A Polite Society

In every shooting course I take at some point the instructor sets the students up to potentially shoot an innocent person.

It goes something like this…man walks up to you and ask for money or directions. The student tells him to get back, he doesn’t, student pulls gun, instructor says, “hey, hey, this guy just wanted to know how to get to Wal Mart.” “Haven’t you ever asked for directions before.”

It is true that 99% of the time the person is probably just wanting directions. It is true that we do live in a polite society where we help each other out, but for me that is no longer an option.

For me, unless I know you and well, you may not ask me for the time, money, directions, or even tell me I left the lights on in my car. No, I am not going to start screaming, yelling, drawing my gun or shooting anyone, necessarily, but 100% my response will to move back and firmly tell you no.

There is no 100% solution. Danger lurks and even when you do everything right bad things can happen, so for me it makes sense to stack the odds in my favor as much as humanly possible without living in a state of paranoia.

This poor woman was killed by her neighbor. Apparently, she knew this man casually and it seems perfectly reasonable for her to give him a ride to work. I would be surprised though if it doesn’t come out that she and/or her husband found him creepy. Couldn’t put their finger on it, but he was just off. Almost always our instincts warn us and time and time again many of us do not listen.

That is not an indictment against this woman. Maybe she didn’t feel that way or even if she did, it is so a part of us to quite those thoughts and help. She was kind and compassionate. There is zero fault in her behavior. The animal who violated her is the only one who is at fault. My only concern is what we can learn from our own choices and from choices of others.

Yes, I carry a gun and yes my choice would have been to try to shoot him, but if I am in a car with my gun on my hip and another one pointing at me, at the very least I need a little time probably to get to my gun. I have other ideas like ramming the car into a poll or something before I willing drive to my own death, but all of this requires some forethought and plan A, B, C, all the way to Z if need be.

I have no advice. I only have encouragement for each of us to continually be thinking about these things. Can we be more aware? Do we need to do a better job listening to our inner voice? Do we have a plan for this?

Please be safe!

14 thoughts on “A Polite Society

  1. Maybe I am misunderstanding your post. Can there ever be a legitimate reason to approach you? If so, how should one do it? I would rather not be shot for trying to return the keys you may have left behind at the checkout counter.

    • No, there isn’t a way to approach me personally, even to return my keys, but I am not going to shoot you for trying.

      I have had a lot of training. A lot. I have zero desire to be out of control, reactionary or shoot someone. I only will shoot someone if they are clearly trying to harm me and I can tell the difference, but if I tell you to get back and go away and you continue coming at me, the situation may get more intense.

  2. Thank you for the warning.

    Though it should be unnecessary to utter such a thing to anyone, I understand it is the only one you will give and that I am lucky to have received it.

    A polite person will heed your denial, even if surprised by it.

    Thugs try to appeal to someone’s helpfulness, openess and politeness – they are very good at it, convincing.

    I am always suspicious when anyone approaches, more so if the attempt to engage me in any way – because I’ve already been taking steps to avoid them.

    Always in condition orange awareness, ready for red – PLAN for red!

  3. In a way, I agree with this. Just because someone approaches you with what seems to be a innocent purpose, it doesn’t mean you have to be polite and engage in conversation. I think it depends on the circumstances and your surroundings. I’ve always found it funny that we teach our children that it is dangerous to talk to strangers but we don’t heed that lesson as adults. We are thought to be rude if we refuse to talk to a stranger or stop to help as an adult. I would be angry with my child if he/she stopped to tell a stranger how to get to Walmart. In most situations, I would simply say “I can’t help you” as I keep walking away from the person. I am not being rude. I am just protecting myself against possible threats. Not everyone is a threat but I will err on the side of caution. Remember: Never talk to strangers!

  4. I thing that is the operational issue here is simply “distance” – and a clear definition of what is your “personal space”. We live in a society today that is so much more “frayed” than when I was growing up. It pays everyone to pay attention to their “little voice” – it’s there for a good reason – to inform you of a dangerous situation.

    There is nothing wrong with strong verbal commands if someone approaches. Tell them to HALT (I never use the word stop), explain your concerns (I have no idea who the hell you are!!), tell them to keep their distance – in a firm, clear voice. If they respond as the poster above questions, they can always lay your keys on a car,bench,ledge . . . something and then step away.

    If they continue to press, there is no problem informing them you are armed, concerned for your safety and will respond accordingly.

    To wait, to allow the distance to be closed over your objection – well, that’s a good way to go home in a Ziploc.

  5. Interesting choice of topic. I think the question then becomes how do we maintain a “Polite Society” or even operate in an urban environment if our personal space now becomes a 7 yard radius?

    Anyway, that’s not where this comment was meant to go. The quote attributed to General Mattis comes to mind here “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet”.

    But again – I am side tracked. INSTINCT – this is what I wanted to point out. Instinct. I am in the midst of working through Michael Bane’s book Trailsafe. In it there is a great section on instinct, and trusting that little voice that is going off in the back of your head. For most situations that people will find themselves in, you are not going to be penalized by saying “no”, or changing plans and walking a different direction when that little voice starts to talk to you. Listen to your instincts, your brain is processing millions of tiny signals that are coming to it. Even if you can’t pinpoint what is making you uneasy, it is time to change the situation. Listen to your instincts, and that little voice that is trying to tell you something. Don’t rationalize it away, just listen and change your course. You will be happier in the long run that you did.

    • Really good point. How do we maintain a polite society?? I don’t know.

