Whether you're pumping gas, walking across a parking lot, standing in line at the bank or eating lunch at a restaurant, always assume you're under surveillance.

That is a simple fact of life that many of us are coming to grips with as the world transitions into a made-for-television bloopers show.

Those of a certain age can remember the good old days when you never had to worry about being seen doing stuff we weren't supposed to be doing.

Nothing criminal, you understand. Just stuff. Like kissing a girl in a parking lot, or sneaking behind a tree on the golf course when there isn't a restroom around.

Nowadays, you can't even squeeze an avocado in the grocery store without some rent-a-cop coming around and questioning your intentions.

"Sir, please step away from the vegetable bin," he barks.

"No, really, I was just checking it for freshness," you say.

"Sure, pal. We get weirdos like you in here all the time," he says with a smirk.

Loss of privacy

In the big picture, I suppose all this surveillance is necessary, considering cameras routinely catch shoplifters and crooks breaking into convenience stores, alert local officials about traffic jams on the interstate, or that a child is stuck in a drainpipe and needs help.

But the trade-off is the loss of privacy that many of us used to take for granted.

Having grown up under the threat that "Big Brother is watching" means these ever-vigilant electronic gizmos kind of give me the willies.

Not that I have anything to hide.

Well, not much anyway.

But we all would like to think we enjoy a certain sense of freedom to move around without people in small, dark rooms snickering about what we're wearing, buying, drinking or talking about.

To whom it may concern

In today's world, however, we have come to expect that every intersection, store and public venue is covered by those little cameras that sit atop lampposts, inside police cars, in your workplace, and perhaps in the bedroom.

Inevitably, some of those pictures can end up on YouTube or in the mail in a plain brown envelope addressed to whom it may concern.

I guess I'm just old-fashioned enough to pine for times when you could take a walk without wondering if somebody is watching, pick your nose without being judged, or walk into a bar without hearing that whirring sound of the camera turning in your direction.

Remember, it isn't paranoia if they're really out to get you, right?

Reach Ken Burger at kburger@postandcourier.com or 937-5598 or follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Ken_Burger.