Yes! a non-cricket post! About the possible birth of new urban myth, or the spread of an old one, or yet another face of violent crime in Colombo (yes yes a grammatically suspect sentence but it does the trick).
There is no way to verify what I heard so I suppose I risk being accused of rumor mongering. But the public safety element is strong enough that I don’t mind looking or sounding silly. 🙂
It concerns an email that is making the rounds (perhaps you got one?). Ironically I havn’t, but in true urban myth style I heard it from someone who had received an email. The email naturally claims to be true but is of course totally unverifiable (as of this posting). The story might be new. Havn’t seen a story like that on urban myth sites such as snopes.com. But then I don’t habitually go sniffing around for urban myths.
The story does strike a cord given the considerable fear factor involved due to the spate of abductions in the news.
The new story is made believable by some of the core ingredients of an urban myth:
- Concreteness – specific everyday things are described being used in an easy to visualise way
- Tied to a very common concern : personal safety/freedom
- The “it could happen to you or someone you love” factor
- The “myth” ends with a course of action that doubles up as a sort of warning: such as don’t accept drinks from strangers or you’ll lose your kidneys..
The above criteria is very interestingly discussed (and expanded on) in a book by Chip and Dan Heath called Made to Stick. As with another potentially interesting book, I haven’t read Made to Stick, but I can across an absorbing streaming audio interview with the two authors (who are brothers). To crudely sum up the description I heard of the book in half a sentence: Made to Stick focuses on the reasons some ideas prevail while others don’t.
Now to the supposed email:
The email apparently describes an abduction technique used to stop cars and abduct/carjack/kidnap its driver/passengers.
The method is said to be as follows:
- Eggs are hurled at the windscreen.
- The natural instinct of the driver is to turn on the wipers to wipe the egg yoke.
- This is supposed to spread the egg yoke across the windscreen cutting off forward visibility and making it impossible for the driver to keep going
- The attackers then storm the stopped car and size the driver/passengers
Apparently the warning of the email is that if someone hurled eggs onto your windscreen, don’t put on the wipers – just accelerate forward till you can reach some sort of “safe” spot (if there are any).
The genius of this particular story is that its ruthlessly adapted to viral spreading itself. It can even spread via a discussion about urban myths. Perhaps its a consequence of third world urban life in a time of war. The public safety angle is too much to ignore. Hopefully some news will come out confirming or refuting the story as a myth. Or given the way things go, it will enjoy the silence of the unverifiable.