Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Banging one's head against a Brick Wall

As my dad would say 'You do it, because it feels *so* good when you stop.'

I'm not sure I completely agree with him. But that wouldn't be the first time, either. Over at I aim to Misbehave the Captain (since he's no longer advertising his first name) had a very interesting post about the view point of people who had actually seen the elephant - in this case, killed people in the line of duty. As he put it - it was a tool in their arsenal that most people simply don't have. That knowledge that they *could* if it came down to it - end a life. Not that they knew *how* to - but that they could pull the trigger, so to speak.

I've never been there. I don't know if I could pull the trigger. I know *how*. But I've never had to test that particular theory. Rather glad for that too.

However, it got me thinking about the one time I can honestly say that I got as close as I've ever been to answering that question.

To this day I feel very lucky I didn't have to find out.

Background:
I was working in London at the time. Over there for a month and a bit more for my former employer. I won't pretend that I know everything there is to know about Europe or the UK after a Month in and around London, and a later week long trip to Germany. But I will say, I prefer it here.

I had stopped for supper alone, on my way home from work that night - and as a result was walking towards my Hotel - which wasn't in a horrible part of town - but it wasn't the best either. It sat on an edge between a more touristy area, and an Immigrant neighborhood, and the Subway station I took to get to the area was squarely in the latter.

There are cameras *everywhere* in London. I could rail on that for days. But thats not the point of this ramble.

As I'm walking along, little things start to make the hair on the back of my head stand on end. First - two groups of family - Mothers and some young children - break off from my line of travel ahead of me, and head down a side street... which happens to be better lit.

I should have taken the hint. It didn't occur to me afterwards though to note on it. But they were very abrupt in their change of direction.

As I cross the side street and continue down the block I'm on, I start to notice that the street lamps down this way aren't working as well, it was mostly just a side thought as I was thinking about work - I noticed it and dismissed it. There isn't any graffiti or anything - but a few of the lamps are broken. Ahead of me are three younger men, probably Arabic or Indian descent - but I've never been good at picking out accents or guestimating by skin color. I come from one of the most 'whitebread' parts of the country - I don't think people of other colors all look alike - but I really don't have practice picking out regions by skin color. Just not in my skill set.

As I get closer, they shift. The three had been sitting on the front stoop of one of the buildings along the street. As I walk up, one of them gets up and moves to lean against the light pole. That got my attention. The little things I'd been noticing and setting aside started to roll back in on me. If I'd been smarter, I would have crossed the street right then and there.

I did not, but as I closed the distance down to polite conversation distance I was trying to look three ways at once, and wasn't liking it. Then the guy by the lamp pulled out a cigarette - and asked for a light.

His buddies were smoking - lit cigarettes. They had fire. They had no need to ask me for some.

And in my minds eye I noted the lamp the guy was leaning on was out. There were no other people out on the street and it was late enough that there was no traffic - even on the main artery my hotel was on. No witnesses and its dark. And this guy wants me to turn my back on his friends.

Sure. It could have been an innocent thing. It may have been.

But it didn't look that way to me at the time, and it doesn't look that way to me in retrospect either.

I straightened up. I was taller then any of them, by about a head - and I outweighed them - I was about 280 at the time and while I wasn't in shape - I looked and look more like a former linebacker then how flabby I actually am/was. I put my hands up to shrug, though what I a was actually doing was making sure they weren't at my sides if this all went sideways.

"Sorry. No fire." I said as I slipped between them, never focusing on any of the three without turning my back on any one.

I slipped between them, and glanced back a few feet later. "Got a light" guy had returned to his spot on the stoop and was getting a light from one of his buddies.

I have never had all my instincts scream at me like they did right then. It took me most of the way back to the hotel to get my heart rate down. But that was the point when it all really hit home, and became real. There are people out there who might wish me harm, or at least wish to use force to relieve me of my hard earned posessions, and possibly my life.

It went from random theory I'd considered and pondered and accepted but never really... had proven.

To very, very real.

I won't pretend that I've never been caught in 'condition white' since. It happens. But the idea that I might have to defend my own life somewhere down the line is very real to me.

I have no idea how that would have gone if they had mugged me, even without me turning to the buddy. There were three of them. The smart money would have been to give them my wallet and report it. But what if they weren't happy enough with that?

What if it got violent anyway? I know from personal experience that I don't talk about that I can be a very violent person. I've never killed anyone, or hurt them seriously - but... it was a near thing once. I had rather severe anger issues when I was younger. I'm not completely clear of those - but I know how to deal with them when they come up without getting to that place where I'm at risk of doing something I would regret.

So - I know I can inflict pain on another person, and I don't think in the right circumstance it would be hard for me to take that a step further. But 3 on one? A well trained single person is at some advantage against three individuals that haven't worked together to the point of finishing each others thoughts... but... I'm not that person. If they were armed, I'd have been at minimum, a bleeding body on the pavement.

I might not have been alone. But that's of little comfort. I'm just glad I didn't have to find out.

I bought the closest thing to a club I could the next day - an umbrella with a solid steel shaft. It was the best I could do. I still never went down that particular part of the street again. I followed the young families and took the long way back.

I have never since had anything *near* that experience. I've been in places where I didn't necessarily feel safe, but I've never felt overtly threatened before or since.

Its not a pleasant thing. But it puts self defense in a stark contrast. In a hypothetical situation, where things have gone sidways and its them or me, and there are more of them then there are of me? I want something to give me an chance. The best tool for this job is a firearm. Nothing else is better.

And I have no doubt that if I was in that situation again, and this time, things did go sideways... and if I was carrying a pistol? I would have shot them.

My dad has said he'd shoot them in the leg. Never mind the serious issues one is going to have with law enforcement about that he and I have argued at length about this. He would shoot to wound.

I wouldn't. I know that much. Center mass, until the threat stops.

I hope I never have to find out if I can pull the trigger. But... the idea that there is a threat to my person that could make me *ready* to is no longer theory. I know what it feels like.

And its very, very hard to explain that sort of knowledge to someone who hasn't been there. It can be a bit like beating one's head against a brick wall, in fact.

~Jon

Monday, April 21, 2014

Huh... this is still here.

Well, its been a long, long while. I don't really have a blog following, but as one of my very favorite bloggers to read said recently 'You still have things to say.'

And I do. So I'm going to resurrect this. However I think the posts are going to shift - In the distant past I was writing to an audience as much as anything else (never mind it may or may not have existed) I think going forward I'll be writing for me.

If people read it, cool. If not -it matters not because the words here are for me, to parse and ponder.

Actual content coming tonight after work.