PORTLAND, ORE. — It was orientation day for 10th-graders at the high school. I was dropping my daughter off at the cafeteria when I noticed a man standing across the street, aiming a video camera at the main building.
Within seconds, I had parked the car and was heading toward the stranger. He saw me approaching and said, "There's nothing nefarious going on. Just a unique opportunity that will make your child's school experience more enjoyable."
"Sounds interesting," I replied, "but if it's something my daughter needs to sign up for, shouldn't you be inside making a presentation to the students?"
"We've decided to bypass the official bureaucracy and deal directly with parents," the man said. "My company is on the cutting edge of media technology. The board of directors has extensive experience in news gathering, filmmaking, and reality television. One of them was the driving force behind 'What Not To Wear.' "
"Are you making a TV program here?" I wondered.
"No," the man said, "I'm just shooting background material. Our goal is to revolutionize the business of school pictures. Say goodbye to those silly wallet-size photos! With our system, production values of network quality will be focused on your student for the entire year. The basic plan includes a seamlessly edited blend of classroom highlights and extracurricular activities on standard DVD with Dolby sound.
"The deluxe plan gives you special behind-the-scenes features, interviews with friends, teachers - the whole enchilada. I must also tell you that our company retains broadcast rights to all footage, some of which may be used in the broadcast of a new show we're developing called 'America's Kookiest High School Hijinks.' Comedy Central may take an option on it."
"Very impressive," I said. "But in all honesty, I like the wallet-size photos. They brighten up my refrigerator."
"Mere scraps of memorabilia," the man sneered. "I'm offering you a product that can serve as the cornerstone of a genealogical archive. If your daughter meets an important dignitary or performs an act of heroism, it all goes on the permanent visual record. Think how valuable that documentation can be later in life, especially if she ever runs for public office and the other side starts accusing her of lying about her past achievements."
"Are you sure this is the right venue?" I asked. "Seems like you'd have a warmer, fuzzier sales pitch if you targeted elementary schools."
"Already in the pipeline," he said. "We're also developing packages for sports teams and theater productions. Our children will thank us. When they get old, the world may be pretty messy. Global warming, crumbling infrastructure, the social security system bankrupted. Having easy access to happy memories will make those hardships easier to endure."
"Since you put it that way," I said, "I'm going to surprise my daughter and take her out for a milkshake this afternoon. My mom and I used to do that."
"If you sign up for the standard plan I'll be happy to go along and shoot your fatherly bonding moment at no extra charge," the man offered.
"No, thanks," I said. "I think we're all getting overdocumented these days. Kids need to learn that some of the best memories in life are the ones that happen while nobody is watching."