Thursday, March 06, 2014

Are You Scared?

As I said in my last post, I had a fun weekend in Boston, the city I was born in at the NCEMSF Conference. At the last minute, I changed my plans. Instead of driving, I took Megabus up and Bolt bus back. Both were acceptable, and the red-eye Megabus worked with my schedule. My brother gave me a ride into and home from Philly (in my car), and the travel wasn't bad.

I had an interesting exchange on Sunday night as I was getting into the driver’s seat after swapping out with my brother. A middle aged woman appeared practically out of nowhere, and had closed to within 4 feet of me at my 11-o’clock, on the driver’s side of my car (she was standing in the street) when I noticed her. It was late (9pm) and I thought I had been aware of my surroundings as I loaded my bags in the car and snapped my holster onto my belt, but this woman startled me and was far too close for my comfort.

She approached from the front of my car and asked “Can I ask you a question?” I had flashbacks to my SouthNarc class at Tactical Conference, and simply said “No”, got into my car, and took off. As I did, she asked “Are you scared”. Being a smartass, I said “no” from behind my closed door, and shifted the truck into drive as I hit the lock button. We “got off the X” without incident, and headed home. I’ll continue the “home” part tomorrow.

Anyway - Let me take a moment to address the idea of “Managing the Unknown Contact”. SouthNarc is a retired LEO who does firearms training, and as he put it in our session, there is a LOT of training about how to address a lethal threat, but very little training about how to handle an “unknown contact” in a public place. He’s got a good write-up that explains his approach: ( The bottom line is that when you’re approached by a stranger in public, you need to keep as much distance between you and them as you can, while you assess their actions... and it’s OK to be rude. Especially if they are closing your reactionary gap.

The idea is to halt their approach. If they ask permission to ask you a question, or show you something, you've given them implicit permission to close that gap. My other concern was that someone appeared “out of nowhere”, so I was clearly not as aware of my surroundings as I should have been. I didn't think there was anyone behind me, but I couldn't check because I would turn my back on the first contact.

In hindsight, as I replay the situation in my head while I write this, I can also say that the woman also engaged in both “grooming” and “target glances” - she had a headband in her hair, and she kept touching/adjusting it, and I also saw her glance to her 3-o’clock and behind her. At the time, I didn't consciously process these indicators - but I think I did subconsciously. My solution, although rude, was to continue to get into my car, and then immediately leave. It ended the contact, and removed myself from the situation. In all likelihood, she may have simply been trying to panhandle, or might have been looking for some other type of help - but I felt no need to take risks to be polite, so I left.

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