22 January 2020

How to Become a Ghost - updated

A question that arose last year was "How did you disappear?"  Because
I won that hide and seek game, back in the day.   In a small town where everyone knows everyone and their second cousin, it is difficult.  But possible.
I was thinking about that question and realized that it might be helpful to share; just in case someone ever finds themselves in that kind of situation.  I really had to think about it because it's been a million years.  Essentially it boils down to: you have to change everything. 

Let's begin at the beginning:

The lawyer's advice was to move out of town.  When that wasn't an acceptable option, he plainly said "Then you have to disappear."  He meant: change friends, drop your family, change your job, move.  Cast off anything that connected you to you.

But here's the things you don't think about:

Job: I did eventually change jobs because the stress of it all made it not my choice.  I eventually started working in a different county and that effectively made me into a ghost.

Grocery shopping.  You have to change stores or change your shopping habits.  I used to go later at night, for example.  I changed stores and changed the times that I went.  I figured out how to go in lesser-used entrances of stores. Think of entering via the garden center or whatever.

Shopping in general: go at weird hours, go with someone. There is split thinking about parking: park close so a person can come and go quickly or park in the back and walk.  That way if someone was coming in or out, you weren't easily spotted and you can be aware of people coming and going. 

Favorite restaurants are also a no-go. Because people remember where your favorite pizza place is.  Bars, if that's your thing, are a hard pass.  Legal paperwork often prevents you from being in establishments with alcohol.

Church.  I wasn't going at the time but it was definitely not a place I could ever go again.

Driving: know that you're not going into certain neighborhoods anymore.  I didn't go to friends houses, or even to my family for a long while.  Change your route home or to work, or both.  It wasn't a possibility for me but change cars.  Have someone else drive.

Clothing: Don't wear your favorite coat, because everyone knows it.

Events:  Fairs, festivals, shows, those are off the Things to Do list also.  I became a little bit of a hermit for about a year.

I cut my hair.  Some of it was stress and some of it was making a change.

I didn't answer the phone anymore.  This was the time of landlines and answering machines. No caller ID or cell phones.  To be honest, screening calls is still a habit.

I didn't order take-out or delivery with my name.  I didn't pick up items in stores under my name.

I nearly changed my surname to a new name.  As it was, my former husband tried to prevent me from using my maiden name.  So it was written into the divorce paperwork specifically that I would not retain his surname.  Even though it didn't need to be, because my lawyer had a sense of humor and really enjoyed outsmarting him.

Even with those changes, I was still around.  I was still found.  Someone will always talk.  I had to learn that friends weren't always friends. They were sometimes just spies.

And, this was before the internet, social media, and cell phones. I can't imagine how difficult it would be to do this in these times.

My take-away is that you have to do what works for you.  I was "lucky" in that I was absorbed into a completely different life and eventually was able to completely disappear.  I recognize that not everyone is so lucky.

1 comment:

Swistle said...

This is so useful, and so sad and infuriating that it is necessary.