Wednesday, January 7, 2015

right speech and urban evasion.

We do some things right, we do some things wrong.

I was walking down 1st Avenue this afternoon, and a woman was waiting to cross at the corner. A man passing behind her looked her up and down, and just past her looked over and said "Heyyyy, how you doin'?". The woman, as almost all women do, looked anxious and exasperated and tired of this prime example of the bullshit women deal with, and grimaced at him and looked away.

I've never spoken up when this happens. But there's a choice to make. How does the world get better if I just stand there and let it slide? How many times can I stand to watch this shit and not do anything?
"Dude, leave her alone. What the fuck is your problem?"
Oops. I once called a fellow aikido student "punk-ass bitch," which was something every group of friends had tossed around casually since high school. However, he had served a couple years in prison for dealing meth, and had quite a violent streak, and it turns out that in some hypermasculine and crime-associated American subcultures that aren't mine, that is an extraordinarily serious insult, and I had to talk him down from reflexively beating the shit out of me. Better late than never, I softened my language.
"Leave her alone. What the hell is your problem?"
Okay. There are better ways to say that. The traffic light turned and the woman and I crossed the street, with the gentleman shouting obscenities, which I decided to laugh loudly at as I walked away.
As I walked past, I told the woman, "Like you don't have enough problems."


"Thank you for that."
She went into a shop for lunch, Harasser Guy turned his corner and walked, and I kept walking. The day went on.


After I'd gone about half a block, I heard angry yelling again, and looked back and the guy was walking after me, about a block behind.

I was obvious I needed to ditch the guy, but here's the full risk assessment that went through my head:
Harasser Guy is walking, not running. I can't run very far right now, but I can probably get myself to a safe place. He's about 6'3", about 300 pounds, quite a bit bigger than me, and people willing to get into fights usually have experience doing so. I have a black belt in a primarily defensive martial art, and a very sharp pocket knife. My body has very little energy due to my health issues, and I am carrying a fully loaded commuter backpack.
As you may or may not know, my preferred movie genres involve lots of shooting and/or swords and/or explosions--I usually get car chases as a bonus--and so I've seen a lot of non-James Bond spy movies, as well as every episode of Burn Notice and The Americans.
(Don't get me wrong, I've seen every James Bond movie as well, but here we're only interested in spies who try not to get noticed.)
I've seen a lot of these movies multiple times, so I remember the urban chases in some detail, and there are some pretty simple and logical ways to handle this. Also fun, since I have the really excellent Plan B (running flat out to safety, which would be fine but then I would be all sweaty), and the extremely unappealing Plan C (fighting, which would be a shitshow). Here's the map.

He harassed the woman on the southwest corner of 1st and Main. I was about 2/3 down the block to the north when I heard him coming.
  1. Take a right onto Washington eastbound.
  2. Jog to take the next right along the east side of Occidental Park: if the pursuer has started running, I don't want to be caught in the open, and that side of the park has bars to duck into and parked vehicles for better-than-nothing cover.
  3. Start walking diagonally northeast across the park, which has many small groups of people (with open space between them, and they're almost all black, so it's not like it'd be hard to see me, but you work with what you have).
  4. My very large, bright blue hooded jacket is the visual cue he'll be using to track me, so take it off and bundle it up inside-out so the blue is hidden and the gray liner is showing. Now instead of a large royal blue target, I am a normal-size black-shirted one.
  5. Shift my backpack from two shoulders to one, which may not help, but can't hurt.
  6. Walk at a normal pace, don't look around nervously, and especially don't look back. Judging by the yelling, he's not interested in sneaking up on me.
Instead of going diagonally northeast across the park, I had wanted to go straight south to Main, west across 1st Ave. and closer to my destination; but the guy had been turning east up Main when this started, so if he had given up looking for me, I could just run into him again, and I can only fit so much stupid into a day.

I reached the far corner of the square, and the cover of the building that must be at Waterfall Garden Park (intersection of Main and the alleyway). I peeked around the building just in time to see him stopped on the sidewalk on the Washington side, looking around, and not finding me. I continued on and made a bit of a loop out of my way, and back to the office. If I get myself into a mess, it's at least pretty gratifying to get myself out.

Obviously I fucked up, and nothing reminds us why we try to practice Right Speech like failing to do so and weathering the consequences. There are a few ways this could have gone poorly, and then the absolute worst case would probably be if the guy were a fast runner with a gun. But it didn't go worse, and that's enough to be grateful for.

Most people would read this story and think it's pretty odd that I thought and did all this, and they would be absolutely correct. I haven't had any training, not even a course (though those look like fun). I don't have a terribly clear explanation for you, except to say that I watch spy movies in part because I find this stuff interesting and potentially useful, so I've paid attention, and that I've spent decades refining my tendency not to panic, and probably those things came together today in exactly the way I would hope.

And some luck.

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