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Sue Bruns: Conversations with the NSA

(Doorbell rings.)

“Hmmmmn. Who could that be at this hour? (Opens door)  Yes?”

“Hello,  M’am.  Are you Mrs. Bruns, Mrs. Susan Bruns?”

“Yes.  And you are…?”

“Seymore Stuff, NSA.”

“NSA?  Do you have some ID?”

“You can look me up on the internet.”

“I’d rather see some ID.”

“Oh, all right, but that seems so — archaic.  Everything is online today. (Produces ID)  Might I come in?”

“No, I think discussion in the doorway will suffice.  What brings you here?”

“Well, Mrs. Bruns, as you know the NSA has access to all of your online and cell phone activity.”

“Yes.  Um.  I guess I know that.  I … I just never expected the NSA to come and talk to me.  My conversations, online searches, emails, and Facebook posts are all pretty innocuous, so what’s this about?”

“Well, first of all Mrs.  Bruns, Susan, … may I call you Susan?”

“No, I think I’d rather you call me Mrs. Bruns, Mr. Stuff.”

“Ahh, well, Mrs. Bruns, it has come to our attention that you have posted something rather suspicious on your Facebook page.”

“Really?  What would that be?”

“You have posted some things about the weather lately.”

“The weather?  Ahhh. Yeah.  I’ve made some comments about the cold.”

“And you posted some pictures.”


“Tell me, Mrs. Bruns, what is your connection with Canada?”



“I have no ‘connection’ with Canada.  I live a hundred miles south of Canada.  That’s the closest ‘connection’ I have to it.”

“Have you ever smuggled anything across the border either into or out of Canada?”


“Do you have ‘connections’ in Canada with whom you are plotting to overthrow the American government?”


“We have reason to believe that something you posted on your Facebook page contained an encrypted message to your connections in Canada about a route for smuggling contraband from Canada to the U.S. or vice versa.”

“Facebook posting?  Smuggling?  Contraband?  What ARE you talking about?”

“Don’t play stupid with me, Mrs. Bruns.”

“I’m not playing stupid.  This is genuine ignorance here.  I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“The picture, Mrs. Bruns!  The picture you posted on Facebook!  The one with the encrypted message that said, ‘Meanwhile in Canada.’”

“Ohhhh.  That!  It was just a picture of a plowed road somewhere in Canada with walls of snow so high the vehicles on the road couldn’t see over the top.  I just found it on the Internet and posted it with a comment about the cold — something like, ‘Things could be worse.’  It was just a little joke.”

“The NSA doesn’t believe in little jokes, Mrs. Bruns, not when it comes to international incidents.  Not when it involves people who live just 100 miles from the Canadian border.  Oh sure, you don’t look like a spy or a smuggler with your small frame, your graying hair. You retired school teachers think you are above suspicion.”

“Look, I don’t know what you think I’ve done or what encrypted message you think was in that humorous photo I found and posted, but this is ridiculous.  Do I need a lawyer?”

“Time will tell, Mrs. Bruns. It’s not just the photo that concerns us.  We believe the other posting you did the same day included another encrypted message.”

“The cartoon?”

“Yes, Mrs. Bruns, the cartoon with the picture of the man whose posterior had frozen and fallen off.”

“What’s encrypted about that?”

“It wasn’t so much the picture but the caption of the cartoon.”

“The caption?  It simply said, ‘I thought it was just a figure of speech.’”

“Yes, Mrs. Bruns. Would you care to explain to me what that is supposed to mean, to whom it was directed, and why a 60-year-old woman would post such a cartoon?”

“Uh, well, I’d run out of trivial things to say about the weather, came across the cartoon, thought it was funny, and thought my Facebook friends might also find it funny.”

“Aha, Mrs. Bruns.  So how many of your Facebook friends ‘LIKED’ the cartoon?”

“I don’t know.  I didn’t pay any attention.”

“Oh, come on, Mrs. Bruns.  You put something like that on your Facebook page and you don’t even bother to track how many of your ‘friends’ ‘LIKE’ it?”

“No.  It was just funny.  I posted it.  It was 25 below zero. I … I was just commenting on the weather!”

“So you don’t know how many ‘LIKES’ your posting got?”


“Well, we do, Mrs. Bruns. We know how many ‘LIKES’ that cartoon got.”

“How many?”

“NONE, Mrs. Bruns!  Not one!  No one liked that posting.”

“I’m sorry.  I thought it was funny.”

“No, Mrs. Bruns.  It was not a funny cartoon.”

“Okay.  It wasn’t funny to post a cartoon of a guy freezing his butt off.”

“Don’t you understand how things like this look to the NSA?”

“Apparently not.”

“Well, Mrs. Bruns, you do not appear to have the wherewithal to be an American spy or a Canadian smuggler.  This simply seems to be a case of a rather poor sense of humor.”

“I always thought I had a fairly good sense of humor.”

“The NSA doesn’t think so, Mrs. Bruns. Watch what you post in the future so that we won’t have to have a conversation like this again.”


“Have a nice day.  And remember, we’re here to protect you.”