Restaurant Observation Game


“We value our sight above almost everything else.  The reason for this is that of all the senses sight makes knowledge most possible for us and shows us the many differences between things.” Aristotle, “Metaphysics”, Book I


What is the dictionary definition of observation?


–an act or instance of noticing or perceiving.

–an act or instance of regarding attentively or watching.

–the faculty or habit of observing or noticing.




I played a little game today with my cop friend.  Here is a scenario.  I’m getting coffee at a crowded restaurant and a crazed man enters, brandishing a firearm and yelling at the patrons.  What actions should I take?


–duck under a table

–run out a door (there are 2 exits)

–jump the counter and run to the kitchen

–lie down and play dead

–run at the gunman, screaming obscenities


Observation should have begun as soon as I parked my vehicle and entered the building.  As I walk in, I take note of the visible exits and the restroom.  Oftentimes there is an exit near the restroom, or off the kitchen area.  NOTE: If there is one police officer in the restaurant, rest assured there is at least one gun in your vicinity.  Stay out of his field of fire (sit away from the bullet magnet).  I do an initial scan of the entire area—is there anything that looks out of place?  If so, that gains priority.  I cannot focus on everything at once.  Keep in mind that this is not an activity that takes all day.  Whatever looks out of place gets a more thorough observation.  If there are no red flags, proceed with caution.  If there is a red flag (suspicious people or activity), or if your intuition is nagging at you, LEAVE THE PREMISES IMMEDIATELY!  Don’t wait for confirmation!


Okay. . .back to the situation at hand.  Maybe I did all these things, and trouble still bursts violently onto the scene.  What are my most logical options?  FIND AN OPENING AT A HIGH RATE OF SPEED.  This is NOT the time to think about the bread pudding I ordered, or putting the Splenda in my coffee.  I must let it goooo.  In this particular establishment, I can hop the counter and run towards the kitchen.  I’ve been here before and I know the employees take the trash out that way.  But what if I cannot get to the kitchen?  I need to become a track star and get to the nearest exit.  There may be obstacles (i.e. people).  If I’m running, I need to be a moving target because otherwise, I’m basically a fish in a barrel.  I may need to run like an alligator is chasing me (they tell you in Florida to run in a zig-zag pattern).  If the exit is blocked with people, I may have to make my own opening, God forbid.  These windows look sturdy, and the chairs are made of wood.


Alright.  What’s behind door number 3?  My last resort option.  I can just run right at the fool.  SURPRISE. . .SURPRISE!  I’m pretty sure he won’t be expecting this one.  Visualize him as the quarterback with the ball, and he is TOAST.  I’m going to run right through him like a battering ram.  NOTE: Incoming rounds have the right of way.  Use this option in the worst case scenario!


Whew!  I made it outside.  Now what?  I need to run to a safe distance and call the proper authorities.  I need to be a good witness when they arrive.  I may need to go home and change my underwear.  By the way, I forgot my gun today, in which case the scenario would have been totally different.




  1. Like your other posts, excellent points. I’ve found your blog to be very enlightening. If you don’t mind, I would like to add a few thoughts of my own…

    One thing I always caution is that “running is not a plan…its the start of a plan.” To say that you should “escape” a violent encounter assumes (and we all know about ASSume…) that you have someplace to escape to (pardon the poor grammar.)

    What drove this point home for me was an incident that occurred in North Carolina about eight years ago. A woman was attempting to escape from her very abusive boyfriend and was running down the street barefoot and in tattered clothes. Fortunately, a good samaritan woman stopped to pick her up and drove her to the nearest police station. Unfortunately, as they were running up the steps to the front of the police station, the boyfriend drove up, got out of his truck and shot them both to death on the steps.

    Naturally, he was arrested after the fact but that doesn’t do them much good. The self-defense in this situation is high risk, he was larger, had a gun, etc., etc. But my point was, they did what everyone says to do…escape, go to the police for help. But it still didn’t work.

