Hobbies For Serial Killers… and Writers.

One of the things I like to do–as a point of interest, not as a career path–is to take the information that people hand out without a second thought, go to the internet, and see how much more I can come up with. It’s a holdover from my time writing thrillers, and the truth is, everyone should probably take a step back and think about how much information they really want to give strangers.

The correct answer?

I don’t know. I mean, I have a blog, don’t I? A Twitter account?  I post information on the internet, and for the most part, I don’t get a whole lot of negativity. I’ve never gotten any trolling, or threats. Of course, I’m also not really advertising to a full cross-section of the world, either. My blog focuses on readers, writers… uhm… mostly not homicidal maniacs.

I still believe you should think about what kind of information you’re giving away… particularly if it connects to minors.

There’s not a whole lot of advantage to giving away personal information.

So, the game goes like this. You see a stranger. It could be one of those SUVs with the stick family on the back, or it could be that Booster Club Mom with the giant buttons with her kid’s picture and the Sports Team T-shirt. Anyone, really. The goal is to get from watching their car drive by to knowing enough to get them to believe you know them. (I’m not actually suggesting that you act on this.)

You are not allowed to talk to the person, or to communicate with them in any way. No asking for more information,  no hinting, no introducing yourself in hopes of hearing the person’s name, or getting them to chat about their high school glory days.

You take the information they hand out freely, and you go from there. Is their kid an honor roll student at Herbert Hoover Middle School? Does Dad have one of those license plates that lists his ham radio call letters? (You can pull up radio license information, and usually a home address with one of those.) Those nifty Team/sport/name/JerseyNumber bumper stickers are suddenly weirdly creepy.

Because people really do give away a lot of information on their cars, sometimes on their bodies. Hobbies. Interests. The number of people and pets in the family. Do you really want people walking by your car to know you own an attack cat instead of a Doberman? Do you want them to know that your daughter’s name is Chelsea, she goes to Franklin Middle School, where she plays volleyball, and then goes to dance at Baby Ballet is us? Would you like that same stranger to know what her brother’s name is, and what kind of car to tell her broke down?

And yes, one of my villains does wind up choosing victims based on the bumper stickers on their cars. It’s not as detailed as this, but… well, it’s the kind of thing that gets a girl to thinking. Be safe out there.

What do you think? Where do you draw the line on giving out information?

3 thoughts on “Hobbies For Serial Killers… and Writers.

  1. Delia says:

    Interesting idea. In my childhood bumper stickers were a Thing, though now I rarely see quite the ornamentation I used to (aside from the occasional opinionated crank or Experience Tourist). But my tiny little gray car gives away what sport I play (license plate), my favorite museum (sticker), where I am allowed to park (a university parking tag and a city neighborhood zone sticker), and that I drive on toll highways (EZ Pass). It might telegraph my indifference to appearance (dents, scratches, trash on the floor) but actually I live in a city neighborhood where having a car look a little beat up protects it, and where bothering with body work when someone dents or scratches it would be a mug’s game, because it will just happen again immediately. Or, yeah, my indifference to appearance.

    But looking out my front window, I notice that all the cars on the street are identical tiny gray cars.

  2. Eda says:

    I put nothing on my cars, ever. I’m super paranoid and don’t want to give strangers ammunition to harass or attack me.

  3. John Holton says:

    I don’t share anything I don’t absolutely have to, precisely for this reason. And no one’s approached me with information about themselves, but I’d be creeped out if they did.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *