driven by a privacy-related matter. I’m looking for a new pair of jeans because my old ones have developed holes in unsightly places.

When I wear them sitting down, it makes other people feel uncomfortable. And on rare occasions when my underwear also has holes in it, a real spectacle emerges—a hairy eclipse nobody wants to see.

Entering the department store, I begin browsing the piles of jeans, doing my best to maintain the neat stacking order—for a few seconds at least.

I find half a dozen pairs that show promise, including a skinny-leg style, and head directly for the unisex fitting rooms, leaving Denim Mountain behind.

I’m greeted by an overly-bubbly sales assistant, Jane, who notices the huge stack of clothes resting on my arms and asks:

“Do you want to try those on?”

No, Jane. I want to build a fort.

Entering the stall, I notice the lock on the door isn’t working—worse, the door doesn’t seem to close properly.

Unperturbed, I begin the arduous process, starting with the skinny-leg jeans. I thread my feet through the tiny holes and slowly pull the jeans over my calves and knees. But I quickly hit a roadblock—my thighs. Two formidable opponents indeed.

Not giving up, I desperately pull, push and twist the tortured garment. If the pair of jeans could talk, it would be yelling:

“Try the relaxed fit bozo!”

I’m now mid-thigh, but my underwear remains wholly visible. I continue the charade, throwing in a bit of hip-wiggling for good measure, when I accidentally hit the door with my elbow and, to my horror, it swings open.

Unable to reach the door, the only option is to exit the cubicle and pull the door shut—not an easy task given my lower limbs lack blood flow.

I do my best penguin impersonation and shuffle out of the stall, but before I can close the door I realise I’m under surveillance—not by a camera but by numerous pairs of eyes. I have inadvertently revealed my “secret” to the small crowd of shoppers waiting for a free fitting room.

Pointing, one girl whispers to her friend. Someone pulls out their phone. There is silence for what feels like ten seconds.

Until finally, looking at me in my sorry state, Jane asks:

“Can I get you another size perhaps?”