Situational Awareness–Comments From a Reader

Hey guys!  I received this comment from one of our blog readers.  I don’t know how many of you read comments, so I wanted to share this anecdote about situational awareness and making a decision to change your plans mid-stream based on what your intuition/gut feeling is telling you.  Thank you, John, for sharing!

How about McDonalds?

I just got back from a trip to Alabama last night. On my way back I stopped at McD’s for a quick break. As i’m approaching this McD’s in Montgomery, I notice a big dude walking down the major street in my direction on my side of the road. He seemed to be walking with no purpose. I noted as I pulled into the parking lot he was wearing baggy clothes, big winter jacket, had some sort of cane in his left hand, a book bag strapped over both shoulders and i couldn’t quite make out what was in his right hand.

I simply took a quick mental snapshot of the area (this was discussed in one of your previous posts).

I ended up parking away from the other cars in front of the playground. No one else was in the parking lot at the time and I start putting away GPS and high value items before exiting…then i notice movement to my hard left.

This dude has got to be 6′4″ at least 230lbs…he’s completely changed direction and is now walking with more purpose towards my car nearing my blind spot. He had taken a hard left into parking lot after i turned in. I make eye contact with him and stay in my car as i’m at a disadvantage. He’s mobile with a cane in his hand which is basically a weapon and I’m seated in the car.

He changes direction again and now walks up and stands about 6ft to the left of the front of my car facing my direction…waiting…for me to get out i guess. I play with my phone and act busy while watching him discreetly. He stands there still as a statue…and starts speaking to himself(pretty good sign of a psycho). He never looks directly at me but i can tell he’s focused on me and the car.

I wait…he waits…like we’re in a standoff. I really don’t have to take a leak that bad and decide no matter what i do he would have the advantage. I realize the advantage i have is my car and i’m in control of it. So i say screw it and drive off.

So why am I rambling?

An earlier post you mentioned about situational awareness and one way to practice is to take a snapshot of arranged items on a table then close your eyes and recall them…

well, this is a similar scenario only i took a snapshot BEFORE i entered the parking lot and another AFTER i parked…what changed. Clearly the homeless guy honing in on me.

Also, the great info above you’ve posted…don’t forget it’s not always the locale. I agree sometimes it does have alot to do with it but more often than not it doesn’t.

How are you perceived?
What do you have that they may want?
How much risk are they willing to take in order to take forcibly what you have?

so it’s not always location based. I have a nice car, nice watch, dress nicely and I guess I look like an easy target LOL

It’s all about the patterns and what doesn’t fit…this homeless dude didn’t fit.

thanks for the info…i have alot to learn



  1. In retrospect, I only have two issues with this scenario (i always review my own actions to find a better way…there’s ALWAYS a better way).

    1) I took too long to decide to drive away. My personal philosophy is if i have to resort to violence I screwed up. Even if I have to draw my firearm, I screwed up. So physical confrontation is plan B and avoidance altogether is Plan A for me already. Still though, I took too long to drive away.

    2) This guy was/is a ticking time bomb. In a way i feel like I left a booby trap rigged to go off on the next guy/girl. However, I didn’t have any other recourse. I suppose I could have called the cops but i didn’t want to “get involved”.


    • John,

      I do understand what you are saying. What I will ask you is this: what did you do right, and what might you do differently next time? The fact is, you DID SOMETHING. You’ll probably act more quickly in the future if you get into another situation. As far as the ticking time bomb part, it is anyone’s guess as to what the outcome might have been with that guy. For good or ill, we pick our battles. And while we may feel guilt over some decisions (which are now in the past and beyond changing), ultimately, we can only truly take responsibilty for our own actions, as opposed to the actions bourne of others’ free will, and choose to make a new decision in the future. We can get so mired in shoulds, but we still cannot follow them to any solid conclusions because so much information is missing, and the outcome is impossible to predict, even in the event you had gotten “involved”.

      In any case, I am glad you are safe and I think the experience provides things to chew on for the future. At least you are paying attention, and I wish more people did for at least their own sake.


  2. I suppose what I did right was leave. Sometimes in these situations there’s the “inconvenience factor”. I was coming back from a wedding, was tired, had been driving in the car for hours, really wanted to stretch and was looking forward to getting out of the car until i came across psycho sam.

    My big screw up was recognizing this guy didn’t fit as i was pulling into the parking lot then I took my eyes off him. I was too focused on putting things away in the car and getting out and should have tracked what this guy was doing as it wasn’t until i saw him out of the corner of my eye approaching my blind spot. I should have confirmed he was either no longer a threat or was he going to take action.

    On a side note, often times i have people approach me in the car but knew this guy wasn’t one of the fan types.

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