Mundane Movements: Parking Lots, Part 2, Exiting the Store, Loading your Vehicle, and Going Home

After our shopping is done and we tuck that impulse bought stuffed animal in with the little one, it’s time to go from the relative safety of the store back out into the world. We can break this down into phases and have plans for each phase of getting back to the car. We have to leave the store, walk to the car, unload the groceries, load the baby, get ourselves in the car, and drive away. Each of these phases will afford us unique options for maneuver and tactics. I’ll list the phases, and in a later post discuss some of the tactics we can use in case things start going sideways.

Before we coast back through the front door towards our perfectly parked car, there’s a few things I’d like you to do:

  1. Stop. Put your receipt away, put your wallet back in your pocket, and be in the moment.
  2. Hang up your phone. The conversation can wait. Voluntarily eliminating 180 degrees of your peripheral vision while simultaneously using spare mental processing power for a conversation is just asking for problems. Hang it up.
  3. You don’t need a soundtrack to walk to your car. Remove the ear phones if you rock out while you shop.
  4. Get your car keys in your hand before you leave the store. If you’re carrying groceries, carry them in your non-shooting hand. If you’re carrying your child, carry him/her in your non-shooting hand. Your shooting hand should be holding your keys. This eliminates embarrassing and time consuming fumbling in pockets or purses once you’re at your car door. The longer your attention is fixated on a small area, the more time you are not keeping your head on a swivel looking for any unfolding situations.
  5. As a pro-tip, I HIGHLY recommend carrying an OC (EDIT: Pepper Spray) keychain on your key ring where legal. If you follow our rule to have your keys in your hand, then you ALSO have a less-lethal option in your hand. Note that not all pepper sprays are created equal. It is best to avoid the gas station pepper sprays, and ante up for a quality brand, and even some training cartridges so you can practice. I personally can recommend Sabre Red – Spitfire or the ASP key/palm/street defender Upon approach by an unknown contact, it is easy and non-threatening to throw up a fence and have your OC in perfect position to deploy if the situation escalates. The Man to see about learning how to employ the fence from managing the initial contact, to initial assault, to gun deployment is Craig Douglas of Shivworks. Don’t miss an opportunity to train with this man.

    The Fence – Shown by Craig Douglas – codified by Geoff Thompson. Google it!

Phase 1: Leaving the Store

As you break through the threshold into the parking lot, snap a glance left and right towards those hard corners at the edges of the building. Look for loiterers, rapid movement, changing movement patterns and people paying attention to what you’re doing. If you notice something strange near the entrance, turn around and head back into the store, or head in an oblique direction to where you parked. After you walk 50 or so feet away from your car and finally make a sharp turn towards your vehicle at the other side of the lot, they will either be forced to follow your erratic movement and give themselves away, or break off and wait for the next one. This is a cheap and easy method of surveillance detection.

Phase 2: Movement Through the Parking Lot

Walk towards your car, stealing glances at the folks in the parking lot. You’ll see most of them staring at their shoelaces, playing with phones, or zoned-out staring at the entrance of the store contemplating what pizza rolls they wanted. You’ll also immediately notice others who are paying as much attention as you. You’ll probably incidentally meet eyes with them. Give them a nod. Either they’re good guys running in condition yellow like you, or you just let a predatory actor know that you’ve seen them. This is usually enough to dissuade opportunistic predators. As you move along the parking rows, play the game of looking for places to quickly position the buggy (with baby) in a safe position of cover or concealment in case the need arises. Unlike the short post about shooting while carrying your child, we might have our baby secured in a buggy which allows for us to draw aggression to ourselves while trying to regain initiative. You have more options when your baby is not occupying your hands. Making these sorts of activities a game allows it to become habitual and is less mentally fatiguing. This phase of movement is probably when you will be selected for the criminal interview that will probably start as you approach your car.



Phase 3: Unloading your groceries

Unlock your car and stow your keychain/OC combo in your waistband or pocket. I like to park the buggy with baby still buckled in, between my car and an adjacent car. The name of my game is ‘avoiding task fixation’, so I try to not go more than thirty seconds without a quick glance around. Again, practice this and make it a game. Unload your groceries, lock your car, unstrap your baby and pick them up, and return your cart to the corral (Do your part, cart jockeys have a rough life). Get back to your car by following the previous strategies.

Phase 4: Loading your Child

I have an entire post in the works regarding how to mitigate risk when securing a child in a car seat. For now though, let it suffice to say that the more often you can break your attention away from securing the little one, the better.

Phase 5: Driving Away

There is no magic here. Get in, start the car, put it in drive, and GO. The mistake I see people make ALL the time is starting the car to let it cool off and immediately picking up the cell phone to start texting. I have watched people sit in their cars for 5 minutes without the first glance around. You simply can not afford to be immobile, occupied, and unaware.

In summary:

I know this post was sort of long winded and had lots of repetition. The reality is that it doesn’t take too much extra work to deselect yourself as the easy mark. Consistency is key.

In future posts on this subject I will cover the car seat conundrum, some ways to shut down approach stories, developing a verbal playback loop, Pepper Spray considerations, options on tactics if guns need to come out, and whatever else I can think of. Let me know if you do things differently and what you’d like to hear about. I’m genuinely interested in learning a better way of doing things. My knowledge was built by keeping an open mind and standing on the backs of the brilliant thinkers that have come before.

