Column: Spying on others sure to be fun, but with mixed results

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 1, 2002

&uot;TIPS&uot; is it? Well a hey-nonny-nonny and a whoop-to-doodle-doo! Obviously the spirit of the late Senator Joe McCarthy rides again. Not that I’m criticizing the request that we all spy on our neighbors, mind you. After all I listen to the talking heads, who have made me realize that to criticize what the administration is doing is to be unpatriotic if not downright treasonable. And my goal is to be just as patriotic as the next one.

Moreover way back when I was younger and more impulsive I gave up a valuable historical document that I still regret not keeping. It was during the Nixon Administration. A group calling itself, as I remember, American Committee to Re-Elect Richard Nixon, sent me a letter.

I can remember what it said almost word for word. &uot;You are fortunate in being a person who comes in contact with many of your friends and neighbors. We will be grateful to you if you will send us a list of such of your friends and neighbors whom you have heard making critical remarks about our president. We’re not saying that such are Communistic, but among these critics there are undoubtedly Communists and to draw them to our attention will be a service to our country.&uot;

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As I say I was more impulsive and hot-headed in those days, and the letter came with a self-addressed, stamped envelope for my convenience. Cruikshank is after all a Scottish name and true to my breed I’m loath to let a stamped envelope go to waste. So in a moment of pique, I scrawled across the missive in black, black ink, the words, &uot;You’ve got to be kidding.&uot; and sent it back.

Wiser now, more co-operative, I’m resolved to do what I can for TIPS. My problem is that I’m not exactly sure where to start. Had my mother let me follow my wish to pursue a course in the art of detection it would have been more simple.

For one thing I would have known how to take and read finger prints. Although I’m not exactly sure how I might go about obtaining them. Even visitors, unless they’re young and given to eating jams and jellies, don’t leave all that many prints.

Of one thing I’m sure, I shall probably need a notebook, a small notebook I can carry in my purse to have handy when I observe something subversive going on.

The notebook is no problem. My collection of notebooks is the envy of my friends. They’re always coming forth with sneaky ideas to pry me loose from some of them. It doesn’t work. No, the notebook is a cinch.

My problem is that I can’t exactly define subversive. I tend to think in terms of a robed figure with a turban around the head. That, though, could be any woman who shampoos her own hair.

It would be helpful if the suspect were carrying an armload of dynamite. Still how would one approach that? It seems so nosy to just trot up to a complete stranger and snarl, &uot;Hey, bub, where are you going with that stuff?&uot; Besides he might have a perfectly legitimate explanation and think how foolish you’d feel.

My best chance, I suppose, would be to overhear something subversive. In my whole life I’ve never read another person’s diary or letters unless invited to. On the other hand I eavesdrop like mad. Some of the most interesting tidbits I’ve ever heard have come to me in a restaurant from a nearby table.

I’m not always accurate in my interpretation of what I hear, though. I remember hearing three women at a table talking about another woman &045; a social climber, a domineering wife, a bad neighbor. It all sounded a little familiar, and I suddenly realized that they were talking about Hyacinth, the heroine of the English sitcom, &uot;Keeping Up Appearances.&uot;

More than willing to help the government track down terrorists &045; particularly in light of the shortcomings of the CIA and the FBI &045; I can only say with some sadness, don’t expect too much.

Love Cruikshank is an Albert Lea resident. Her column appears Thursdays.