Comments from the canyons: Respecting privacy should be automatic

Those of us who have spent much of our lives in rural areas are accustomed to having our privacy and can become a little upset when it is violated — especially if we are unaware that someone else is listening to our personal conversations.

In our early lives, we could rest assured that whatever we said to a friend in our home or in the friend's home would not be overheard by anyone else unless we invited other listeners into our area.

When we had party lines instead of straight telephone lines, we knew to be careful about what we were saying because someone else might be listening in. We just automatically kept our private conversations to times during which we knew no one else would be listening.

Of course, we might have had a little fun with those party lines by telling a wild tale or two just to see how long it would take for that story to be repeated.

We have seen the development of many kinds of listening devices during the last 50 or more years and have seen them used as they should be in interrogations, in collecting necessary information to stop various criminal acts, and in being sure of the health and safety of babies, invalids, or other needy people.

My first major encounter with intercom devices happened when I began teaching in junior high school here. I really didn't mind being called by someone from the office to check on a student or to answer a question, but I resented being listened to when I was unaware that the principal or someone else was pretending to check up on my teaching ability. I also taught in another public school that relied on the intercom system for "visiting" our classes and ranking us as teachers.

Only in the last few years have I experienced the use of intercoms in homes, mainly for the purpose of eavesdropping on visitors and particular residents. A friend had asked me to drop by because she needed to do some talking about a major problem she was having. Of course, I stopped by to see if I could help. We talked for over an hour, and my friend seemed to be feeling better when I left.

Later, one of the friend's relatives called to talk about some of the private matters we had discussed. When I asked how he knew so much about what we had said, he said he had been upstairs listening to us over the intercom.

To me, that was a major invasion of privacy because I had no idea that our conversation was being overheard without the permission of either of us. Yes, I checked with my friend to be sure she had not known about the eavesdropper before I expressed my ideas to her relative. Rarely, in the past did I think much about being overheard by others when I was visiting seriously with anyone else. Now, I rather hesitate to speak in depth about really private matters unless I am certain we are out in the canyons where only the mountain lions can hear.

Respecting each other's privacy should be as automatic as breathing.

Lynn Moncus is a Tucumcari resident and can be contacted through the Quay County Sun by calling 575-461-1952.

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