Last week, my dear friend Kelly Radi was the featured author during Ladies Night // Holiday Style at Copper Pony. I hadn’t stopped by to see this store that everyone raves about, I needed a hostess gift, and I wanted to show support for Kelly’s latest book, Wonder-Full. I thought this would be the perfect excuse to get out of the house by myself and spend time smelling yummy candles and laughing at sarcastic home décor.
My original plan was to be there at the beginning of the event (5pm) and get out before it got too crowded. Unfortunately, my husband had to stay at work longer that day, so I didn’t get out the door until 6:30pm. The reason this little nugget of info is important, is it changes who you are likely to encounter walking down the street.
The event was in full swing at the store, which is located in our downtown area. Parking is available on the streets and there are parking ramps and large lots within walking distance. I drove around until I found street parking that was in front of a well-lit building and around the corner from the store. I grabbed my J5 flashlight, kept it in my right hand, and stuck my hand in my jacket pocket. My handbag went over my shoulder and I walked without incident to the store.
The store is so cute!! I saw lots of people I knew, I wondered around and collected a lot more than one hostess gift, and as I was about to leave, a friend I hadn’t seen in awhile walked in. We lamented about the busyness of the season and how we needed to get together to catch up. She works downtown and her car was parked in one of the lots further away. I offered to drive her to her car and wait while it warmed up so we could chat.
Since she had just gotten there and needed to pick up a gift, I said I would get my vehicle, and drive around and pick her up when she was finished. I went back to my truck and then pulled out of my spot to find a spot closer to the store front. I ended up doing a couple of laps around the block before I spotted an opening near the front of a restaurant.
It was a spot you would drive into instead of needing to parallel park. As I pulled in, my headlights showed an older man, probably in his 60’s or 70’s, squatted down smoking a cigarette. He was tucked in a corner by the entrance to a business that was closed for the night.
(Let’s hit pause to break down the moving parts. Our intuition processes information faster than we can consciously analyze so it’s important to slow it down after the fact to understand key signals.)
-It’s not unusual to see someone smoking outside an establishment, tucked into a building to get out of the wind.
-Observing his appearance and the fact that he was squatting or sitting down on the sidewalk, I guessed that he could be one of our homeless population.
-Whenever I put my truck in park, all the doors automatically unlock. I always re-lock the doors out of habit for safety. I locked my doors instinctively in that moment.
-I turned off my headlights so they wouldn’t be shining in his eyes.
I texted my friend to let her know where I was parked and asked her to text me when she was walking out the door.
In the short time it took me to send the text, the man had stood up, and was now standing at the front of my truck on the sidewalk.
-I wasn’t alarmed by him standing there but I did raise my awareness. I didn’t see a backpack on his shoulders, and he didn’t have any items under his arms.
-I couldn’t see his hands because they were below my field of vision over my hood.
-He didn’t have an expression on his face, it was simply blank.
I didn’t want to grab my phone to text my friend because I didn’t want to be distracted. I did look at him again to make sure he knew I noticed him.
-The different options for action started going through my head. Do I wave him along? Do I turn my headlights back on and flash them, hoping he’ll get the hint and walk away? Do I crack my window enough to tell him to please get away from the front of my truck? Or do I back out of my perfect parking spot and drive away?
My mental processing probably took 10 seconds, but having the man STILL standing there, staring at me, made it feel like a lot longer. By this time, I was uncomfortable because he had no reason to be standing there and had not changed his facial expression or tried saying anything to me.
I decided to go with the last option.
I turned my headlights back on, put my truck in reverse, and backed out of the spot.
As I started to drive away, I looked towards him. He had already turned and was walking into the restaurant. I muttered “jerk” and drove away. If he was a patron of the restaurant who had simply stepped outside to smoke, why did he have to stand at the front of my truck staring at me? Why didn’t he just walk back into the restaurant when he finished his smoke?
Honestly, I think I was more upset about losing my parking spot at that moment.
Fast forward to the end of the night when I recounted this experience to my husband. If you’re new to following The Diamond Arrow Group, my husband works in the Police Department for our city. This gives context to our conversation.
Here are the highlights.
Husband: Why didn’t you lay on your horn and tell him to get out of there?
Me: He wasn’t doing anything threatening, I didn’t want to draw unnecessary attention to myself, and it was easy enough to drive away.
As women, we don’t want to cause a scene every time a creeper does something that makes us uncomfortable. We already keep moments when we get that “weird feeling” to ourselves because we hear “you’re over-reacting” or “don’t be judgmental”. Plus, we’ve all been told “don’t cry wolf because when something DOES happen, no one will respond”.
Now let’s be clear, I’m not saying women are “crying wolf” when they talk about something that happened to them. I’m bringing this up because in our minds, we have to save those imaginary please believe me cards for the time when something really major happens.
The problem with that mentality is, who decides what’s trivial and what’s major?
Husband: I think I know who you’re talking about. Did you snap a picture of him?
Me: No, that thought didn’t cross my mind.
When we were on this topic, I questioned myself too. Why DIDN’T I take a picture of him? My husband said I could pretend I was FaceTiming with someone and take a picture without the guy even knowing.
As I mentally pictured raising my phone and pretending to take a picture, I wondered if that would have caused him to get angry. Going back to my earlier point, women don’t want to cause a scene. I don’t think I could be sly enough to get a picture without him knowing what I was doing.
Husband: If you saw him again, would you recognize him?
Me: I’m pretty sure I would.
This part of the conversation went into the reporting to law enforcement discussion. My husband WANTS women to report behaviors like this. The reason is because he can let other officers know and be watching for the behavior. What if this guy does this to women all the time? What if he’s done worse?
IMPORTANT NOTE: Everyone should have the non-emergency number for their local law enforcement agency saved in their phone. If you don’t, open a browser window right now and search to find it.
Husband: Did you say anything to him at all?
Me: Nope, I didn’t want to give an opening to conversation and have him get close to my window.
Again, I would rather avoid elevating the situation. I had no desire to start a conversation. I simply wanted to be left alone in my nice parking spot.
Our discussion was interesting. I kept saying, “if I wasn’t doing work on situational awareness and wasn’t married to a cop, I probably wouldn’t even be having this conversation.”
This was a non-event in my mind. For others, it might have really bugged them, and they would’ve done something different. Maybe they would’ve honked the horn. Maybe they would’ve motioned for the guy to move along. Maybe they would’ve stayed in the parking spot and not cared about the guy standing there.
As long as you do whatever you feel comfortable doing to stay safe, that’s all that matters. The important part is to do something. Consider your options, decide on one that works for you, and then do it.
I’ve studied all things relating to situational awareness and self-defense for years, and I’m still learning. I hear from so many of you “nothing happened but…I got this weird vibe”. It’s very real. Your senses are constantly taking in information. Your subconscious is always processing that information, deciding what message to send to your consciousness. Your intuition is taking that message and delivering it in physical ways (chills up your spine, nagging thoughts, knots in your stomach). Pay attention and never discount your intuition.
“Intuition is always right in at least two important ways;
It is always in response to something. It always has your best interest at heart”
–Gavin De Becker