A Sixth Sense.
In other words, PAYING ATTENTION to your surroundings.
Many of us have it- that "gut instinct" that tells us when something is not quite right with any given situation. But how many of us listen to it? How many put the phone call on hold, or Stop the D@mn Texting, or bother to pull yourself out of the daze you wander about in to listen- REALLY listen- to your gut?
Not many. Not many at all. No where near enough actually.
We are a distraction driven society, which unfortunately makes us easy targets for Bad Guys. (Because they tend to Pay Attention, looking for an easy mark.)
If we understand the mechanics of how a Bad Guy picks a target, we can formulate an awareness for certain behaviors, and learn to avoid people exhibiting those behaviors. The first thing a Bad Guy does is create a Profile. He is making up his mind what he is looking for, and who he can get it from. (Does he want money? Jewelery? Sex? Just to beat the ever loving sh*t out of someone?)
The next stage: Observe.
If you feel like you are being watched, you probably are. Look around. Make eye contact. Note details. Watch who is off to either side of you, and behind you. Look for alternative routes of travel. If you are in a store, look for other people and work your way into a group.
If you are in a parking lot alone, turn around and high tail it back into the store, or to another person.
MAKE NOISE. Sometimes "crazy" can save your hide.
If Bad Guy reaches the next stage, it is because you did not "feel" the warning prickle of being under observation. His next move is stalking. Just like any predator, he is going to stalk you. Follow you. From a distance at first, and then closer. A test bump, much like that of a shark (thankfully with no accidental nipping,) may be deployed, to see how easy you may be to get close to.
By then, you are not far from the last stage- where Bad Guy will Commit to his chosen act, and turn your otherwise nice day into a really crappy one. We all know the outcome of that event.
What brought about this post today?
Today I had to get supplies for the Locust Brothers. We were in WallyWorld-- a place decidedly NOT on my Favorite Places List-- when *that* feeling hit. *That* voice in my mind said, "Hey- you might need to hurry up and get out of here." I had the Locust Brothers with me. We were almost done, getting our frozen veggies, when *That* feeling and voice hit. I looked around again, and noticed a man, about 150 pounds, maybe in his early 30's, 5' 7" tall, grungy clothes, dirty work boots, standing with his back to me simply staring into the frozen veggie case like it held Nirvana.
Until I saw he was using the reflective surface of the glass to scope people out as they walked by. The hair on the back of my neck stood up (no mean feat there- I have a LOT of hair these days,) and that warning voice went into overdrive telling me to GET OUT. GET OUT NOW.
We did. I grabbed my frozen peas and got the kids out of there as quickly as I could. We were at the check out, and I looked at my list and realized... I had forgotten something Very Important. The warning voice said, "You have half a roll left, you can make do until tomorrow." I looked at my sons, and knew that half a roll of TP was no where near enough. We wheeled around and headed to the back of the store to the paper goods. On our way, we passed the frozen section again-- and that same man was still standing there, staring at the glass. Nothing in his hands, no cart, no movement other than his eyes in the glass when someone passed.
Sure- he could have just been deciding what type of frozen corn to buy. He could have been shopping for a better price on the peas. He could be one of those poor dudes who thinks that the best place to meet women is in the grocery store.
But maybe not.
We grabbed the TP, motored on up to the front of the store again. I carried Plan B in my wasitband, and I did check it's position a couple of times. But the biggest thing I did was to look around, look for alternative exits, look closer at the other people near me, and I listened to my gut. We got the heck out of Dodge. Once in the parking lot, the Locust Brothers loaded up into the truck quickly and buckled up, while I lifted my shirt to uncover Plan B. I loaded our stuff into the truck as quickly as I could, and we hit the road running. Five miles later, my skin finally stopped crawling.
Did something happen?
Could it have?
Shoot, "IT" could happen at any time, anywhere. This is far (FAR) from the first time this WallyWorld has felt less-than-safe to me.
What could I have done differently?
Well, for one, I should have gone to Kroger. Their corporate policy on firearms is to allow open carry (in GA). Kroger is known to be 2A supporters, and in states that allow open carry, they encourage it. For two.... well, I don't know. The man staring into the glass had no visible weapon. He had nothing in his hands, had made no gestures, said nothing at all, and not moved towards me. There was no *logical* reason to suspect that anything was wrong. All I had to go on was intuition, and noting he was watching people in the glass, and not scoping out the frozen delights in front of him. It seemed my best choice at the time was to move on with quickness. (WallyWorld firearms policy: allow carry, but prefer to keep it concealed.)
Look closer. Watch harder. Listen to my gut. Practice remembering small details, so that a description can be given at a later date.
Stay aware out there folks. No, not everyone is "out to get us", but we live in a society where our responsibility to protect ourselves is extremely high. Do a good job, and don't become a statistic please.