Kane: It is really quite interesting to find a bar or a nightclub or another place where you can sit up and away a little bit from the main action and watch the crowd. For example, in West Seattle along the waterfront, there are a lot of outdoor restaurants. In the summertime you can watch the groups on the beach and they are doing all kinds of things and you can see a lot of fights.
You can watch not just the actual fight, but you can see who is together and who is not, who is checking people out from a predatory, pick-your-pocket or rob you kind of perspective as opposed to who would be a good victim because they aren’t paying attention, et cetera. It is fascinating how some people are totally in tune to what is going on around them, and then some people are not.
If something happens, you can pay attention to the build up. Working security for as long as I did, I can always tell when there is a problem brewing. It is not always about the person himself. I couldn’t always tell that in large crowds of people, but I saw the reaction of people around them. You will notice people in a crowd reacting. Look for body language changes, look for voice changes, look for movements or sounds… something different from the norm.
If you are really good at it and you have been in an area for a while, you can get a feeling for what is natural to that area. A week ago, I was on my way home from work. I hadn’t had lunch, so I decided to go to a Jack In The Box drive through. As I entered the parking lot there were two guys standing by a van with a back door open. The way they looked at me was not normal, and I didn’t know why, so it pinged my radar. There was just something wrong, so I decided not to go through the drive through because once you are in there, you are stuck.
As I went back through the parking lot and past them, I realized, “Oh, I know what this is!” These guys are selling stolen stuff out of the back of their truck. It was pretty brazen, selling stolen stuff at 4:30 in the afternoon in a public parking lot! I noticed it as not being normal before I could figure out what it was.
eJournal: Someone else might have not perceived the difference at all.
Kane: Everybody has natural situational awareness. It just gets trained out of you. You go to get in an elevator and there is a creepy-looking guy in there, and you say to yourself, “I really don’t want to get in there with him, but I don’t want to hurt his feelings.” You are talking yourself out of your natural awareness that is going to keep you safe. Who knows? Maybe it is perfectly innocent and there is not a problem. What is the big deal if you insult a stranger by not getting on the same elevator, or by turning around or walking down the other side of the street? Who cares? That does not make you a bad person. It just means that you’ve seen something that didn’t feel right so you chose to do something different. Everybody has really well-honed intuition if they’d just pay attention to it, but most of us are taught not to pay attention to it.
We are conditioned by society not to be rude. Read the first half of Gavin deBecker’s book, The Gift of Fear. While I have some problems with the second half of his book, the first half makes the point that if something doesn’t feel right, pay attention to it. It is really that simple and that difficult. It is really, really critical that you notice what is different around you!
eJournal: As in your fast food example, you do not have to identify exactly what is wrong, you just have to create some distance so you do not become part of the situation.