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Paranoia is everywhere

I don’t tend to be a paranoid person. I am not someone who thinks there are black helicopters swirling through the atmosphere above Peabody or that there are whispered plots floating around among people who want to bring me down (who would bother, right?)

Many times I wonder why people get upset about having their names on some list or why they think the government will spy on them if they fill out a census form. And then there are the urban legends about computer chips being planted under your skin when you have some minor surgery. I have never bought into any of these theories. I figured it was just too much trouble for some department buried deep in the bowels of a building in Washington, D.C., to keep track of what I am doing in Peabody.

However, two weeks ago I saw something that has just about made me change my tune. I told you that I had gone to Colorado to visit my mother and got caught in a snow storm that turned into 13 inches of “fresh powder” that snarled traffic in central Colorado and threatened to close the gates around all those towns on Interstate 70 west of Russell.

So I had to alter my plans and head for home a day later than I had planned. My sister and I watched the national weather station and the Colorado weather station and she suggested we check out the Colorado Department of Transportation Web site for up-to-the-minute traffic reports. Well, what do you guess we saw when we went there?

I’ll just tell you what we saw! We saw shots of actual traffic on the actual roads. Now maybe you have seen this modern technology at work before, but I had not. I sat at her computer and clicked on the interstate highway between Limon and Burlington, clicking my way toward Kansas and with each click I could see a current shot of that particular portion of the highway.

I could see the two ribbons of highway, the snow alongside (or in the passing lane or even in the right hand lane) and the traffic either zipping along or crawling depending on the conditions. Isn’t that amazing?

However, here is the most bizarre part, and you might want to hum the “Twilight Zone” theme as you read this. My sister lives in Fort Morgan, which is in the northeastern Colorado plains. No mountains — it is agriculture country. The quickest way to get there is to turn off the Interstate at Limon and head straight north on state Highway 71. I have commented about old 71 a couple of times in this column. This is one of the most desolate stretches of pavement I have ever seen in my life. There is absolutely nothing out there, for 75 miles, from Limon to Brush, nothing.

Well, there is one thing. There is a town exactly half way, at the 37.5 mile mark. The town has five houses, a tiny church, a cluster of portable toilets in a roadside area marking some cattle trail, a volunteer fire department, and a defunct ice cream place called the Dairy King. The town is called Last Chance and I think it is someone’s idea of a joke.

If you are headed north or south on the road through Last Chance, you have to stop at a stop sign to let any east-west traffic go by. Once I stopped behind a pickup which was not only stopped, but had the engine shut. On the east-west road were HUNDREDS of motorcycles, as far as the eye could see in both directions. I bet we were there for 20 minutes waiting for them all to go by.

All of which is neither here nor there, but this road is isolated. One meets or follows very few vehicles. There can’t be more than 25 mail boxes along Colorado 71 and no houses in sight. The place is just bereft of anything that breathes or moves.

But lo and behold, guess what I found on my sister’s computer when checking on the weather along that route? Yup, you’ve got it … cameras on the road to nowhere. There they were … seeing nothing … oops, a big white pickup; three minutes later a green SUV.

Now that was spooky. I have driven that road so many times I even recognized some the scenery in some of the photos. Unless, of course, they were phony backdrops, just to make me THINK I was looking at highway 71. But why would anyone care if I was looking at it, driving on it, or whatever? Well, yeah, that is the whole point. SOMEONE might have been getting ready to spy on me when I drove down that road the next day.

Well, I sucked it up and I drove it once it was clear of snow. I even looked for cameras high among the utility poles. Never did see any, but I am not certain someone didn’t just figure out that I was on to them. They could have moved them in the hours before I decided to head for Kansas.

See how paranoia works? Who would even care that I was on that road midafternoon on March 20, 2010, in an old white Buick … exactly! Who, indeed? More “Twilight Zone” music here. I wonder if I will be swept off to Last Chance to a job at the Dairy King waiting on people who are waiting for the motorcycles to move on … and what do you think the portable toilets are for?

I swear I didn’t see any cameras. But be careful when you drive from now on. I bet they are everywhere. Someone could be keeping an eye on you in the name of keeping you safe from inclement weather. I am going to run a magnet over my body tomorrow to see if I pull out any chips that might have been implanted. I will try to let you know what I find.

— Susan Marshall

Last modified April 1, 2010

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