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What Were You Thinking?

Posted by Rob Longenecker on September 20th, 2006

I remember when the English Actor, Hugh Grant, got caught in public with a professional lady and Jay Leno interviewed him on the Tonight Show soon afterwards. Jay was the first person to ask the obvious question, “What were you thinking?”  It got a big laugh.

I don’t want someone asking you, “What were you thinking,” after you’ve been attacked, robbed, knifed, shot, clubbed or had to defend yourself in a street fight.  “What were you thinking going to that part of town at that time of night? What were you thinking?” “Why did you let that guy piss you off? What were you thinking? Why did you put yourself in harms way? Why did you overreact to that numskull?”

(If you want to be Charles Bronson in “Death Wish” this isn’t for you.)

I’m clear that odds are, with good headwork, you can survive unarmed. I read most of the gun forums daily and it’s a very rare occurrence for someone to have to draw their gun in self-defense.  I want the right to protect myself and my family so I will exercise my right to self-defense, but I also hope it’s unlikely I’d have to do so.

I don’t want to shoot anyone.  I don’t need an adrenaline overdose.  I don’t want my family at risk.  As a result I don’t go bad places, I don’t do foolish things and I don’t hang out with people who will get me in trouble. I know that’s no guarantee, I’m just thinking out loud.

Should you encounter provocative idiots, remember – “they’re not responding to you.”   “It ain’t personal.” 

If someone is out to argue or act agressively, it really has nothing to do with you. It’s time for you to stay in control and respond with authority, not get hooked and escalate the level of emotion. You already know that, of course, and I’m reminding myself as well as reminding you.  We must make a decision ahead of time, when we’re calm and rational on how we will react if provoked.

You have to watch agressive cretins carefully, avoid them whenever possible and calm them down when they begin to puff up. You don’t have to defend your honor.  Vocal jerks don’t know a thing about you.  You could be anyone. It really is not personal.  What I’m suggesting is that you decide ahead of time, right now, that you will not be provoked, get hot under the collar and escalate a situation with a loud mouth “butt head.”

Sure, you may have to act to defend yourself, but if so, have it be totally reasonable and appropriate so that you don’t get asked the question, “What were you thinking?” You especially don’t want to hear that question from a prosecutor in front of a grand jury.

If I’m preaching to the choir, so be it.  You will get value if you take this opportunity to make some decisions in advance on how they will react to certain possible situations. A decision I made in advance kept me from a terrible mistake once in the past. I’m a believer in thinking through my actions in advance. I want you to make some critical decisions ahead of time (right now would be good) and then you won’t have to answer the question, “What were you thinking?”

What is your best strategy? 




One Response to “What Were You Thinking?”

  1. Chris Edgington Says:

    I can give a good example of a time in which I used poor judgement in dealing with a situation. The only thing I’ll say in my defense is that when this happened I was in my very early 20’s (maybe 21 or 22) and I still may have known everything.

    I was driving up I-45 here in the great State of Texas in my new Chevrolet Camaro Z28. This car was hotter than a $2 pistol and my pride and joy. It was one of those times when you find yourself deep in thought as you drive, therefore I was driving slower than I normally would. I then snapped out of it and remembered that I had a whole herd of ponies under the hood so I didn’t need to drive like I’m taking Miss Daisy to the Piggly Wiggly! I moved over to the #1 lane and sped up. Apparently this irritated the two guys in the pickup truck who was in front of me in the #2 lane. How dare I have the nerve to pass them? Once I overtook their vehicle they decided to also go from about 55 mph to 80 mph and tailgate me. Heaven only knows why they were upset, because when I passed them I did so without malice, dirty looks, or anything. It was just like any other car you might pass on the freeway…absolutely nothing remarkable about it. The fact that they were so irked over a nothing-issue should have been my first clue that there were something wrong with these guys and I needed to plan accordingly!

    I exited the freeway like I always do (with the bad guys still in tow) and came up to a red light. If I were to turn right I could drive to the main office of the county sheriff’s department, where I doubt they would have had the guts to continue following me. Turning left would take me to the apartment complex I was living at. Smart choice: turn right. My choice: turn left.

    It should make you all cringe to know that I led them right to my apartment complex and I parked my car and walked into my residence, with them sitting in their still-running truck just a bit farther down the parking lot. They weren’t able to see what unit I entered, but I still let these miscreants know which building I lived in and where my car is parked every night. As soon as I got into my place I walked out on the balcony just in time to see the truck pull up right behind my Camaro. I quickly grabbed a pistol from another room and got back to the balcony in time to see the passenger exit the truck and start walking up to my car, probably to perform the unholy act of vandalizing it. I leveled my gun at the guy and said something to the effect that if he touched the car I was going to shoot. He then very calmly turned right around and got into the truck, which departed the complex. It was dark out and the rear license plate wasn’t illuminated so I didn’t get the tag. I never saw them again, but I defintely had some anxious nights worrying that I’d come out to my car and find it maimed!

    In hindsight what did I do wrong? First, I didn’t immediately drive to the local police station which would have probably ended the whole thing right there. Second, I led them to my place of residence. Third, I actually had the HUMONGOUS brass ones to get out of my car when they were parked not too far away from me, exposing myself to an even greater risk of danger. And finally, I put myself in a situation in which I was a muscle spasm away from shooting at a guy over a car (in low-light, even!).

    Years later I had applied to a large police department and in pre-polygraph interview I was asked about past fights and confrontations. Not wanting to try and hide anything right before the lie detector test I related this story to the detective. It didn’t end up counting against me in the application process but it made me feel like an ass having to explain it…and it should have! I try to remind myself now that when dealing with the forces of evil out there that one of the greatest assets we can have is to remain calm and make good, sound judgements.

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