    And I would argue that MOST people don’t even think that far in advance. They get jumped in the parking lot of a bar. They survive the initial attack and escape…to what? If the attacker wants to press the attack you’re just going to get beat down tired (to borrow a T-shirt quote).

    Part of self-defense is being aware of your surroundings. Everyone knows that. What often gets left out is…what about your surroundings are you supposed to be aware of? As you point out “I cannot focus on everything at once.” So I use a mnemonic that helps me quickly identify what I need to know about an environment. For me, its THE COW…Threats, Help, Exits, Cover/Concealment, Observations/Fields of Fire, and Weapons. The absurdidity of it being a “bovine” helps me to keep it in mind.

    I begin by looking for Threats because if I walk into trouble, my best chance of escape is right at that point when we are both surprised to encounter one another. If I’m walking toward the bank and I see someone standing right next to the door, I do a quick check to see if there are any visible weapons or if other patrons can be seen laying on the floor. If I feel uncomfortable about the situation, I don’t even walk in. Right there, I can possibly stop the rest of the process because I have avoided trouble for the time being.

    With regards to escape being the start of a plan, Help, becomes the most important aspect…”If I were to get jumped right now, where could I go for help? Who has the capability to help me?”

    A guy pulls a gun on you, running to a bouncer may not be that useful. In the case I discuss above, if I knew the boyfriend was actually in the truck following me, I probably would have driven up the stairs of the police station, horn honking and lights flashing. Help, in many cases, may be only knowing where the nearest police station is, or knowing enough about my location that once I get away from the Threat that I can call 911 and accurately describe my location so they can respond.

    As you noted, I look for Escape routes and points of Entry for threats to get at me. I do an intial assessment on my way into a resteraunt for example and then once I’m seated, I excuse myself for the restroom. This allows me to get another look at the resteraunt, usually a different part, and to look for escapes near the restrooms.

    Cover becomes important when your attacker is between you and the nearest exit. The trick is to find cover that will get you closer to another exit. Hiding behind something while somebody walks through the McDonald’s methodically shooting people is no better than being in the open. Eventually, you are going to get shot. So once you find your exits, find the cover that will get you there from your current spot. But the intent is never to hide, it is always to keep moving, so you can get to the exit and from there to help.

    Observation, of course, builds on that by way of ensuring, I hope, that I see the Threat before he sees me. This goes back to knowing the Entry points that allow the Threat access to me. I want to be in a position where can the Entry point and beyond it with sufficient time to start moving to and Exit or Cover.

    And finally, Weapons. If I’m not carrying, I want to know what’s at hand that I can use to defend myself. Again, I simple mnemonic gets me in the right mindset everytime I sit down. 7 Ss…okay, not as memorable as THE COW, but it works for me. Anything I can grab can be used either to Stab, Slash, Strike or Smash (in order of offensive priority), to Shield or Surprise (depending on how heavy the thing is with regards to throwing), or is part of the Structure (in which case, if I need to, I can slam the Threat into it).

    Sorry to waste so much bandwidth. You’ve got a great blog here and I just want to be part of the solution.


    • I don’t consider your reply a waste of bandwidth! I truly appreciate your observations and you have made some great points here. I am chewing on everything you stated. Broadening my own perspective about these topics is an ongoing process that never really ends. I realize more and more how much the responsibility to protect myself lies in my own hands–this is a hard concept for many people to swallow in these times. Escape to what, indeed–sometimes we won’t be able to pass the buck off to another in “official” capacity and have to make a firm stand. In taking responsibility, we have to continually open our awareness, listen intently to the sixth sense (our intuition), and sharpen our observation and decision-making skills. This is something I want to address in upcoming blogs with thoughts on branching/transitioning and the OODA loop. Please keep your comments and thoughts coming!

  2. Great blog. Great post. BK makes some good points too. Im of the opinion that just “getting away” is sufficient in most non-domestic related assaults. The nutjob in the restaurant isnt likely to give chase.

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