A friend of mine recently recounted walking across a shopping center parking lot with his family. While headed for their car, he spotted a man standing around who just seemed out of place. My friend said the guy didn’t look particularly scruffy or gangsterish. In fact, he couldn’t really describe anything about the man that bothered him, but it just made him nervous.
My friend’s response was to unfasten his covering garment so that he could quickly get to his defensive handgun, if necessary. And he positioned himself so that he could keep an eye on the stranger while he assisted his family in getting into the vehicle. Once inside the car, he made sure all of the doors were locked and left the parking lot without hesitation. Essentially, he went Condition Orange.
My friend also admits to sort of laughing at his own alarm. He laughed, that is, until he saw the evening newscast. The news channel posted a photo of the stranger he’d seen earlier, and told of his arrest for beating and robbing a citizen in that same parking lot later in the afternoon.
We can talk all we want about awareness and advanced defensive skills, but we should never ignore the old gut feeling. I can’t begin to explain it in a scientific fashion except to say that it is something that our subconscious picks up from our five senses—something that we are not conscious of because we are preoccupied with other things. Essentially, it is our mind saying, “HEY, YOU’D BETTER WAKE UP!”
Just about every woman I’ve ever talked to could tell about being around some men who just made her feel uncomfortable. The guy may have said or done nothing out of the way, yet the feeling existed. This may not be the time to say, or do, something rude or unkind, but this is simply not the guy to ask when you need a ride home from the office party.
Being alert and recognizing that gut feeling doesn’t mean that you have to go John Wayne on a person. It means you just have to be alert to what could potentially be trouble. Just yesterday, in the feed store parking lot, I saw a guy staring at me and not smiling as he came across the lot in my direction. I unzipped my vest and continued towards my own vehicle. As the guy got close, he smiled, stuck out his hand, and said, “Hi, we met at the cowboy gathering last year.” We had a nice visit and he had no idea that my gut had told me to get ready.