It didn't really hit me until today but I am fairly certain that I narrowly missed becoming a crime statistic last night.
I went to the local pharmacy to get some antacids. It was near dusk and I wasn't feeling too well, so I was concentrating on getting there, getting what I needed, and getting home. But when I pulled into the parking lot, I noticed something that seemed off: a car parked strangely with a couple of young adults in it. The engine was running, the doors were open, but there was no loud music, they weren't messing with their cell phones, and they seemed very jumpy.
I wasn't really paying a whole lot of attention; this observation and assessment was just a matter of a couple of seconds. Something about them made me feel uncomfortable. So I was careful not to park next to them and I made sure they knew that I saw them by looking straight at them as I set the alarm on my car (which beeps rather loudly when I do). Then I went into the store and didn't think anymore about it.
It was actually as I came out of the store that I could have been in danger. I suddenly had the feeling that someone was too close to me.....and there was. I turned round to see that there was a young woman directly behind me with her right hand stretched out toward my purse. She so close, in fact, that she had to back up when I turned. I said nothing but looked her right in the eye. She hurried away and got into the car with the two jumpy people, and they roared off out of the parking lot as quickly as they could.
All three of them were acting nervous and suspicious. It seems fair to assume that they were up to something. Before you make any assessments about my judgment, let me say two things. One, I am of the same race as those young people, so this is not about anything like discrimination. Two, I have been the victim of purse snatching before.
It's the second point that is important. When you have experienced wrongdoing, it should serve to make you more aware; it should encourage you to learn small ways in which you can protect yourself. That is what it did for me.
- I always park to the right of any store entrance. This enables me to find my car quickly, and it helps me to pay closer attention to where I am.
- I already have the strap of my purse on my shoulder when I get out of the car, and I don't allow myself to be distracted by extras like keys or cell phone or other stuff as I'm getting out--those things are already put in place.
- I stop to look around me before I exit the car. I want to know who and what is nearby.
- When I get back into the car to leave, I already have my left hand on the inside door handle and I pull the door shut as I am entering the car. I lock the door immediately. (This is very important: if I had known how to do this before, I never would have been mugged in the first place--back then, the guy punched me in the face as I was putting my purse in the car.)
- The most important thing of all: I NEVER put my keys in my purse. If someone takes your purse and your keys are in it, they not only know where you live but they can get in easily. Very scary.
- One minor exception to the no-keys rule: if you have a clip on your keys (like a carabiner--which is great because you can clip the keys to your clothing if you haven't got a pocket to put them in), you can use that to attach the strap of your purse to your shopping cart. This will prevent someone from easily taking your purse and the jingling noise will alert you to anyone meddling with your purse.
- This may seem obvious but keep your purse closed! If your purse isn't zipped or snapped, it's all too easy for someone to reach a hand in for your wallet.
- Put your receipts and so forth away before you leave the store. If you're fiddling about with stuff as you go out the door, you're not paying attention to your surroundings and that's when you become easy prey.
- Pay attention to your intuition--if something doesn't seem right, it may very well not be. Fear is there not to make us feel upset but to keep us safe, to keep us alert. It can be a good thing.
- If someone makes you feel uncomfortable, look them in the eye. They won't want to be recognized if they are up to something, and they are likely to want to get away from you fast.
- If you are in jeopardy, remember to breathe. It's human nature to hold your breathe when you're scared but if you do, you're robbing yourself of the oxygen you need to help you think properly.
I don't know how to do self-defense, and I've never punched a person in my life. The thing I can do is to pay attention to where I am and to what I am doing. Sometimes the basics are all you need. That's surely what I needed yesterday.
Keep yourself safe.
Life is good.