Greetings NSA employee

Greetings NSA employee,

If you’re reading this, that means that a) you have the ability to hack into the hard drives of personal computers remotely, and b) you’ve chosen to hack into mine.

I realize this letter isn’t exactly what you were expecting to find when you opened the “VERY VERY PERSONAL” folder and clicked on the file named “INCREDIBLY PRIVATE — PLEASE DO NOT READ.” I wasn’t trying to mislead you, merely making sure that you started your tour of my computer with this introduction.

So —welcome. My laptop is small but cozy, and I hope you feel comfortable enough to make yourself at home. Please let me give you a quick little tour.

The first thing you’ll probably notice is that the desktop image consists of ever-changing pictures of my cat. You’ll also notice that in each photo she’s in repose. I don’t want you to think that all I do is take pictures of my cat all day and all she does is lay around. Not true. Occasionally she’s up and doing things, and in those instances I shoot video. I can’t really use these videos as desktop images because I think having a moving desktop would be too disorienting. All that information coming at you at once while you’re trying to work? So overwhelming. Like I have to explain that to you!

Speaking of video, I’m sure you’ve seized control of my built-in laptop camera and may be wondering why I do so much “computing” with so little clothing on. It’s just that it can get very hot in the Rocky Mountains. Yes, even in February. Curse this efficient insulation!

Oh, hey, before I forget, recently I’ve been trying to locate my stepfather. I haven’t had contact with him in 30 years and am having no luck finding him. His name is Clarence Evans. Maybe you know where he is and what he’s up to, Duh. Of course you do. Could you let him know, either by text or email or drone flyover, that I’m looking for him? Thanks.

The folder titled “frank zappa trivia and minutia” contains just that and is in no way titled such because I think it’s the last place my wife would ever want to look. So, no point in wasting your time there. Moving on.

As you can see from my Netflix queue, I’m a little behind the rest of the country in my TV-watching. I’m actually only halfway through “Breaking Bad.” What a show, huh? Thank God I didn’t get into it till it was over, as I don’t know how I could have waited a week (or a year! Yikes!) between episodes. I can only imagine that if I had the means to get a preview of what was going to happen next, like monitoring the calls and emails of the show’s creators or bugging their writing conference room, well, it would be hard not to abuse that power. You guys must have some amazing self-control.

Oh, hey — phone conversations. Would it be possible to get transcripts of some of mine? I think I might say “like” more often than I’d — prefer. Could you send me printouts with all the “likes” redacted? And the “you knows,” as well? I was a teenager in Southern California in the early ’80s, and it’s just such a hard habit to shake, but I think if I had a visual it could help. Also, on the slim chance that I said anything funny on the phone, it would be nice to have a hard copy so I can work it into other projects in the future.

Which brings us to the elephant in the chat room, as it were. By now I trust you’ve found the folder called “90210 was an inside job,” the one that’s nested in the “suspiciously large fertilizer order” folder. This folder contains some of my favorite columns, poems and personal essays that I’ve written over the years. I’d love for them to have some more exposure, so if you’d be so kind as to print these out and place them around the office for others to enjoy, that would be very cool of you. Please make sure that, rather than just hanging them in your own cubicle, you put them up where people congregate — like the water cooler, the surveillance gadget supply closet or the interrogation room.

Thanks so much for your time. If you have any questions about anything, I’d be happy to speak with you. No need to call, I guess. I’ll just pick up the phone and start talking and trust that you’ll be listening.


Barry Smith

Barry Smith’s column appears Mondays. More at


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