I run Adium on my Mac. Between AOL, and Yahoo, internal Jabber at work, Microcoft Live Messenger, and multiple GChat accounts, I have over 5,000 contacts.
And each day, at least once, sometimes many times, I get a spam IM. How they get through security procedures on the platforms, I don’t know. But sometimes they do.
I “always” just click “block” and close the window.
But several times over the last few weeks – a “girl” – always with the same name followed by random and changing numbers – would send me messages. They looked like spam. So I blocked each of them in turn.
Until things turned. The messages started to actually talk about things I did, or said. Usually something I posted on Twitter, but sometimes a link to a comment I made on a random blog.
Then I got, “You need to mow your grass – but I do understand that is has been raining a lot, and your mower would trench the yard”.
Whoah! This was odd. While the person could have assumed that I needed to mow, how would “she” know that I have a large commercial mower? Unless “she” knew me?
Still, I blocked the message as spam – just as I had the many others.
Until late last week. I responded to one of the messages, “Who are you, do you know me?”
I received no response. About 20 minutes later I clicked “block” on her message and went to make something to eat. I almost immediately heard the “ding” sound informing me of a new message.
The message was simple, “To find me again, you have to block my IM – for I am. You follow me on Twitter, but I don’t follow you”.
Aha! I could narrow it down! But there are about 2200 people that follow me. And I follow under half of them. So I couldn’t narrow it down too much. But still – assuming she was a she, and that she lived near me, I could whittle the list down to about 60. Based on those of the 60 I knew, or knew of – I got to 52. I could have made a mistake here, but was pretty careful to only “remove” those I knew for certain weren’t the mysterious IM’er.
52 might as well be 500. And then I thought, what if it is a friend just messing with me, or perhaps it is actually a guy? The 52 seemed like a useless number.
Anyway, I blocked the latest account and didn’t hear? anything for a couple days.
Then I got a new IM that said, “Be honest and be rewarded – how large is your suspect list? <50? >50? >100? <500?. Win a clue.”
I replied >50, then blocked the account. It was now an amusing game.
Fifteen minutes passed before I got a new IM, from yet another account – it said, “Not good. Not bad, but not good. I’m two blocks away, at a place you like, but I’m leaving now”
OK. There are four places within two blocks of me that I have talked about publicly (or checked into from FourSquares). Three are VERY public places. One is a quiet store where I am usually the only customer.
I replied back, “Did you enjoy your drink?” – thinking this would narrow things down to two places. I should have worded it better so it could have been narrowed to one – but I wasn’t that clever.
Same routine – blocked the account. Woke up the next morning to this: “Drink was great. I’ve been reading your blog – five posts from APR 2007. Are you IP-Savvy?”
OK – at this point I am pretty much having a good time with this entire game. So my curiosity was really peeked. Whomever this was had a sense of humor, and some tech savvy.
I replied back, “I see your IP. You humor me.”
Next day I went to both of the local bars I have been know to hang out in and connected to the open WiFi – and checked the IP address assigned. < Bingo! Had her/him! Blanco Tavern.
Later that day I received a new IM that said, “Bet you figured it out. But I am never there when you are, but am often in other places you are.”
Damn! This was getting pretty interesting 🙂
So I wrote a private blog post. I sent her a link, “Here’s what I’ve found, let me know if it is sound”.
Then I blocked her.
And watched for an IP address to hit that post (and yes, with Woopra, I can see in near real-time). Just 8 minutes later someone was reading my private post – from the Lion and Rose Pub, just two blocks away (it was one of those IP addresses I had checked earlier).
I didn’t respond then – I didn’t want her/him to know that I was on to them. I grabbed my laptop and keys and hit the door.
5 minutes later I was sitting on the patio – the lone patron outside that day. And I opened my laptop. I sent a simple IM back to “her”, “I am on your sub-net. And I am on the patio. – Step out”.
Then I blocked her/him.
And waited, but just a moment. The door opened, and the waitress came out. She handed me a napkin with “DSL” written on it. Said a woman (yes!) had asked her to give it to me, and that I would know what it meant.
I did – that is the “name” of my primary WiFi network at my house! I paid for my drink and quickly headed back home. As I pulled in front of the house, there was nobody in the driveway – just one car – up the street. Tapping it’s break pedal. I took it as a signal, and followed.
It was 1.5 blocks and a stop-sign ahead of me, but I rushed to catch up. I didn’t – but I saw where the car went – Blanco Tavern.
I finally crossed the busy Blanco Road and walked into the bar – which is very dark, and it was very bright outside. So I could barely see.
But I heard, “Hello, Rob. That took you a while”
As I approached the table at the nearly empty bar I could finally make out the face of someone I had met before, but wasn’t sure where.
“Interesting game”, I said. “You play well.”
She laughed and professed that she didn’t mean to get “caught” just yet. Yes, she was attractive, and yes, she was younger than me.
“I don’t recall where I met you – I’m sorry”, I offered.
“You haven’t”, said she. Just call me (and she gave another variation of the numbers based yet always changing name she used on IM). “We’ve been in the same places, but never met”.
We chatted about how she pulled this off – “easy”, she said. What a Geek – and a Linux hack at that. We were getting along wonderfully, and chatted for 35 minutes. But not about who she was, or how she knew me. I figured that would all come out eventually. The conversation did not seem as if it were about to stop anytime soon.
Until the door opened and a man yelled, ‘Sam, I know you are in here”. To wit “Sam” told me – “you better go” – which I did – by taking advantage of him being blinded coming in from the sun. As I took the long way out of the bar I heard him yelling at her about “no wife of mine”…
Two days later I got another IM from her. I replied, “No wife of mine…” and have blocked the last several chats without responding.
Perhaps I should – but I don’t want to get in the middle of any drama – and certainly not in the middle of a marriage.
But if Geeky Sam figures all that out, and wants to spar again without the baggage – you know my IP’s 🙂
And yeah – I know this wasn’t a really happy ending, but it was fun playing the game.