Friday, June 27, 2008

Near-miss on Tuesday evening...

Tuesday evening, I had a very scary encounter.

I've tried to map out the scene for reference -- I hope it is clear enough for my writing to make sense.

I was headed West on the street, turned right into the driveway entrance.

I had to swing right (east) around a group of (3) shady-looking characters standing near the entrance, near the words "ATM Machine" on my map. (#1) had a bicycle -- obviously a drunkard with no license. The other (2) of them -- #2 and #3 -- looked at me really, very hard as I passed, enough so that I became concerned.

I parked at a 45-degree angle, between the lines, pointing straight at the ATM machine. There was a 4th man at the machine so I hit the button to kill my headlights and go to just parking lights -- simple, common courtesy. The guy fiddled with the machine a bit, but I never saw cash, receipt or card come out before he walked over to join the group.

Something about this situation really bothered me, so I pulled my Seecamp in its wallet-style holster from my right-rear pocket where it usually lives and put it in my right-front pant pocket. I was careful to hide the pistol, anyone seeing (though I cant imagine how in my dark car) would only have seen a wallet move from one pocket to another.

I got out of my car and hit the remote button to lock the door, and walked to the ATM machine. As I did, the group broke up. My "alert" went up a notch, so I put my right hand into my pocket and grasped my pistol's grip, trigger-finger still outside the holster.

(#1, #2) headed East, out of sight down the sidewalk.

(#4) Headed north (I think, generally) toward the back of the lot.

The last one ("#3") headed North-west, toward the north-east corner of the bank building.

I'd been watching them in my peripheral vision, but as this one crossed behind me into my "blind spot" I made a point of turning toward him, sorta obviously keeping him in view. Our eyes met, he knew I was looking at him. I gave him a "nod" and noticed he had what looked like a plastic bottle of Pepsi in his hand. He diverted more to the north-north-west, thus coming "less" toward me than he had been and disappeared, headed into the north-west part of the lot. As he meandered, the partition-wall blocked my view of him.

I don't know why -- none of them had done anything threatening, but the whole thing just had my instincts on a knife-edge. I stood sideways, facing mostly North, and operated the ATM with my left hand, my right still grasping my pistol in my pocket as I scanned the area as much as I could..

I got my "balance check" slip and looked at it, then began punching in the numbers for my cash withdrawal. At this point I was on full-alert, tingling between my shoulder-blades, adrenaline kicking in... Something in me was screaming "Danger!" but I couldn't figure out why I was feeling so paranoid. I learned long ago to listen to my sub-conscious, while simultaneously willing myself to "calm down" to maintain self-control.

For some reason I still can't explain, I stopped and took a few fast steps to the East so I could see on the other side of the little partition-wall. Standing in the shadows, with his back to the bank wall and his right-shoulder touching the partition was #3!!

I'd last seen him heading toward the back of the lot, as if he was going to the bar on the other side of the fence, the only way he could have gotten where was is if he snuck back along the bank-wall. If the brick partition hadn't been there, our shoulders would have been less than one-foot apart!

When I saw him, and he saw me see him, he REALLY looked nervous for a second.

I turned in about a 45-degree angle to him, instinctively taking my "fighting" stance, facing roughly north-west. I pushed the holster loose from my pistol and made sure it wouldn't hang up on my pocket if I needed to draw, and in my most agressive manner said "can I HELP you??!!"

Honestly -- if he'd made a move at all in my direction at that moment I'd have shot him.

He stuttered a bit, said "naaah -- I'm cool..." and began side-stepping along the wall then scurried off in a near-run to the North before disappearing around the back of the bank. He may have gone to the bar through the opening in the fence.

I quickly got my cash -- stepping back so I could see all around and listening for the "ATM-spitting-out-cash" noise before grabbing my cash and stuffing it in my pocket then hitting the "get my card back" button and grabbing it and my receipt then heading for my car, unlocking the door with the clicker just before grabbing the handle. As soon as I was in I locked the doors again, fired it up and got out of there.

When I heard the "ATM-spitting-out-cash" noise, I realized what had almost happened.

ATM's make a "whifwhifwhifwhifwhif" noise as they count the cash, then a very distinct whirring as the stack of bills is ejected. I am about 100% sure that this mutt was listening for that noise.

