Serious business, srsly, just try pissing me off now
Friday 5 November 2010, 9.23am HKT
You should know this if you have a family member abroad. Srsly, it’s serious business.
It’s now 4.25 am on a drizzly Friday and I figured I had to write something down about something that cropped up since 6.45 pm yesterday.
It’s serious business. If you don’t want to read it, piss off now.
Q is a friend of mine in a certain town in a certain part of the East Midlands region of England. Let’s say it’s called Somewheretown. She isn’t a native there and went there about two years ago to do a postgrad degree. There were ups and downs in her life, but, all round, seems like she was having a fun time. She’s still there in Somewheretown.
Q’s mum rang me at 6.45 yesterday evening, pleading for help. Chris’sakes, why is it I’m always the first port of call whenever people are in trouble? Yes, I have noticed Q had been acting a bit strange lately, based on what I have seen on Facebook. No, I’ve not been in touch with her for months. Okay, okay, don’t worry, I’ll try to find out what’s happening.
Q basically turned into Invisible Woman round about May or June this year. Her last email to me sounded okay enough. She’d always been a bit eccentric in the way she writes anyway, so it’s kind of hard to notice potential problems.
My personal policy is to make no representations or promises, but if and when I have to make them, I back them up. Gutting isn’t strong enough word to describe the way I treat unhelpful or interferring busybodies who stand in my way of helping.
Do I know how shit works? Maybe not, but I advise you, I’ve lived in Beirut and a couple of ‘historically interesting’ places before, so my answer to you is “Do you how how ‘this’ shit works?” I advise you also, I’m legally trained and had spent three years in the army, so I can handle both types of ‘paperwork,’ if you get my drift.
(For some of you mugs, ‘legally trained’ in the legal profession means legally qualified. So pay attention, especially those unruly, brain-damaged wogs, dogs and clogs and that guitar-shredding lady at a certain uni who doesn’t know jack-schmuck left hand from joe-shmoe right hand. Three years in the army means you’ll be next in line to be degutted.)
Back to Q. Details. Solid details. I keep track of my friends abroad. I track everything, at home, at work, everywhere. I have mental pictures of what everyone else is doing. My name should’ve been Jimmy Carter, for those old enough to know the inside joke.
Q’s mum couldn’t reach her, maybe for months. Mum couldn’t use MSN in her country, at least not outside of university or somesuch establishments. There’s no Facebook. Hotmail (Q’s regular email service) is crippled there. Email had to be from a domestic email service, which is brilliant inside the country but comatosed isn’t strong enough a word for outgoing email to foreign destinations. Frankly, there’s jack shite. So Q’s mum is basically pwned because she has no access to all the normal e-services that we blithely take for granted.
Desperation sets in and that’s why Q’s mum rang me instead.
Srsly, it’s serious business when someone does that.
I’m in Hong Kong right now. Q’s in England. We’re 6,000 miles (9,600 km) apart. What to do?
Her mum asked me to fly over and fetch her, and offered to pay the fare for her and my air tickets. Hold it, the price is going to be over the top. It’s going to cost at least HK$15,000 (US$2,000) for the pair of us. I would gladly fly over, if it weren’t for that nonsense called work. Let’s find out what’s happening first and then figure out what to do next.
So I’m sitting here, checking out Q’s Facecrook pages first. All her photos are gone. The profile page is almost empty. Nothing, except for a solitary, new email at least I’ve never seen before. Holy Mother of God. Bricks are starting to be shat.
I check out all of Q’s friends and contacts. I write to them for a helping hand. Q’s mum can’t do that because her country blocks Facegook.
I write regular emails to Q’s contacts. They should reach inboxes within minutes, if not seconds. It takes a long bloody time for email from Q’s mum to get through, and Q’s mum isn’t all gemmed up to this email thing anyway.
Then I check out Google Maps for some sense of her last known location, plus the locales of her friends. Okay, good enough to get a gist of the lay of the land there. Q’s mum can’t do that because Goggle Mraps is also blocked in her country.
Well done, Mr Government, you sure know how to sink the knife in and slowly turning it just to fuck up parents.
I check out Q’s various websites and other online whatnot of hers. Bummer. They’re mostly gone or have next to nothing. Q’s mum can’t do that because she doesn’t know those sites because those details are on Facechoke because she can’t get to Facewook because Facewook is blocked because Mr Government decided in its infinite rigor mortis wisdom that social networking sites are potentially anti-government. No, try harder, dimwit. It’s more like ‘ignore-government,’ you prat.
So here I wait, twiddling my thumbs, scratching my head and arse, and walking nights. I don’t sleep much anyway (about four hours is enough), but I get very, very angry when something makes me walk nights. I always give others a headstart of three handicaps in anything, but if they still give me a hard time after that, then I want to get even. I learnt this in boarding school, by the way. (Whether I can get even or not is another story.)
