It’s 2:30 AM as I head out to my van, a 24” cube with my logo and phone number on the side. It’s been a long night, spinning Rock & Roll at the Detroit bar where I occasionally sub for a colleague. It’s been a good night. The owner enjoyed my show, so he threw me an extra fifty, and when combined with all the tips, my pocket has some serious bulge action going on. In my hand is my case with my hard drives and laptop. I round the corner of the building, heading to the street-level parking where I’ve parked, since the van can’t fit into any of the parking structures. The streets look deserted.
AM I CRAZY?
With all of the hubbub about Chicago being the most dangerous city, the media sometimes overlooks the fact that Detroit has a much higher per-capita murder rate. The Detroit Police union told visitors to the city to “enter at your own risk.” When they coined the phrase, “urban jungle,” Detroit may well have been the inspiration. Yet I move confidently through the city, unafraid and unmolested. And with good reason.
Some years ago I saw a TV news story about a mobile DJ, Bruce Marshall, who did exactly what I routinely did: took his assistant out to breakfast after a gig. Returning to their trailer, they were confronted by some men intent on robbing them. Marshall was shot dead. It was then that I decided that a firearm, a CCW permit and some education and training might be a good idea.
No, this isn’t about weapons, at least not for the most part. Indeed, firearms aren’t an option for everyone and, depending on where you live, might be against the law. The training, however, was invaluable. The core of it and biggest take-away for me (and what I’m passing along to you now) are the triple A’s:
Most people go about their daily lives in what self-defense devotees call “condition white.” They are mostly oblivious to what’s going on around them. They may avoid eye contact or even acknowledging others if they notice them at all. They might be distracted by their cell phone or iPod. These are the people who bump into you in the store and, surprised out of their stupor, mutter a quick “excuse me.” Or they’re fumbling with their keys trying to open their car or house door, not having them ready before they approached. These are also the very people that muggers, pickpockets and other criminals watch for.
What they don’t want to see is confidence. If you look right at those around you, making eye contact and even giving a friendly nod, you not only become a less attractive target, but you’re getting a good look at them. If anything happens, you can now better describe them, having noted their approximate height, hair color, nationality, clothing, etc. You’re also less likely to be targeted if you walk with confidence, head up, looking attentive. This is known as “condition yellow.”
Awareness is paying attention to what is going on around you; where people are and what they are doing. Does anything look out of place? A long jacket on a cold, rainy night makes sense. On a hot, humid day in July it should scream, “This person is hiding something!” Everybody is used to teens hanging out at the mall or in the parking lot, but why would they be out there if it’s raining? Again, when things don’t “add-up,” you should follow your gut. And this brings us to:
Simply stated, if you see trouble coming, then get out of the way. Maybe the person who is making you nervous has no malice, but it’s best to err on the side of caution. Use another entrance; take another path; leave the area. Don’t wait around to find out if a suspected threat is exactly what you think it is. These first two A’s alone will solve most of life’s worst encounters.
Even with your heightened awareness and your best attempts at avoidance, you can still find yourself face-to-face with a threat. Now you must have a plan of action; how do you respond? I’m a big fan of de-escalation, and there are many books, online articles and even courses on using words to defuse a potentially bad situation. Many a fight has been avoided with the words, “I’m sorry, I meant no disrespect. Let me buy you a beer.”
At the 2008 Mobile Beat show in Chicago, Todd Mitchem told his story of an argument with a belligerent guest at an event. “Your music sucks!” the guest yelled. Todd escalated it by dismissing the guy, yelling back at him. “What do you know? I’m the DJ!” A moment later, a full beer glass hits the mixing console and the show is over. The next time Todd hears, “Your music sucks,” his response is, “Yes, I know, but this is the kind of crap requests I’ve been getting. Hey, why don’t you help get me out of this by requesting something good? Do you have a favorite song you’d like to dance to?” At that point, Todd was suddenly on the guest’s side! He’s also given the guest something else to think about besides his anger; what song to ask for?
Sometimes honesty is not the best policy. If trouble is brewing and can be avoided by some carefully chosen words, then that is always preferable even if they’re insincere.
Luckily for us all, your likelihood of being in an armed confrontation is fairly low, despite the screeching of the media. Still, statistics won’t mean much to you if you ever find yourself staring at the business end of a knife or a gun. If your assailant does indeed bring a weapon into the equation, then you need to have a plan of action for that as well.
Before even considering a firearm purchase, seek out an accredited training class in your area. Fully, honestly and soberly discuss everything that is involved. Doing so may mean the difference between optimizing your safety and jeopardizing it! After all, you don’t want to become the very thing that you fear. Your local police department will have a list of state recognized, accredited instructors. Be sure to check and follow all your state and local laws as well. This is serious business; literally life or death. Done correctly, though, you’ll be safer in your work and those around you will be safer for your training.