Lessons Learned from Film: Traveling Securely on Memorial Day
Family Vacations. Reading those two words, you have one of two reactions – you just smiled or groaned. When I was very young, my family took a trip to Canada’s Wonderland; based on the stories my parents and aunts and uncles tell, calling it calamitous would be an understatement. Thankfully, I was too young to remember it. I do, however, remember the last big trip my family took, cross country (Ontario to British Columbia) in a 26’ motorhome. My parents, my grandmother, my two siblings, and I – and, if that wasn’t enough, on the way back we added my grandmother’s sister to that small space. It was a fun trip that will always be in my memories, even though it was nothing like the "National Lampoons Vacation" series.
I recently rewatched "RV" starring the late Robin Williams, which was disliked by critics and viewers alike, about an executive who cancels his family’s Hawaiian vacation to drive across country in an RV that has seen better days. A scene in the movie triggered my cyber security “spidey sense” and I started thinking about other “family vacation” genre movies that stood as examples of disastrous personal privacy and security mistakes. With the holiday weekend here, let’s take a look at a few examples of the technology missteps made by these motion picture families.
I mentioned "RV," so let’s start there. In the movie, Bob Munro (Robin Williams) must prepare a presentation while traveling across country. After all, his family doesn’t know that there’s a work related reason for this last minute road trip. He sneaks a few minutes of work in here and there, hiding his laptop in the RV compartments and stepping away whenever he won’t be missed. At one campground, Bob decides the best workspace is a stall in the restrooms and he types away until he is interrupted. The interruption pulls him away from his work but he still has the laptop. The solution, hide it behind the toilet. In the next scene, we see a random hitchhiker walk out of the restroom with Bob’s laptop in his bag. While I doubt anyone will spend Memorial Day weekend working in a campground restroom, the lesson here holds true. Remember to always keep an eye on your electronics. These days, people bring their phones, tablets, and laptops everywhere. Don’t leave yours lying around. If you step into the trailer to grab marshmallows, the laptop should not stay on the picnic table. If you stop at a rest stop on the road, the dash of your car is not the best place for your iPad while you step away for a moment. Bob was saved by the Gornickes, a hippy family led by Jeff Daniels, but it’s unlikely that you’ll be that lucky.
While not directly tied to your tech, a family vacation, especially one where pets or plants are left behind, often involves a house sitter of some sort. Forget about the 1992 RomCom "HouseSitter" or the 2015 thriller "The House Sitter." Instead, let’s stay on traveling theme and look at Daniella Pineda in the sitcom "The Detour," which follows a family as they travel across the country. While the family is traveling, the lead character’s sister in-law, Vanessa Randall (played by Daniella), is left behind as the cat sitter. In this story, the nightmare sitter throws parties and leaves the family with a dead cat. While the scenarios in "The Detour" may (or may not) seem all too ridiculous, there are real risks associated with giving someone access to your home. How well do you know your house/pet/plant sitter? Ours, for example, was a former employee of our vet, but many people search Google or browse Facebook for a nearby sitter. You are giving this person access to your most intimate possessions in an unsupervised manner. Do you have an AppleTV where movies could be purchased or rented? A computer or tablet that does not require a password? How about your passport, will, or other confidential documents, are they stored under a lock and key? While movies and television often show us visible damage, a stranger in your home can cause unseen damage that could impact you for years to come. Remember to vet anybody you hire before giving them keys and lock down any computers or tablets that you will be leaving behind.
Finally, a piece of advice for kids and teens, straight from "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul" – the Internet is forever. Frank (Tom Everett Scott) and Susan (Alicia Silverstone) raise kids who may be just as clueless as their mother once was. While the movie centers around putting away devices and minimizing screen time in order to enjoy a family trip (great advice for this coming weekend), Greg Heffley’s (Jason Drucker) Diaper Hands viral video should stand out. In a world where everything is recorded, it’s important to remember that anything you do may end up on your permanent record aka The Internet. There’s a lot of truth in the meme, “I’m so glad I grew up in the 80s. I did so much stupid s**t and there’s no record of it.” These days everything is recorded and archived and it’s an important lesson for kids to learn. As you head to the camp ground, amusement park, beach, or backyard this long weekend, this is an important point to hammer home with your kids.
Family vacation movies are always good for a laugh, often offering some useless "lessons." For example, how many people tried greasing up their sleds after National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation only to have their hopes dashed when they failed to ignite the snow behind them? From time to time though, they do provide a real lesson or show us the pitfalls of certain choices. People are probably more cautious about asking a stranger to take their picture after Clark Griswald had his video camera stolen in National Lampoon’s European Vacation. (Side note: why was he taking pictures with a video camera?)
This long weekend is a great opportunity for travel and making memories. Just remember to keep an eye on your surrounds and belongings – you don't want stolen data or devices to ruin a good time.
Posted by Tyler Reguly on May 25, 2018