Not in the clamor of the crowded street, not in the shouts and plaudits of the throng, but in ourselves, are triumph and defeat.--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

REDIRECT ALERT! (Scroll down past this mess if you're trying to read an archived post. Thanks. No, really, thanks.)

Due to my inability to control my temper and complacently accept continued silliness with not-quite-as-reliable-as-it-ought-to-be Blogger/Blogspot, your beloved Possumblog will now waddle across the Information Dirt Road and park its prehensile tail at http://possumblog.mu.nu.

This site will remain in place as a backup in case Munuvia gets hit by a bus or something, but I don't think they have as much trouble with this as some places do. ::cough::blogspot::cough:: So click here and adjust your links. I apologize for the inconvenience, but it's one of those things.

Friday, June 04, 2004

What Not to Do.

Got in last night after Rebecca’s practice (yes, the season is over, but they’re going to play in a 3vs3 tournament next weekend) and had just gotten all finished with my very late supper as Miss Reba sat down to fill me in on the details of her day. Normal stuff--she goes into exquisite detail about the various operations of her office, but I like being around her, so even though most of what I hear is, “…so, then I had to confirm the referral with the providerwha wha wha WHA wha wha, and THEN she turned to me and asked if I had put the pending file into the wha wha wha wha…,” I still like to sit and let it wash over me. Sometimes I even learn stuff.

Anyway, lots of yadda yadda, a few nuggets of interest, and then the tale of the ride home from Columbiana: “…and so then on the way home, I’m toodling along in my lane, I’m going right down the middle of the RIGHT lane, just driving along, and I hear someone blowing their horn. And I think, ‘huh!?’ and I look back and I can’t figure out what’s going on because I’M IN MY LANE and then I look over and there’s this carload of nasty looking guys and one of them is hanging out the window screaming and laughing at me, and I just look over at him [angry scowl, shoulders shrugging, palms up] and say, ‘WHAT!? I DON’T KNOW YOU!’ and they drive on off and they’re in some truck with a TOILET on top of it and toilet paper flying off of it and …”

“Reba, don’t do that again. That was the wrong thing to do.”

The moment she said there was a carload of guys in the car next to her, my blood ran cold.

I repeated it a few more times for emphasis (but without belaboring the point--because doing that leads to intense poutiness) and she did allow that sometime after they got past her, weaving in and out of traffic, that she realized somewhere in the back of her mind that they could have had a knife or a gun.

Bingo. Give the lady a ceegar.

Folks, allow me to mount the soapbox for a few moments.

You probably can figure how this could have turned out--a woman, alone, in a small car, somewhere on the interstate between Calera and Pelham, a carload of morons with too much time on their hands--the solution to that math problem should scare anyone with any sense.

I don’t know how you feel about your own personal safety, but if you place any value in it at all, there are some things that you need to always have somewhere in your mind when you are anyplace other than in the safe confines of your home.

First thing--there are bad people in the world. Sit and philosophize with your debate club buddies all you want about it, but strict empiricism says there are, and you would do well to be prepared to deal with them.

Second thing--the police can’t be everywhere. Do not think for a moment that just because it’s against the law to hurt people, that there aren’t people around willing to break that law. And YOU might be the person they try to hurt, and there might not be a gruff but kindly big Irish cop to shoo them away with his nightstick.

Both of which mean, if you value your safety, YOU might have to take some responsibility for it. Of course, some believe the idea of personal responsibility is rather old-fashioned, but better to be a throwback than a victim.

Your best weapon in all of this is centered between your ears. Use the brain God gave you--

Know what’s going on around you.
Know what can go wrong.
Know what to do.

These aren’t numbered, and they aren’t intended to be steps in a process--they are each interrelated and mutually supportive like the spokes of a wheel or the legs of a stool. Take away one and you’re not left with much support.

In Reba’s situation, I know that she understands there are bad guys who can do bad things--she even admitted as much when she said she later thought they might could have had a weapon. But she has never really taken a hard look at what she might do in a situation where she might be called upon to deal with the unthinkable. Like many people, ignoring the possibility of bad things is a convenience--and most of the time she doesn’t have to worry, because there are very few times when she DOESN’T have me around to take care of such things. But, like the police, I can’t always be around, and that is something she hasn’t considered fully. She doesn’t like guns, she has never received any formal defensive training--if you are someone like this, YOU MUST be more aware of what’s going on around you. You CANNOT just blithely wander around anywhere and anytime you want and expect to be safe.

Let’s go back to the car with Reba, and notice the first leg of the stool that was missing--awareness of her surroundings.

If you don’t check your mirrors every few seconds, and if you don’t notice something like a weaving truck with A TOILET on top UNTIL IT’S BESIDE YOU, you are doing something terribly wrong. Any sort of advance planning or defensive driving you might know is negated. If they had been intent on mischief, they had the drop on her, and worse, she allowed it to happen.

SO, back to the car again--having now allowed herself to be surprised by an entirely foreseeable hazard, she is left with few options. The best option is to be prepared to act defensively--make sure you have room to maneuver and you aren’t up against the bumper of the car ahead of you, survey the shoulder of the road in case it’s necessary to use it, see if there is anyone who might serve as a rolling barrier between you and the other person, know when the next exit is coming up.

The worst option?

TAKING NOTICE OF THE MORONS IN THE CAR AND ATTEMPTING TO ENGAGE IN CONVERSATION WITH THEM, EVEN IF YOU PUT ON YOUR MAD LOOK AND WHAT YOU SAY IS INTENDED TO MAKE THEM FEEL BAD AND GO AWAY! Do not EVER do this. When you take your concentration away from the task of driving, you have given away YET ANOTHER defensive advantage. And reacting to such things can be a sure fire way to ANTAGONIZE the idiot who’s bothering you. And then what will you do if they decide to do something!? Again, you’re an unarmed, single, female, in a small car with no weapon or self-defense skills. And your cell phone is down in your purse covered up with a pile of junk, and the idea of calling 911 gets lost in the stress of the situation.

Good thing she’s on speaking terms with God, cause by then she’ll need to make extreme use of it.

Drive defensively--know where everyone is around you, obey the traffic laws, and don’t antagonize other drivers. Be calm and courteous, and don’t allow yourself to be placed into situations that are dangerous. Know where you’re going, keep your cell phone charged, keep it dialed to 911 ready to transmit (or at least 91 so you can press 1 and send; or at the very least have it programmed into your speed dial), and ignore obvious attempts by other drivers to engage you in gamesmanship or other stupidity.

This stuff is common sense, and it is equally valid if you’re a man or a woman--even though I do have extensive firearms knowledge and a concealed weapons permit I occasionally put to use, I don’t knowingly put myself into dangerous situations, I don’t look for trouble, and I go out of my way to avoid giving offense to anyone. The only way this works, though, is an ingrained sense of the necessity of being cognizant of my surroundings, as well as being prepared for potential trouble. This doesn’t mean I walk around scared and paranoid or swaggering and brash, and it doesn’t mean I don’t trust God will take care of me. It means only that I take the tools He’s given me to insure my own safety and that of my family.


One of the best online guides I have found on self-defense is written by Jon Grigsby and John Blue. Grigsby is a sergeant with the Pleasant Grove Police Department west of Birmingham, and runs the FOP shooting range, and in addition is a super nice guy. The guide is geared toward the defensive use of firearms, but the general information about danger avoidance and awareness is valuable no matter whether you like guns or not.

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