I’m really struggling with this one – no, not day 2 of NaNoWriMo, for I had that in the bag before the third coffee this morning – but the problem of how to get off the grid. Rather than cutting a long story interminable, the precis is:
Pile of parking tickets because local borough don’t send out reminders anymore meant emergency dash to Town Hall to renew. Hopped in taxi and the chatty driver (when aren’t they?) was bemoaning the fact that all black cabs must now have credit card machines. In my innocence, I thought it was a result of the paperless, contactless, loveless society we live in, but according to the cabbie, it’s a conspiracy theory to track the missing part of our movements – ie. those not already covered by CCTV, phone tracking, card use etc. He then went on to tell me about a TV programme called Hunted where contestants have to try and disappear for 28 days, whilst being pursued by the ex-head of MI5 or something (although the reviews are not quite as positive as I would have expected for such an exciting sounding programme). I’ve seen enough episodes of 24 and the like, to know that a computer wizard can use facial recognition, phone/card traces and hack CCTV feeds so that in reality no-one can disappear for very long. Ok, end of precis, now for the conundrum:
How do you get off the grid? According to those in the know, more than 250,000 people disappear in the UK each year. This is a staggering statistic and begs the question as to how this can happen. I spent some time on the bus (my favourite creative thinking space) today pondering this question and came to the conclusion that I could easily vanish for 28 days without being found. However, I could only get this scenario to work once I had, hypothetically speaking, vanished. In Hunted, the contestants get a half-hour head start and £250 in a bank account, then their details are handed over to the surveillance team. This is not enough, I reckon I would need at least 24 hours to disappear.
I came up with a few scenarios, all of which start with a speedy trip to the bank to get that £250 in cash, but none of which convince me that I could actually disappear.
Option (i): Buy a cinema ticket, slip out of the emergency exit after ten minutes (having used those minutes wisely to don wig, scarf and big coat for huddling) where a trusted mate would be waiting with a car. I could lie under a blanket on the back seat and be driven to my hideaway.
Option (ii): Buy a train ticket, but don’t actually board train. Visit Ladies toilet to don same disguise as (i). Find a bridge or railway arch and rough it for the month.
Option (iii): After cash withdrawal, speedy supermarket sweep and run home. Lurk in shrubbery until it’s dark. Don scarf and sunglasses, follow someone else into the block (so use of my access key is not registered), skulk in their shadow (then I’m just a vague phantom on the CCTV) and curl up under the duvet for a month, remembering to switch off all devices.
I’m not persuaded that any of these options would work and fear I would be caught before the first hour was up.
What would you do? Email me (del[at]delbarrett[dot]com] with any suggestions. I promise they won’t appear in Hot Stuff as running away definitely doesn’t feature. My novel will be stiff upper lip, face the music and bugger the consequences literature.
Vanishing Act from Contagious, Arena.