He’s out there looking for you
By Elaine Viets
"Dear Miss Viets:
"I saw you on TV and you are not too fat. I would like to marry you, but the doctors say I can never touch another woman again."
Brrr. My self-appointed fiancé also sent me a poem called "Darkness, Blackness and Very Bad Smells."
The return address was the state institute for the criminally insane. That sent chills down my spine, and they had nothing to do with Halloween.
The letter was unsigned, but I called the head of the asylum. He knew who I was talking about. "Oh, him. You don’t have to worry about him."
"He likes to send letters to the President. The Secret Service keeps a close watch on him."
The asylum head said it was doubtful my would-be lover would be out anytime soon. He also said he couldn’t make the man quit sending the letters.
Fortunately, I only got one. That was several years ago, when I worked for a newspaper and had a local TV show. This wasn’t the only weirdo I’ve encountered.
How about the library talk where a man asked how many sixes were in my name? Three sixes were the mark of the Biblical beast in his mind, and apparently I had them all over me.
"I want you to write my life story," he said.
"Sorry," I said. "I’m under contract."
"Well, my story would sell a lot better than yours."
I asked a guard to walk me to my car after the event. I wasn’t toughing this one out. I never saw that character again, either.
When I worked in Hollywood, Florida, a man with a lot of homemade tattoos left love letters on my car windshield, along with a pack of off-brand cigarettes. As a final tribute, he put the keys to his Harley on my landlord’s front porch with yet another letter. Since this was South Florida, my landlord thought the love letters were for him.
"Call the police," a cop friend told me.
"I don’t want to bother them," I said.
"Your murder will generate a lot more paperwork," the practical cop said. "We like to prevent things."
I put the love letters and cigarettes in a ziplock bag, and called the Hollywood police. A streetwise officer figured out my admirer was a drifter who lived in a run-down apartment three doors down. The drifter spent his days smoking those off-brand cigarettes on the apartment’s porch. The streetwise cop brought the guy over to apologize.
"I’m very sorry," the man said. "My behavior was inappropriate."
He didn’t look like the sort of person who used "inappropriate" often. He vanished three days later.
The American Psychological Association said the "overwhelming majority of stalkers are male. It is estimated that eight percent of women have been stalked at some point during their lifetime."
Here’s something that will freeze your blood. Your stalker can now get a free map to your home, just by typing in your phone number on Google.
Valerie, a single friend, sent me a much-forwarded warning that "Google has implemented a new feature which enables you to type a telephone number into the search bar, hit ‘enter,’ and you will be given the person’s name and address. If you then hit MapQuest, you will get a map to the person’s house.
"Everyone should be aware of this," the email said. "It’s a nationwide reverse telephone book. If your children give out their phone number, someone can now look it up to find out where they live. The safety issues are obvious and alarming."
I went to Google.com and typed in my phone number. There was my husband’s name and a map to our condo. I clicked on the Removal form.
Another law enforcement officer told me to check 411.com. That site also had our phone number and address.
"I always get an unlisted number for home," the officer said. "I run all my bills through a post office box and try to ‘layer’ myself in case a nut job was out there. With the Internet and if you own a home, there’s so much information that’s public domain or available for a few dollars through a service."
What can you do?
Remove your name from these sites. If you discover another site giving out your phone number and address, take the time to remove yourself.
Before some weirdo does it for you.