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:
- Stop. Put your receipt away, put your wallet back in your pocket, and be in the moment.
- 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.
- You don’t need a soundtrack to walk to your car. Remove the ear phones if you rock out while you shop.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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!