Here’s something that happened today:
I went to the supermarket to buy some groceries. The store isn’t located in the best part of the city but not the worst either. It’s not the kind of place I’d linger after dark but during the day time, it’s fine. I’d been to the store numerous times already and the customers are usually locals, it’s that kind of place.
As I walk up to the condiments section, I spot a guy who gives off the wrong vibe. Not violence, but something else, so I tag him mentally. He’s walking towards the same spot I’m going but there’s a big, older gentleman between us. I remember because the older man is blocking the aisle by placing his shopping cart diagonally across and standing on the other side so I can’t pass.
I stand there for at least five seconds and he still doesn’t notice me, despite turning his head towards me twice. He just continues talking to his wife. I opted for the fastest solution and leaned over to grab what I needed. Then I left to pay at the cash register.
The guy who gave me the bad vibe remained where he was the whole time, seemingly looking at products.
After two minutes of waiting in line, that same guy walks out the store without a purchase. He’s not in a hurry, but he makes no eye contact with anybody and doesn’t waste time hanging around either. 30 seconds later, the older man comes bustling over and tells the woman at the register he’s been robbed by a pickpocket. He describes him and the employee says the man just walked out. Cussing like a sailor, the victim gives chase but is back after a minute. Obviously, the pickpocket has vanished.
The gentleman cusses some more and – get this- starts blaming the employee. I shook my head in disgust.
Here’s how I see it:
- He knew he wasn’t in the best part of town. You don’t see any Beemers or Jaguar’s in the parking lot of that store…
- He was oblivious to anything and anyone around him. As demonstrated by not spotting me when he was clearly in my way.
- He was oblivious to his exaggerated sense of personal space. He blocked an entire aisle by his lonesome self. If you’re even a half-decent person, you don’t take up more space than you need.
- He totally disregarded the pickpocket who was standing right next to him the entire time.
In short, he had no awareness of his surroundings at all. None. He lived in his own little world and everybody else was not even a blip on his radar. Just background noise. To make it worse, when he messed up, he started blaming others for his own faults. Shees… Not that he deserved to be robbed but he did make it hard to feel any pity for him.
I’m not the brightest bulb there is but I spotted the thief right away. The only reason I did so was years of constantly trying to be aware of what’s going on around me, trying to spot problems or danger before they come close. Awareness is the very first thing you need for effective self defense, so you need to work on it especially hard. Though after a while, it becomes a habit and you don’t think about it anymore; it just happens automatically.
Mind you, I’m deaf,dumb and blind compared to some of my friends. Their awareness is like a finely tuned self-defense radar, they spot trouble long before my radar even says “beep.” But this time, I picked up on the vibe the guy sent off and knew immediately something was wrong. So I kept track of where he was all the time, noticed him again before he left the store and made a mental note to look for him in the parking lot, just in case. Turned out I didn’t need that last part.
My point is: awareness isn’t a one-time thing. It’s a skill you constantly practice, also when you’re going shopping. In this case, my self defense training perhaps saved me from losing my wallet.
That said, being too aware is not the best thing either. Case in point:
Don’t worry about the French parts, they don’t make anymore sense than when he speaks English.
For some more information about awareness and self defense against pickpockets, try this book: