Greek American Stories: Privacy

By Phyllis “Kiki” Sembos

“I just experienced the craziest thing,” Yiannis told those gathered round the table that Sunday at Dixon’s. “What’s that?” asked Dimos, watching him snatch up the last frosted donut before Kipreos could get it. “Well,” began Yiannis, looking up in wonder. “I used the men’s room at the bus terminal Friday. When I’d finish, the toilet flushed without me pressing anylever. It flushed, automatically.” That bit of news wasn’t news to the others. But, they decided to hear him out. “So?” said John, stirring his coffee. “That’s the newest technology.” Yiannis’ chin firmed. “But, how did it know when?”

Dimos looked seriously at his friend. “You really don’t know?” Yiannis shook his head. Dimos gave a quick wink up at the others. “It’s all doneby long distance, now. There’s a huge big-screen monitor incentral headquarters situated in Albany that overlooks the millions of commodes over the city.” Yiannis scrunched his face, “Why?”John, picking up the humor, added, “It’s for your protection, Yiannis. Suppose you get sick and faint…or, something. A bus terminal doctor gets notice and runs in to take care of you.” Kipreos said, assuredly, “We have that same technology at the hotel where I work. But, no doctor on hand, I don’t think.” Yiannis was not impressed. In fact, he felt violated.“But, what about my privacy?” Dimos shook his head, sadly. “No such thing anymore. A team of doctors at central headquarters study those screens, checking everything carefully. Someone, I’d heard, got a notice from one of those doctors telling him to take care of‘those hemorrhoids’.”

Yiannis grew very uncomfortable. “But, I don’t want anyone checking my…me! It’s an outrage!Unheard of!Aw, you’re kidding, right?” he hoped, his cheeks flaming, hotly. George saw aprime opportunity and jumped right in. “Yiannis is right! What’s this world coming to, anyway, when we can’t enter a public place without privacy? It’s disgraceful not to be able to…to… attend to our private functions without technology butting in.” Yiannis was pleasedthat the forthright George agreed with him on something, finally. “Hear that?”Hetold the others, turning to George to ask his, usually, contrary friend, “What would you do about it, George?” George thought and thought.Then, slapping his hand on the table, said, “This is a democracy! We have rights! We can do something about it, Yiannis! Put a petition out and have people sign it. That’s how democracy works! If you get 5,000 signatures, or more, you can have a hearing. You’ve got five signatures right here. Right, guys?” They muttered agreement. “And, if the public agrees with your outcry – and, there’s no reason not to – it’ll be abolished! A lot of people will thank you, Yiannis.”

After some hesitancy, Yiannis found that his advice sounded fair and very reasonable.Besides! There’s a possibility that he’d be looked upon asan avid defender of people’s rights to privacy, a hero, a righteous citizen.He’d be in all the papers, maybe.

Dimos, patting George’s shoulder, “You know, George? I believe you’re correct! Doesn’t the Constitution say something like that? ‘The right to privacy.’ Article IV, I believe.The right of the people to be secure from unreasonable searches…or, something like that, I think,”Dimos shrugged. Convinced, Yiannis jumped to his feet. “Yes! I’ll do it!Why not! I’ll start up a petition right away.” Apprehensive,Kipreos reminding him, “But, Yiannis! Your English isn’t very…” Yiannis paused and asked George how he should word his petition. Concentrating, Georgewaved a stern finger in the air, and announced, “We, the people, want the right to attend all public toilets without observation. It is against the Constitution.” Convinced, Yiannis nodded firmly and marched out into the crowded street, heading for a stationary store. John looked around the table, quizzically. “We were just having some fun. You don’t think he’s, really, going to go through with it, do you?”

Dimos shrugged,” I don’t know!”George,leaning back in his seat, pictured Yiannis going up and down streets asking people to sign a petition against automatic flushers, objecting to doctors incentral headquarters observingthem on giant screens.  Kipreos, worried, said, “I don’t think he should be passing around a petition like that. Won’t people – or the police – think he’s… a little…maybe…ahh, disturbed?” George, leaning back, wearing a broad grin, said, “Yeah!”


SYDNEY – The latest episode of the Ouzo Talk podcast for the Greek diaspora focuses on the Parthenon Marbles with founder and chair of the International Committee – Australia – for the Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles Inc (IOCARPM), Emmanuel John Comino AM [member of the General Division of the Order of Australia] and committee member, lawyer and cultural heritage specialist, Theodora Gianniotis.

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