The Marco files.


Slight jump in the narrative here.  Pretty far behind in my journal, and I want to get this little bit up since I have the photos.

Took a quick trip to L.A. in late August.  A bunch of people I knew ("that whole Burning Man crowd") were having a party at a warehouse some of them lived in.  Realized it was a chance to have a bit of fun, and I wanted to hit L.A. before Burning Man anyway, so I hatched a plan: go to Los Angeles, but don't let anyone (at least not anyone who would be at the party) know I was coming to town.  Just going to the party wouldn't be worth the trip, however - and this is what would make part 2 of the plan work so well.  Part 2 was to go in disguise.

Personally, I find context-based recognition to be a major factor in my identifying people.  If you see someone you work with at work, you instantly know who it is.  If you see that same person at, say, a club on the weekend, dressed completely differently, you may not even recognize them (and you'll probably at least do the ol' "doesn't that look kind of like...?" thing for a while).  Finally, if you have specific reason to believe it can NOT be said person, you'll likely reject the idea in the end.

So I decided a little test of this principle could be quite entertaining.

It being a party (with a theme of "Winter Ball"), dressing relatively formally would not stand out too much.  Since my typical apparel is far more "homeless" than "hipster", this would be a good start.  I also borrowed a pair of cowboy boots to give me a few inches extra height.

Obviously, this would not be enough to even begin to throw people off my trail, especially people who have known me for years. 

So, time to work on the main area of recognition, the face.

This was actually incredibly simple:

1) Shave.  I generally wear a beard.  Even when I'm not specifically intending to maintain a beard, I'm usually quite scruffy at the least.  Being completely clean-shaven is very rare for me, so that would be a good start.

2) Hair.  While my face is usually shaggy, above the ears I'm quite bald.  Keep it shaven pretty closely most of the time (and it doesn't go very far even when I don't).  People who see old pictures of me in my hairy days rarely recognize me.  So, a simple dark wig would help take care of this.  Didn't have to be ultra-realistic, even (and boy, was it ever not).  It would be dark at the party, and besides, misdirection was the main point.  Just didn't want to trigger anything in anyone's brain that said "Therm".

3) Eyes.  This is, after all, one of the key things people use for facial recognition.  This was also quite simple - wear sunglasses.  Not just sunglasses, but a pair of sunglasses that was very unlike my usual glasses (not to mention just plain wrong for my face). 

And for the rest of me;

4) Posture / Gait.  Normally, I tend to have pretty straight posture, and apparently I have a pretty "bouncy" walk.  So, I slumped my shoulders forward, and walked in more of a slow, shuffling way.  The cowboy boots helped with this as well.  The added advantage was that this allowed me to look over the rims of my sunglasses (another gesture that was very much not natural for me), thus allowing me to still see, but keeping the opening for my eyes minimal.

5) Voice.  This one was easiest handled by not talking any more than I had to, and spoke slowly, in a low voice, when it couldn't be avoided.

6) Name.  Decided that, while wearing a name tag that said "Mark" wouldn't tip me off to people who've never even had an inkling as to what name my parents gave me, it may be pushing my luck a bit too far with the handful of people who still call me such, and they were some of the people I was most looking forward to messing with.  Decided to use the name "Marco", as the wig made me look like an extra in a bad 70's Italian action movie.

So, here's the "Therm" that eveyone was used to seeing;

and here's who was at the party.


(for more Marco pictures, check out the Marco Gallery)


So, how'd it go?

MUCH better than I'd hoped.

When I first arrived, I made a quick trip across the party and back, near the edges, just to see.  Half-expected to get picked out in the first few minutes.   Nope.  I decided to get a bit mroe daring then, and deliberately stood in the line of sight of some of my very close friends.  Nothing.  Within 15 minutes, I was constantly passing by people I had know for years.  My friend Jim, who I've known since high-school and worked with at X-drive, came by and greeted another of our former co-weorkers riight next to me me, spoke with him for fiive minutes, and still didn't realize who I was.  With just a few exceptions, I was able to pick the time and place when I revealed myself to someone (usually just consisted of lowering my glasses far enough for them to see me and grinning mischieviously, or saying a word or two in my normal voice).  Absolutely worth my drive down.