Dec 20, 2010

"This above all...

... To thine own self be true". (Polonius, Hamlet, I:3:78)

Brigid has a post up with a few good pointers.

I felt it, rather than heard it, a coldness at the very base of my spine, a sense, somehow, that I was being watched. There was no sound, no steady growl of rustle or movement upon which our mind will tell us to hurry along. Yet, I knew it was there; the murmur of threat, the panting whispers of predators unseen.
I was operating on the instinct of an animal, one that is both predator and prey.
Instinct overrode logic and when I got to within a few feet of the car, I literally ran and dove in, slamming the door behind me. Echoing in that sound was a large WHUMP against the back of the vehicle as if something had bounced off of it.

There is a book out there, titled "The Gift of Fear", by Gavin deBecker, that touches on this. On page 6:
I've learned some lessons about safety through years of asking people who've suffered violence, "Could you have seen this coming?" Most often they say, "No, it just came out of nowhere," but if I am quiet, if I wait a moment, here comes the information: "I felt uneasy when I met that guy..." or "Now that I think of it, I was suspicious when he approached me," or "I realize now I had seen that car earlier in the day."
Of course, if they realize it now, they knew it then. We all see the signals because there is a universal code of violence. You'll find some of what you need to break that code in the following chapters, but most of it is in you.
(Emphasis mine - Z.)

We have surrounded ourselves with convenience, mechanical safeguards, and other things to insulate us from the dangers of the world, but at his most basic levels, man is an animal with animal instincts. Sadly, most of us have managed to suppress those instincts, choosing instead to trust to - what? Human kindness?

We are not the end of the food chain, literally or figuratively. There are predators out there. Some walk the woods and fields on four paws, others pad the streets on Nikes. We are developed to identify threats - consciously or not - and respond to them. Fight-or-flight, no? But we suppress that reflex, simply to prevent offending someone, or [sarcasm]worse yet, looking silly[/sarcasm]. Silly is a much better way to look than dead.

While out hunting, particularly when walking in or out of the woods in the dark, I don't carry my gun on its sling. I keep it at low-ready. My carry pistol isn't carried in "condition 3"; there is always one in the tube.

Why? Predators rarely call ahead to announce their intentions. Brigid was stalked by a large wild cat and had no warning; her revelation was that "thump" of a cat into a bumper. A mugger isn't going to wander the streets wearing a sandwich board that says, "MUGGING ABOUT TO HAPPEN".

Make no mistake: predators aren't invisible. We just have to know what to watch for. Brigid didn't look back that night. Would she have seen a wild cat stalking along the side of a lonely country drive? Maybe. Maybe not. It doesn't matter. She knew it was there. Those "urban yoots" who crossed the street towards you down the block? You see them. Are they going home, or waiting for you to come to them? As long as you know they're there and are willing to react appropriately, it doesn't matter.

Most predators, on being recognized as such - and recognizing that perhaps their intended victim is not the soft target they'd imagined, will move on to easier prey. Would Brigid's stalker have gone looking for a rabbit? Will those yoots let you pass by with nothing more than a token snarl?

I've blogged it in detail before, but I'll excerpt the critical parts:

...We pulled into the rest area, which was pretty empty. There was one other car in the lot, running, with at least two people in it. We parked a couple spots down and under a light, shut off the truck, stretched for a few seconds, then hopped out. Between the time I'd parked and getting out of the truck, someone had gotten out of the car and walked all the way around the back of my truck, stopping essentially right at the driver's rear corner by the bumper. The very first words out of his mouth were, "Hey, sorry to walk up on y'all like this."

My first reaction was to get both hands out of coat pockets and turn my left side slightly toward him, while my right hand rested on my belt just behind my hip - essentially on the sheath for my Leatherman tool, but also precisely where I would carry a pistol (this was prior to my carrying full-time - Z.).

He rambled on with a long story [...] [with] both hands up in front of him as he talked. Eventually he got to the point and asked for "fourteen dollars". Kind of a random number, but the easy answer was, "Sorry, I don't carry cash." He started backing away then, apologized a couple more times for, "Walking up on y'all," and got into the car.
Was he just looking for a few bucks in sympathy? Maybe. If I'd reached for my wallet, would a knife or gun have appeared? Maybe. Either way, he realized pretty quick that he'd picked the wrong prey, and disappeared most rikki-tik. Did I handle it perfectly? No. But that going back to deBecker, "I felt uneasy when I met that guy." That's all I needed to know.

I'm not advocating living our lives in fear and constantly looking over our shoulders, by any means. But we have to learn to listen to that little voice inside; the one that says, "This is a Bad Person/Situation/Place." Learn to be somewhere else. What's the worst that can happen? You leave a party/club early? Walk three blocks instead of one? Offend someone who really did mean well? Burn an extra half-gallon of gas? Big deal.

This above all: to thine own self be true.

1 comment:

Julie said...

i really liked the 'gift of fear' book - i think it should be mandatory reading for all 15y.o.s

unfortunately i gave my copy away ...