      I assure you I am friendly. I smile as people walk by. I am not tense and angry faced. I chit chat with the check out lady or the person in line in front of me. I do not run if someone walks in my aisle, brushes up against me and reaches for the mayo, but unsolicited conversation, especially in a parking lot are just not my thing.

      I love to read, so I might check out the book you speak of. Trusting that little voice is huge!

      • You can’t keep people out of your 7 yard radius … but condition yellow requires knowing that they are there. Of course, nobody is 100% on that.

        Many martial arts have the concept of kata, where you perfect form by doing a movement over and over again in a low-stress situation so that you can perform it perfectly in a high-stress one. AGirl’s public spaces kata seems perfectly reasonable to me. Sure, most of the time she’s going through wasted motion, but she knows first hand that you need a plan for the high-stress situation before it occurs. If she attracts the interests of a determined predator, this will serve her well. Nowadays, with cell phones and google maps and etc., it’s the rare person who has a legitimate reason for asking for a stranger’s help, and s/he should realize that his/her request is odd enough that s/he should keep his or her distance.

  6. The answer is personal space and respecting it. Don’t approach someone from behind, leave plenty of space in-between you and them. If you can, have something impeding immediate travel between you and them. *This is from the point of view of the person making contact.* Watch your body language, don’t put your hands in your pockets and don’t cross your arms.

    There is literally a pile of things that can be done that helps take the edge off. Like A Girl, if I don’t know you well odds are I will flip to Orange if you approach me unexpectedly. Bad things happen when things are unexpected, it’s the nature of the beast. So when you do something unexpected to someone else, remember they might know that above fact and react in kind.

    Do I like living in a polite society? You bet. I like being able to walk over to my neighbors house and say hi. I like waving at people I don’t know on back country roads. I like being able to stop and ask for directions. At the same time though, I like going home to my family every night.

    Now pardon me while I go throw up after reading that news article.

    *I have many buttons, and that demon seemed to know how to push all of them in that single act.

  7. I would highly recommend either watching a DVD, or taking a class, from the trainer known as SouthNarc:



    He offers a 4-hr. block of instruction on “Managing Unknown Contacts” that deals with this exact type of situation, where you are being approached by a person whose intentions and threat level are not known or not clear to you at the moment. The salient points are:

    – Use footwork to maintain distance from an unknown contact, as well as maintain your situational awareness(so you don’t get cornered in a cul-de-sac or back into an accomplice);

    – ASK an approaching stranger to keep their distance(“Whoa, you startled me – could you stay right there, please? I don’t know who you are, so I’d like you to not get any closer to me or my kids…”) – most people whose intentions are not aggressive/predatory will usually comply;

    – TELL someone who won’t keep their distance to back off(HEY! I DON’T KNOW YOU! STAY THERE! DON’T COME ANY CLOSER!) It’s not exactly polite, but neither is encroaching on your personal space against your express wishes;

    – MAKE someone who won’t comply with verbal requests/commands stay away from you, not necessarily by brandishing a (non)lethal weapon(which is hard to explain to a jury of laypersons unless you can articulate how you reasonably believed that the attacker is himself armed or is significantly bigger/stronger/more skilled than you), but with something like a fast open-finger strike to the face/eyes, which can buy you extra space and time while they recover, yet does no lasting damage to an innocent(if rude/pushy) person and is more easily explained to the authorities.

  8. Er……who cares if one is polite or not? If I feel/think the situation warrents it I can be the most obnoxious, mean looking individual imaginable. A lot depends on two things. Situational awareness and body language. That goes for both the one approached and the one doing the approaching. Maybe I was lucky in being in enough situations where awareness and body language was extremely important in regards to having continued good health…. In today’s world in isn’t just strange men one has to watch out for. Even teenagers can be a threat. Then one has to consider decoys….meaning women. Don’t get me wrong, I do like people. That does not mean I have to trust them. I don’t really trust anyone that I do not know very well. Does that bother me? Not one bit!

  9. [quote]but 100% my response will to move back and firmly tell you no.[/quote] Anybody that does not understand someone pulling away and telling them to stop (stay back, stay away, don’t come closer) has one of two possible problems – 1) they are cognatively impaired (PC for crazy) and I do not want them near me, or 2) they intend me some sort of harm and I do not want them near me.

    In this day and age of “personal space” most folks will remain at least their (if not theirs and your) personal bubble away from you, even if they are holding out the car keys your infant just pitched across the parking lot. They wait for you to then close the distance. (Seriously, watch how people behave.) Also, in this PC age if I tell someone to get/stand back they are most likely to have their feelings hurt and will not want to come right up to me and ggive me a hug – they will stand off and ask me just what my problem seems to be. (Seriously, watch how people behave.)

    If you persist in advancing after being told not to, expect me to be prepared to “repel boarders” if my trying to put distance does not work. that does not always mean drawing down on and shooting you. It could be anything from a grocery sack full of canned goods swung at your head (one of the few benefits of those plastic bags) to a whole grocery cart shoved into your shins to a face full of OC before I might think it’s time to draw (which means it’s time to shoot).

    stay safe.

  10. Talking to new neighbor at the dog park this morning who has lived in the Peoples Republic of Chicago, and now lives in the People’s Republic of DC. Advice he got from his uncle, an FFL in the Bronx of all places, “if someone asks you for the time, walk away, they are after your watch.” Likely in Bronx, maybe not in Danville, VA. But understand anyone approaching you may be interviewing you for victimhood, so stay situationally aware.

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