Saturday, January 03, 2009

If I Had Hair On The Back Of My Neck It Would Have Been Standing Up

A while ago James posted an interesting essay about what he calls "The Monkey". Please read it before going further - it is worth your time. Here is the money:
I illustrate this by asking my students if they have ever been around someone that just sent off the wrong vibes. There was something about that person, something that they couldn't put their finger on, which made them extremely uncomfortable. They knew that this person was bad news, they just couldn't say how they knew. I call this feeling The Monkey.

This morning on the way to work I felt The Monkey.

I dropped in to the convenience store I stop at every day to gas up and get some vitamin water. I stop at this place usually six times a week at 4.30am or so. I usually have no issues because there are always cops hanging out there sipping coffee and talking. But the cops haven't been around lately. None to be seen today. Whatever.

I got outside the truck and put the gas nozzle in and started pumping. I was cold so I went back inside my truck and closed the door.

I was listening to the radio when a short (very short) black guy with glasses came right up to the door and started talking to me through the window. Instantly I went into self defense mode. I locked the doors. I could hear him saying stuff, but I wasn't listening to a word. I was looking around my car to make sure he wasn't a distraction for something worse coming from behind. I grabbed the only weapons I had close by - my four D cell mag lite and my pocket knife. I also had keys but I was happier with my flashlight made of machined aircraft aluminum and the knife. I carry a big knife.

The guy kept talking through the closed window and eventually I told him to step away from the truck. Actually I yelled for him to "get the f1ck away from my truck". He did.

I looked around three more times, then stepped out to see him, knife in hand (blade not drawn) and flashlight held like a cop, sitting on my shoulder, ready for action. He was in a very subdued posture, but he kept closing the range on me. I kept stepping back. I glanced at his hands, they were in his pockets (not good), but his shoulders and arms were not tensed (good). No bulges in his jacket. His eyes were not glazed over (good, probably not intoxicated). He wasn't tensed in any area of his body that I could see. He wasn't agitated, but kept closing the damned range on me. Finally I took my flashlight, pushed him in the chest with it and told him to STOP coming close to me, and to shut up for a second. I might have told him to shut the f1ck up, but I don't remember, my adrenalin was pumping pretty good. He finally stopped flapping his yapper and I asked him what he wanted. He needed directions to a town 30 miles from here. I told him where to go, never taking my eyes off of him, and he thanked me and left. All in the above paragraph happened in about thirty seconds.

When he left I finished gassing up and went inside to get my water - the cashier, who I have known for a long time, asked what the hell was going on out there - I said that I thought the guy might have been retarded, but he wasn't a threat, just needed directions. I was still very amped up from the adrenalin dump. She had already called the cops she told me. I saw them with rollers on coming toward the convenience store a mile down the road as I was driving away. This was a good three minutes after the incident happened. I could have been dead if that guy had attacked me and I wasn't able to defend myself. Self defense is up to you. Do not count on the professionals to save you.

As I write this I can't tell you enough how my martial arts training has helped me to assess people and situations. From the get go I knew two things - this guy was not in an aggressive stance, and that I was VERY uncomfortable when he kept coming close to me. Watching the Bas Rutten street self defense videos cured me of letting someone get the range on me very quickly.

Looking back on it I probably should not have exited the vehicle at all until that guy was in a range I was more comfortable with. Then again he probably would have closed the range over and over. What was wrong with that guy? Hard of hearing? Partially blind? Was I a mark and did he perhaps think I was going to let him in close? Things happenned so fast. Don't they always?


James R. Rummel said...

Holy crap! No wonder the alarm bells were ringing. (Old school: "Hie thee well, the alarum bells were chiming!")

I've seen behavior like that, many times. The guy was probably going to ask you for some money ("I need another five bucks worth of gas to get to my destination!"). Breaking into the mark's personal space confuses them, and they are more likely to cough up some cash.

This is because the mark will probably give them something just to get them the heck away. It kinda worked with you, since you didn't want him anywhere near you.

But the monkey was screaming awfully hard. Maybe he WAS up to something. One never knows.

"Looking back on it I probably should not have exited the vehicle at all until that guy was in a range I was more comfortable with."

Woulda shoulda coulda. It all turned out great! No one hurt, you weren't even late for work.

For what it is worth, I think you did good.


Dan from Madison said...

Thanks James. Hard to say just exactly what he was up to. Maybe he really needed directions. We will never know - but man did I hate him closing the range on me like that, hence the nudge in the chest with my flashlight.

Carl from Chicago said...

Sounds like your local gas station is about as inviting as our River North Chicago BP that I wrote about recently.

It was nice that the gas station called the cops, though. They were trying to look out for you.

One option is that maybe the guy was lost. Sadly enough, probably not too likely.

Dan from Madison said...

He actually did have a vehicle and drive away after I gave him directions. Oh well, we will never know.

Murdoc said...

Had a similar sort of incident in a Taco Bell parking lot somewhere in New Mexico just after sunset while on vacation a few years back. The guy was possibly just a regular panhandler, but was a persistent bugger who kept setting off my internal alarms.

After leaving Taco Bell, we had to gas up across the street and ran into a few bad news type characters. Don't know if I was still spooked by the panhandler or what, but my inner voice kept yelling GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE and we all but ran for it.

Probably looked like a bunch of damn fools and maybe insulted some locals. But to this day I'm glad we did.

I would bet money that a lot of folks who end up in a bad spot ignored multiple Spider Sense warnings on their way to disaster.

Carl from Chicago said...

One time I was with my family growing up and we were in a gas station in rural montana. We walked in and the vibe was super strange. It turns out that a couple minutes prior a couple guys had walked in and robbed the station at gunpoint and everyone was kind of in a daze.

The problem for those robbers is that 1) they weren't the same skin tone as the locals 2) there was only one road around there and they knew which way they headed.

I am 99% sure they were caught in short order and ended up in the famous Montana State prison in Deer Lodge.

They are very lucky they weren't shot outright everyone is armed out there.

James R. Rummel said...

Dan from Madison said....

"He actually did have a vehicle and drive away after I gave him directions."

I bet it was a late model car, either brown or primer grey.

Seen a lot of these beggars over the years. Modern gypsies, really.


GunGeek said...

Typically, someone just looking for directions will go into the store and ask the clerk for help instead of going up to strangers out in the cold.

Reminds me of the person trolling through a grocery store parking lot in a Suburban for hours hitting everyone up for gas money because they didn't have enough to get to --insert destination here--. If you were low on gas, would you drive around a parking lot in a Suburban sucking up what little gas you had or park the gas guzzler and then start begging for gas money?

When someone is doing something that just goes against the norm and against what makes sense, there's a good chance that they're not really doing what they claim to be doing. Just sayin'...