My memory was roaming back to the first time I ever saw what is certainly one of Turkey’s prettiest villages at a time when the value of the lira had collapsed and I, with my imported pounds, could afford a room with two sea views. All was right with the world, then, until I turned my head for a moment to find, gazing straight down at me, one of those security cameras that are an increasingly familiar part of everyday life.
But in Assos?
I turned to the waiter. “What’s that camera for?” I asked him.
“To keep an eye on things,” he replied, which caused me to raise an eyebrow. You see Assos, for those of you who are yet to have the pleasure, is absolutely tiny. The harbor consists of little more than half-a-dozen old stone buildings and one of those is a gendarmerie post whose staff, that morning, had so little crime to contend with that they were busy watering the plants.
“What things?” I asked with an edge in my voice. I mean, surely were a crime to take place here we would all be able to see it, and given that no cars can park in the harbor and the road out of the village climbs at a terrifyingly steep angle surely no one could make a quick getaway.
The waiter shrugged. “The boss wants it,” he said, which brought the discussion to an end.
In Britain, too, security cameras have been a fixture of virtually every street corner since 9/11, but although there’s been a lot of complaining about them, it’s had very little result. “If you’ve got nothing to hide why would they worry you?” is the standard response to criticism by right-to-privacy activists, and part of me agrees with that. But then I thought back to the breakfast I believed I had been eating unobserved. Had I been doing anything I wouldn’t have wanted a camera recording? Well, I’d certainly fed the unappetizing breakfast sausage and some of the cheese to a cat that had been sitting quietly beside me, and in restaurant terms that’s probably a fairly criminal offense.
In the end, though, I don’t think it matters what one was or wasn’t doing. The point is, surely, that we don’t want to be observed all the time, especially since hot on the heels of the cameras usually comes the whole jobsworth scenario. I can’t let you do that because the boss wouldn’t like it -- and the camera is watching so he’ll know if I let you.
Recently I took a bus from Çanakkale to nearby Güzelyalı. There is now a prepaid card system for fare payment there, but the driver on the way out had told me to give my money to another passenger who ran their card through the machine for me. On the way back, though, the bus was empty. “I can’t take you without a card,” the driver said. “Look, the camera will see.”
Fortunately I managed to talk him round eventually or this column would never be coming to you.
Charlotte McPherson is away.