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Doctor Grey Man, Personal Information versus Personal Safety on the Road

Greg Hood, MD, Internal Medicine, 02:33PM Aug 25, 2013

Driving home Friday I saw what is still not an uncommon sight. I saw a car covered in dozens of bumper stickers. More surprising than that this driver hasn't gotten the message that the 90s are over is that unlike essentially every other car around here so adorned this one was covered with Republican and conservative stickers. Sometimes physician cars can stand out just as noticeably, though the owner may not realize it.

The driver of a car plastered with bumper stickers knows that doing so makes statements. It is, of course, the intent of having the stickers. Seldom do such drivers realize all that they are communicating. Those who parade the latest fad, the stick figure family, may think that it is cute and endearing. Perhaps if they were to consult and to understand whom comprises their readership on the road they might have a second thought.


Contrary to the satirical sticker noted above, the unfortunate truth is that some may be very interested. The symbols explaining that if one wishes to follow home the vehicle I began the article referencing one need only to be prepared to deal with a cat and puppy before exercising cruel intent on a single mother and two daughters may then be perceived as an unwise display. 

Displaying counterbalancing stickers from firearm manufacturers and Second amendment organizations alongside the little stick girl in a tutu may seem to act as a deterrent as well as a promotion of one's beliefs. Unfortunately, it may be taken as an invitation to collect (and use) said items during a home invasion, or at a minimum in a burglary should the criminal element elect to wait until the home is again vacant. What's more, the criminal in this case doesn't even have to follow the (almost certain) gun owner home.

All he or she has to do is follow the vehicle until it pulls into a pistol-free zone, for example the school parking lot (another sticker says plainly which school the girls attend) for the after school math club event that your honor student attends. Of course, criminals can be more opportunistic, and break into cars at sporting events en masse. After all, it doesn't take long, and the arena isn't in the best part of town, so the driver probably carried their protection, but had to leave it in the car to enter the venue.

Conversely, the (more common) display of "Co-exist" and anti-war stickers also speaks volumes about the home owner's plans for personal protection. Knowing that those stickers usually mean that this is someone who is anti-gun can make a criminal feel that much more confident that this is a home that will not be able to counter the criminal's own possession of a firearm during a home invasion.

Wasn't it nice of one car to advertise where to go to get said gun? It made selecting the sequence of the home invasions so much more straightforward. Are these hard and fast rules? No, but physicians should be able to reflect and recognize at this moment that we base clinical decisions on conclusions that often have no greater odds of correctness than the conclusions above.

So far, doctors, who typically don't plaster their cars with stickers, may read much of the above with bemusement. However, what does it advertise about you if you have a late model, high dollar sports car and a vanity plate that makes it clear that you are in a highly remunerated specialty, such as anesthesia or EP cardiology? How often is the gated security at your community actually manned?


They "grey man" (or woman) doesn't refer to the color of his car, nor his hair (necessarily). It is a term referring to maintaining an anonymous, inconspicuous profile while in public. To maintain such a visage does not mean one must be bland. Rather, one simply needs to not stick out and not be memorable in ways that could attract negative attention. It is not that the grey man shuns interact with others. Instead, the grey man does so with those of his choosing, sharing what information he purposefully wishes to share.

On the road, in particular, being the grey man means that one is not freely divulging personal information on the public byways. Displaying details of one's occupation, status, family and beliefs may draw the attention of those prone to acts of ill intent to yourself. Hopefully this results in nothing more than being singled out for having your car keyed because of the expressed political affiliations, but the consequences can be much more dire.


If you have children who drive consider two vehicles waiting for the light at an intersection. One is the vehicle described above, the other is a nice, but plain and unadorned car. If the next car in line happens to be filled with gang members or a paroled sex offender which vehicle do you want your child in?


Poll: I choose to Drive the hottest car, with a vanity plate if I choose. Nothing will happen to me.|Drive a quality car, but not advertise about me with stickers or plates.|Drive a car that is a moving billboard of everything I believe. Others need to learn.|Drive a beater that no one would want to mess with, for fear of tetanus.|Go outside right now with a scraper and take my stickers off my car.|
About This Blog

One internist's personal views on the practice and business of medicine, posted each weekend.

2012 Winner of Web Health Awards, receiving both Bronze and Merit certificates.

Disclosure: Gregory A. Hood, MD, has disclosed the following relevant financial relationships:
Served as director, officer, partner, employee, advisor, consultant, or trustee for: Kentucky Chapter of the American College of Physicians, American College of Physicians
Served as a speaker or a member of a speakers bureau for: GlaxoSmithKline

Poll: The care of the patient is best described as A simple algorithm worthy only of a base font|An overly celebrated product, suitable to any font|An unintelligible, illegible production|An artistic, hand drawn performance|

  • Greg Hood

    Dr. Greg Hood is a practicing traditional internist in Lexington, Kentucky. He is also the medical director of his local Independent Physician Association (IPA) and is active with committees covering many different professional services. He has published and spoken on a wide variety of clinical and nonclinical subjects, including issues of work-life balance, workforce planning, and healthcare funding and reform. He was the recipient of leadership awards in 1996 and 2004. Dr. Hood is a past-president of the California Society of Internal Medicine and is a past-governor of the Kentucky chapter of the American College of Physicians.

The content of this blog does not necessarily reflect the viewpoints of Medscape.
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