Stop before you enter
Last year someone behind us practically knocked this writer over when we stopped before entering a store. They asked why we had stopped, and we said that we wanted to make sure there was nothing bad happening in the store before we went in. They muttered something unintelligible, out of which we think we heard the words “paranoid” and “fruitcake.”
We were reminded of this earlier this week when we got a call from a friend saying that someone we had met had gone into a bank where there was a robbery in progress, and was, sadly, killed.
Now, it is certainly true that you are probably no more likely to be struck by lightning than you are to walk into a crime in progress and end up dead. Nonetheless, rare as a lightning strike may be, the prudent person does not walk across the fairway during a thunderstorm while holding a nine-iron above their head. At least not a second time….
It is equally true that you are very unlikely to walk in on a crime. But, just as people do get struck by lightning, people do walk into crimes in process.
While there is sometimes no warning and no way it could be prevented, in many cases there is. Please understand that we are not talking about crimes aimed at you, which should have been spotted in advance. We are talking about a chance encounter, where often there is a warning.
Before we enter a business establishment we look through the window to see if there is something amiss, and then, when we open the door, we look again, giving us a final option to push back to safety. What are we looking for? Well, the primary thing we want to see is normal movement. If people are moving around, chatting, picking things up, and even walking out of the store. If people are frozen in place, this is a very bad sign. If they are frozen in place and there are one or more people with guns, it is a worse sign, and you should push backward out of the doorway and get away fast. Then call the police.
In some cases there are other clues. We once came home and discovered that the door to our apartment was unlocked. Now, there are many possible reasons why this could happen, but none of them justified our going into an apartment whose door should have been locked. Instead, we went downstairs to the street, flagged down a passing police car, and asked them to go in and look. They found nothing, and it later turned out that someone (else) had left the door unlocked, so that anybody could have gone in. Did we feel silly at having the cops go in? Not at all.
There are a large number of things we can do to stay safe that do not involve a lot of cost or effort. Merely wearing your seatbelt and giving up smoking will do a lot to prolong your life. And adding to the basics other painless things like looking into store before you go in takes mere seconds, and could save your life.