When he heard it, he'd have stepped around the partition and knocked me in the head, grabbed my cash sticking out of the machine, and ran. I found him before the cash-noise happened, before I'd actually hit "OK" for the withdrawal.

Further, the more I think about it, I think the pepsi may have been a prop, filled with something solid and heavy like concrete, otherwise I didn't see anything that he could have used as a weapon, though I suppose a blind-side sucker-punch might have been enough. I'm pretty sure it was black, though that could have been black sand or... Who knows. Maybe it was just a 20ounce pepsi though that would probably knock a guy out if you hit him in the base of the skull with it in a surprise-attack from behind.

I'm still a bit shaken -- I don't think I'll be using that machine at night any more -- but after I've thought about it a lot and written this, I'm pretty happy with how I handled the whole thing.

I listened to my instincts which were screaming like hell, and steadily escalating from the moment I pulled in. I was totally aware of who and what was around, and the directions they scattered into. I checked my "blind spot" on the other side of the partition wall before pulling cash, prepared for whatever I might find. I stood my ground and challenged him, but resisted the urge to draw...

My only real regret is that he was well inside my "21-foot" zone at the time, but I can't see how I could have done that differently without risking exposure to other unseen dangers between the cars. Any of the others could have crept up below the door/trunk/hood level and I wouldn't have been able to see them.

The biggest lesson here is "LISTEN TO YOUR INSTINCTS" -- ESPECIALLY when they "don't make sense" with your conscious assessment of the situation. Your higher-mind is telling you what you've failed to consciously notice.



ajw308 said...

That wall makes a great hiding spot. Kinda like a blind.

Your instincts never lie. Glad you listened to them.

Dedicated_Dad said...

Yup. Reconstructing this event in my mind, and all of the other times I've used that ATM, it's never occurred to me how horribly stupid it is.

It REALLY provides a false-sense of security...

Obviously the designer was thinking of wind, or aesthetics and not security -- when you're standing at that machine the wall blocks your view of a large area of the darkest part of the parking lot, and as I learned allows anyone so-inclined to sneak up on you in that blind-spot.



Anonymous said...

Wellll, the only thing I could add is that if there was any other choice for an ATM location you might have passed that one up. But considering that your instinct really didn't kick in till you were out of the car, what the hell.

Shawn McManus said...

Sounds like you played it perfectly.

Beaker said...

Just found your blog today, your previous story was hysterical so I had to keep reading :)

Your story is definitely one of those Mars vs Venus differences. When your spidey sense tingled before getting out of the car, I would have left and found a different ATM. But you probably weren't worried about getting raped.

I'm really glad you listened and didn't have anything more than a scare :)

Anonymous said...

Sooooooooo???....where tha hell ya be?

You're an excellent writer/storyteller........get to tellin' good man. lol.

EE said...

Hey! DD, you finally got your own blog! I love it!

MedicMatthew said...

I really don't mean to nit-pick, but I would think that since the decision to move the handgun into a position that would allow for easier & quicker draw occurred before exiting the car, then perhaps you shouldn't have gotten out of the car.

The use of force continuum and everything that we all should know about the application of force and self defense begins with removing yourself from the situation. If no imminent threat exists yet instinct tells us to prepare because something doesn't feel right then our first maneuver should be toward self preservation. One bit of advice that I was given very early on following my decision to carry concealed was a rhetorical quote "Sir, could you please explain to the jury at what point you knew that you may need to use the pistol that you carry on your person?"

Again, I do sincerely apologize if my comment here comes off as being harsh. I wasn't the one in the situation so who knows, maybe I would have acted in the same manner that you did. Also, as a commenter and not the one who experienced the event I have the advantage of knowing when I start reading the story that SumDood is involved and something bad could potentially happen.

With that said, I really dig your writing style and I'm going to add you to my blogroll. Welcome to the fold! < insert evil cackle here >

Omnibus Driver said...

You ever going to post again??? I really, really like your writing, and would hate to see you quit.

J.R.Shirley said...

They say hindsight is 20/20. Glad you came through alright.


Justthisguy said...

Fortunately or unfortunately, the Po-Po around here tend to terrorize everyone they see. This makes us safe from criminal violence at the ATM, but also makes us scared when walking to the 7-11 at 0130.