Let’s learn together!

Mundane Movements: Parking Lots, Part 1: Positioning and Movement INTO the Store

This post is universally applicable to the person who wants to decrease a criminal’s ability to close space and gain positional dominance via maneuver and avenues of approach, while simultaneously increasing their own ability to maintain reactionary space, preserve positional dominance and set them self up for an uneventful departure after the shopping is done.

The goal is to make predatory movements more obvious. We are looking for odd behaviors from unknown contacts. For instance, someone rapidly changing direction when you do, stopping when you do, or anything else that makes your spider sense tingle. The better we can observe and control our positioning in the public space, the more obvious a predatory movement will appear.

‘Nowhere’ isn’t the name of a bad part of town where all the crooks live, it’s where people come from when we lose our situational awareness and are task fixated by the myriad distractions we encounter daily.

With some simple games and positioning techniques, you will see more than the average iPhone fixated member of our society. You will be the harder prey, and the predators will choose to hunt those that don’t see it coming. The most likely time for an ambush (according to my private security detail friends) is when you’re either parking or leaving in your vehicle. For parents (Joe Six-Packs) like us, I would go on a limb to say that leaving is the most vulnerable time we spend in the public space. In order to have a safer departure, we can position our vehicles upon arriving at the parking lot to set ourselves up for success.

Nothing is as common place as the leisurely walk you take to the grocery store to fill your shopping cart up with the diapers, milk, and eggs you need for the week. Contemplating the next meal, it’s easy to let your mind wander. With a little one in the buggy, it’s also easy to be focused on them while trying to dodge traffic in a busy parking lot. Depending on where you live, you might find yourself shopping at a big box grocer, a gas station, a mom and pop store, whatever. You might park in an open parking lot, a dank parking deck, or next to a gas pump. I’ll lay out some best practices on positioning and parking to maximize your reactionary gap and therefor maximize the time you have to make decisions. Regardless of where you are forced to park, the guidelines are similar.

  • Picking a parking spot. This topic could be divided into several scenarios (light conditions, area of town, parking structure, etc). But really it’s not necessary. The goal should be to park in such a way that positions you as far from hard corners (e.g. dumpsters, corners of gas stations, cement pillars, stairwells) as is reasonable. When possible, you want to keep the ‘angle of threat’ to a minimum. That is, if you park far enough away from a gas station that you can see both sides of the building within your peripheral vision, you’re in good shape. You want distance from large visual obstructions that would limit your view of the area immediately surrounding your car (box vans and the like).
  • I prefer to park NEAR a cart corral now that I shop with my son regularly. The corral disallows another vehicle to park next to me, AND it is a quick walk to drop my cart off without leaving my son unattended, or making him walk with me across a busy parking lot.
  • When feasible, ‘combat park’ your vehicle. That is, back into your parking space so that when it’s time to leave, you’re driving straight ahead and can do so quickly (H/T Marc S.) Going forward is always easier than backing up, and quicker too!

 

  • Reminder:  I’m a realist. Ideally we would drive around the parking lot scoping for a perfect spot and mean-mugging all the people who make us feel uneasy, but eventually we just have to follow some guidelines and get on with our lives. Do your best with this and at least make it part of your considerations for day to day life. Some days there won’t be any spaces near light posts or shrub dividers. That’s OK. Use some of these guidelines. Just being aware of these principles will give you a distinct advantage.
  • Entering a store (specifically a gas station), always park at the pumps whether you need gas or not. By positioning here, you can see all of the hard corners of the building, the dumpsters, and any loiterers that look out of place. Also, Avoid RedBox DVD rentals on the outside of convenience stores. These seem to be the new ATM robbery zones. Task fixation will allow someone to ‘come out of nowhere’ and take your money, or worse.

quickmart front

Upon entering a store, make a direct line to the deepest corner of the store. Turn around and take a quick view of who is there, where they are, and what they’re doing. Don’t need to be obvious, just give it a few seconds. You’ll notice quickly if something is out of place. Look for the main bad guy and possibly a seeded back-up guy. They’re cowards and often run in pairs. Make it a game and eventually it won’t feel like a chore. Then, shop as normal.

BACK STORE

 

  • When parking in a large open parking lot, some similar rules apply. When possible, park near light posts (especially in the dark) as well as cement/bush dividing areas. You’ve eliminated an easy approach from a flank and you will quickly realize if someone is circumventing the natural obstacle to close distance with you. You also will have the time to maneuver yourself to keep cars between you and an unknown contact. You have all but eliminated 180 degrees of approachable avenue and increased your reaction time as well as your ability to determine if someone is up to no-good.

shrubpark light

This post is more generic in that it applies to anyone. Not just parents with children. The same principles should be used regardless of who you have with you. Having your partner (spouse, significant other) with you makes these logistics much easier. More ‘switched-on’ observers help to increase avoidance and de-select you as potential prey.

The next installment of this topic will include how to get back to your vehicle after the shopping is done.

If you find any useful info in this rambling, please share it with your friends and encourage them to share. I just want to get this information out there because I want people to think and keep themselves and their families safe.

NOTE: Inspired by material from (Craig Douglas, Claude Werner, The Total Protection Interactive Hive-mind)

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