So while I’m poised to hear from those good and goodly people I’ve contacted for help, I’ll relay couple of insights from this story:
(1) Lots of people wonder why some countries have become such big markets for mobile/cell phones. Just look at the state of their online access. Online access requires a lot more electricity than fixed-line or mobile phone service. If your country has a longstanding breeding disaster, then a huge population with online access comparable to that of the Western world is going to spike the power grid to smithereens in two seconds flat. And if the ruling establishment thinks online access is probably subversive, then phone service is the only practical choice if you still want the citizenry to rake in the money for your tax dollars. Plus the fact that countries with breeding disasters don’t have a uniformly literate population anyway, but that’s just me.
(2) Facebook, Twitter, etc, may bill themselves as social networking site, but they are every bit family-connecting sites. In many cases, families remain aware their loved ones are still breathing, fucking and alive by the insane messages and other drama they post on them. It’s often not sensible or practical to bombard your family members and relatives, no matter how close, with constant email. It is often enough to see them make fools of themselves by their postings (such as this blog post right now).
(3) The reason Google Maps exist isn’t just for the curiosity of imbeciles and insomniacs who can’t even wank themselves to sleep in the middle of the night. It exists exactly because of the situation above. For good or ill, we need to see the lay of the land before we head off there. An ordnance map is good, but better to have ground views. Remind yourself that most of us don’t have access to high-grade satellite surveillance photos while we’re planning to firebomb the nearest fish-and-chip shop after it forgot to pack in an extra packet of tomato ketchup for you.
(4) Remind yourself why we have email. It isn’t for faster communication, that’s for sure. You are mistaken. We live in the Age of Procrastination — if you like, the Era of “I’ll Get Round To It.” We have email that our forefathers didn’t precisely because email gives us more time to put things off longer. The faster the details arrives, the more time we have on our hands to doddle. In the old days, snailmail took its time, so by the time mail arrives, there’s just hardly enough time to postpone.
(5) Some people put loads of detail about themselves online. Others put nothing. Still others put up these cryptic or funny or cutsie stuff online. It’s all nice and happy and funny and cute until you have one of your eyeballs poked out or get kidnapped or worse, then it won’t be so funny anymore. No one knows how to reach you then. Whether you splash your premarital, marital, ex-marital, zoological, botanical or mineral drama all over the place is your own business. Have fun, sure, but include at least one independent contactable detail.
(6) Lots of people do one stupid thing on social networking sites. They have nothing but their profile URL as the only contact point. This is especially true of those who are outside their home countries. You don’t have to display home addresses, phone numbers, social security numbers, sexshop customer numbers, concentration camp numbers or whatever on those sites. You only need to have one work and one personal email address to show. If your social networking site webpage breaks down or goes missing, at least someone, somewhere, will have noted down your email address to contact you. “But we’ll get lots of spam.” You’re already getting that anyway, so stop worrying about it.
(7) If you’re going off on any kind of a trip, send a so-called vacation notice email to your ‘relevant parties’ telling them you’ll be away. Write a template for this in your email and save as draft. A trip to the pub down the road for several hours don’t count. A trip to the next town for a couple of hours does count. If you’re living alone, be sensible, don’t broadcast your whereabouts on Facecrook or Twitter-Twatter because you’re just inviting burglars to home, to say nothing about stalkers. If you have family with you, you can relax this rule.
(8) Mr Government, you honestly have to get your crappy roadshow together. If Earth or your country were a restaurant, I’d want to see the manager. Your spastic advisers have been paid by reactionary, revisionist, revanchist, imperialist/communist foreign governments to spread running-dog lies that online access is subversive. People go online to have fun, make some money, connect with friends and family and watch porn. They mostly don’t give a rat’s arse about your politics. They bitch and sound off, but that’s about all. Ordinary people can’t bring down a government, and everyone knows this except you. You have forgotten the very maxim of state control that brought you to power in the first place, you miserable little douchewad:
A government can only be brought down from the inside.
(9) Take a moment to let Q’s situation sink in. What if? What if I couldn’t get to Facebroke? What if I couldn’t get to Q’s other online stuff? What if my lightning-speed screamail arrives days later? What if I can’t ring people up abroad because I relied totally on some stupid webpage as the keeper of details? What if I can’t check out the physical appearance of Q’s home street? What if I can’t ring out to someone abroad because of my government’s epileptic paranoia and psychotic need for political correctness doesn’t allow IDD calls? What if?
(10) One thing I notice in Chinese people abroad. They’re not very neighbourly to their own kind. Malaysian Chinese and Singaporeans are the exceptions. The majority of Chinese are polite and unassuming enough, and give very little trouble to anyone. Come trouble and they mostly don’t give a shit. Sure, none of us wants to ‘get involved.’ You should help anyone who’s in trouble. Play it by ear; it’s not always wise to help. But the general rule is to offer help. Learn this very, very old English saying:
If you tolerate this, your children will be next.
* * *
I know something has happened to Q. I just don’t know what.
It better not be man-made.
Or it will be man-unmade.
© The Naked Listener’s Weblog, 2010.