Permanent Marker

For Chapter 14: "Nobody is Safe from Everybody"

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Remember when you were in school? Remember what Miss Fritz told you, to discourage you from cheating or throwing iceballs at the 4th graders? She said, "It will be on your Permanent Record," and that was something to think about.

Some day you would be trying to get into the military, or trying to avoid the military, or applying for a job, and someone would be looking over file with a scowl on his face. "Well, it says here that you were caught passing a note to Philip Yampolsky about Jane Konowich. Is that correct?" And that would be that. Your troubled history would have finally caught up with you. Your pitching career with the New York Yankees would be over before it ever began. It was a scenario that haunted me -- along with nuclear holocaust and swimming with a full stomach -- from the age of 6.

So intimidated was I by the specter of my Permanent Record that I toed the line in school for 12 years. OK, maybe there was the slightest bit of World Book Encyclopedia plagiarism and chronic absenteeism and perhaps a touch of substance abuse, but I stayed under the radar – or, at least, so I assumed. A few years ago, with some trepidation, I telephoned the Lower Merion School District to discover, at long last, what was indelibly inscribed in my dossier.

"Your permanent record?" said the voce on the phone. "That's been shredded."

"Shredded?!" I yelped. "Shredded when?"

"When did you graduate?"


"Well, then, 1974."

So much for permanence. If I'd known they were bluffing, there might have been a lot more mischief in my past. Alas, the ability to shred the unpleasantness is in the past, too. Those internet pages are cached till doomsday – the world's or yours.

As chronicled in previous posts, the descriptions of my boiled soul and Bill Broydrick's secrets for meeting hot women are not going anywhere. On the contrary, they are proliferating, because of the ever-expanding blogosphere.

"Before blogs," says Nino Kader of International Reputation Management in Washington, DC, "you had to start a website – with all the terms and conditions, so there was some accountability. Not much, but some." With do-it-yourself blog tools, "you could publish to the web anonymously within a matter of minutes. Anybody can anonymously bash anybody else – and it will be available for the world to see."
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