From Ask Lutz

Snooped?

Dear Lisa,

My boyfriend's sister and I get along great. In fact, of his 3 siblings, we see her and her family most often. The last time they visited, she asked to use my computer to check her Yahoo! e-mail. Of course, I had no problem with that. About 20 minutes passed and I went by to see if everything was working OK for her. Her response was, "Oh yeah, I'm done with mine, I was just reading your e-mail."

Sure enough I looked at she was in my Outlook reading through my sent mail. I was so shocked I didn't say anything--I just walked away. My problem is now I don't feel that I can trust her at all and my boyfriend is pretty close with her. He was outraged as well but you know the old adage about blood being thicker than water. Can you think of ways that I can make sure my house is sister-proof for the next time she visits? I thought about rigging the medicine cabinet... :)

Signed,

Snooped


***

Dear Snooped,

There are plenty of things that I know nothing about, but etiquette is not one of them. Not to sound arrogant, but I am something of an expert on the subject. In fact, I have often dreamt of starting my own finishing school. But that’s many years away. One thing I can say for sure: an etiquette book is in my future. And when I write it, please make sure you give a copy to your boyfriend’s sister, because that woman needs a crash course in common courtesy.

You have a serious problem, indeed. I won’t go into great detail about the ethical issues at hand. I think we can all agree that sifting through someone’s emails, letters, drawers, closets, pockets, or purses without the owner’s permission, is wrong. Plain wrong. If you go through someone’s house without them knowing about it, that’s a felony. So, in a perfect world, going through someone’s computer without their permission is a misdemeanor, punishable by a $500 fine or thirty days in the county jail. People have the right to keep things to themselves. People have a right to their secrets even if there is nothing to be secret about. So, snooped, I feel for you. But sitting around feeling sorry for ourselves isn’t going to solve the problem. We need to nip this snooping in the bud.

I have come up with varying strategies to correct your problem. Feel free to use one, two, or all my suggestions--if you’re ready to go all out. Since the particular issue you speak of was computer related, I’m focusing primarily on that specific kind of privacy invasion. Let’s start off with some basic behavioral modification techniques. The idea is to make boyfriend’s sister not enjoy using your computer, so that she a) stays the hell away from it or b) keeps her usage of it limited to non-snooping activities.

Here’s what you must do. Buy another mouse, so that you have two mouses. The regular one that you use every day, we’ll call Jimmy. Your other mouse—mouse for boyfriend’s sister—we’ll call it Hank. I think I’d like to come up with a name for boyfriend’s sister—how about Lucy?

When Lucy comes to visit, you want to exchange Jimmy for Hank and you want to dip Hank into a sticky substance. Then when Lucy uses the mouse, she’ll get something sticky on her hand and won’t like it one bit. I would stay away from any crazy glue, rubber cement related item—those are toxic and we don’t want Lucy to end up in the hospital because then no matter what happens, you will be wrong and you’re not wrong. I suggest dipping Hank in some kind of fruit juice. Stay away from the pulpy kind and it would be best if it weren’t visible. Pineapple juice might work, but that new white cranberry juice that they’re making seems perfect for the job.

I understand that this is a very low-tech technique, but I still believe it can be effective. If you are an electrical genius, then perhaps you can rig some device so that when a person other than yourself goes into your email, they get a low voltage shock. Something on the level of static electricity, which is benign, but unpleasant. If you do use the shock method, I urge you to be very careful and thoroughly test your mechanism.

Or you could try a few basic mind games. Psychological warfare, if you will. You say Lucy was reading messages you had recently sent. Okay, next time Lucy checks her email on your computer, make sure you got some juicy sent messages. I suggest you open up some hotmail accounts in the names of famous individuals--dead or alive, preferably missing--and then send them random emails and make sure that they are in plain view. I’m assuming you have a day job, so to save you time, I have taken the liberty of drafting a few messages that you’re free to use.

To: “Elvis Presley”
From: “your name”

Thanks for the scarf. It’s summer now, but I’ll wear it in Winter. Great concert last week. You look good. Have you been working out?

Love Ya, Babe

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To: “Jimmy Hoffa”
From: “your name”

Sure, lunch next week sounds good. But I don’t want to go back to that Italian place. I’m all for dim lighting, but I swear I couldn’t see my fork.

How about Chinese?
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To: “Dr. Frankenstein”
From: “your name”

I understand that you’re busy with your experiments. Really, I do. But that’s no excuse for not returning my phone calls. I have many important things to discuss.

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Of course, as a last resort, you could create a password for your Outlook account. But that should be your last resort.

I hope I’ve been some help to you, Snooped. If not, please write a letter of complaint.

Best Wishes,

Lisa

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