Long ago and far away, I worked with a woman named…let’s just call her A., for reasons that may become clear.

In 1990, she & I were members of a small enclave of twentysomethings working in the mumble mumble department at [redacted] Insurance Company, Evanston, Illinois.

It may be the warped perceptions of youth – or perhaps the culture shock of leaving a Champaign tech startup for an eighty-year-old Evanston insurance company – but most people in the department seemed really old. Geezers. Aliens. Incomprehensibly different.

The few of us who weren’t superannuated tended to stick together, even though we seldom had any work projects in common. We ate lunch together, took coffee breaks together, were friends in the arm’s-length sort of way that comes of spending forty hours a week in the same room.

In 1991 I quit [redacted] and moved back to Champaign. I haven’t seen or spoken with A. since.

Yesterday evening, quite out of the blue, I found myself thinking of A. She has a son, M., born sometime in 1991; he’d be an adult now. What’s he up to? I wondered.

There is no privacy these days. Everything’s online. Alas for A., what’s online for M. is…a police report, court records, Sentenced to 160 hours of community service, etc., etc. I even found M.’s mug shot.

Handsome fellow. Looks like his mother.

Privacy advocates always come at the issue from one side: You have the right to keep secrets. Well, yes, that’s true enough. But it’s also true that knowing others’ secrets can be troubling & burdensome. I was happier not knowing about M.’s legal problems.

I need to remember that, the next time I’m tempted to rummage around in other people’s lives.