Vindication Part II

I am not sure if this will become a regular series on this blog, but this article will connect with at least a couple of others already on the blog.  While my last vindication article was all about why I choose not to carry a firearm at work (or some other places), this article will share a couple of stories about what happened to me (and what could have happened) in a situation that occurred just a few weeks ago in which I was not carrying any self-defense “tools”.  In this case, then, the vindication will be centered on some of my recent training class selections.

Setting the Stage

A few weeks ago my in-laws visited with us for a few days while taking a bit of a round-robin road trip through a few different states.  They came into town on a Saturday, and the next day it was decided that we all (me, my wife, my kids, and my wife’s parents) would spend the day in our nation’s capital, as my in-laws had not been there in some time.

Not a fan of driving in DC (a weird road network combined with BAD drivers), we decided to drive to a metro (subway) station and take the train to the mall.  We would then hit a museum, grab some lunch, maybe hit another museum, and then head back.

Typical DC Metro station.

For those who have never visited any of the major museums in DC, you should know that entering one is similar to getting on an airplane.  Walk-through metal detectors, bags/purses going through the X-ray machine, etc.  So, no firearms, knives, pepper spray, ASPs, etc. 

Everything went fine (other than the weather, as it poured on us for a while) on the way in and throughout our visit.  The “fun” began on the return trip.  We had to change trains on our return, and while waiting on the platform (not very crowded) a woman approached my father-in-law from behind and “bump-checked” him.  Though a Midwesterner, he has been around long enough to recognize what that might mean, and while frantically checking his pockets to see if his wallet had been lifted, he said, “hey!”  The woman was not a pickpocket, however, but was just looking to start something.  So her response to his “hey!” was to spin around and aggressively say, “’Hey’ what?!  What the fuck do you want?  Who the fuck do you think you’re talkin’ to?!”, and more words to that effect.  Thankfully, my father-in-law handled it well, and once he realized nothing had been taken from him, he just responded with a “No problem, my fault.”  She wandered off muttering “You’re damned right.  No one fucks with me….”  I kept my eye on her (and head on a swivel in case there were others) until our train came. 

Once on our train, a new problem emerged.  Getting into our subway car after we got on and got seated was a gentleman who….ah…had some issues. At first I thought he was speaking/cursing at someone on a hands-free/earbud device for his phone…..until he turned and faced in my direction and I realized he had nothing in his ears.  Instead, he was just standing in the area of the doors to the car muttering “You’re goddamned right, mutha fucka, cocksucking bitch-ass, …..”  You get the idea.  He wasn’t directing these words AT anyone in particular, but he also wasn’t rapping.  He was just a mess.  My daughter turned to me and whispered, “I’m scared”.  I wasn’t thrilled, either.

A typical DC Metro car. The ranting man would have been standing at door to the left. I was seated in seat to immediate left of the STOP sign, facing the camera in this view.

My first plan was to get off at the next stop, leave this guy on the train, and then just wait on the platform for the next train.  However, he was standing right by the door (the only door accessible to us, as we were at the end of the car), and I felt like this would increase our likelihood of having to “interact” with him.  Also, we had many stops to go, so I figured he was likely to get off before us.

Unfortunately, as noted above, we were unarmed.  And as the train made stop after stop, the guy stayed on the train.  All I had as far as tools go was my collapsing umbrella (remember the weather?), and suddenly I was very happy that the first course I chose to take this year was Kelly McCann’s “ASP/Stickfighting” clinic.  I gripped the umbrella (folded up, about 9 inches long) tight in my grip and started to work out exactly how I might target this gentleman, running through my head some of the sequences we had covered in class. 

After snapping a surreptitious photo of the guy (I got a second shot of his face, but it came out blurry, and I did not want to risk getting caught taking a make-up shot), I told my daughter that if this guy was still on the train when we got to our stop, I was going to leave last so I could make sure he didn’t do anything to any of us, but if things went wrong, to make sure someone puts their foot in the door so the train would not leave with me on it fighting him!  He was quite a bit bigger than me, and while confident I could stun him at least temporarily, I was not confident I could fight him without help for the five minutes to the next stop.

The surreptitious photo I took of “rant man”.

As it happened, the guy got off the train at the stop before ours, so it was all moot.  But the combination of these two events left me feeling at least somewhat vindicated in some of my training decisions, especially recently.  While I missed the approach of the lady who did the “bump-check” (honestly, near trip’s end I probably got a little complacent), I was ready to intercede with words or empty-hand work if my father-in-law’s verbal de-escalation attempts failed.  I thought he handled it well (maybe he’s secretly done MUC work before?).  As for psycho #2, I felt like I did a good job identifying him as a potential issue, keeping an eye on him without staring at him, and developing plans of possible action with contingency plans for variables.

Sorry if this is a nothing-burger to many of our readers.    But a potential issue where basically nothing happens is really what we want. Regular users of mass transit in big cities see this stuff all the time.  I think it is useful to AAR little situations and scenarios like this to see how we can improve.  But it did vindicate for me my decision to take two courses this year, the ASP/Stickfighting class with Kelly McCann (which gave me a bit of confidence to be able to utilize the umbrella, if necessary), and also McCann’s “Personal Security Course”, which covered “threat calibration”–depending on environment–and also safety while using public transportation.  Other classes I have taken in years past also had content that could relate to these situations. 

One other note.  In my prior “vindication” article, I pointed out how I often I go about my days without a firearm or other weapons.  And we all know people who say “I will never go to ____ because I can’t carry my gun there!”  Well, guess what:  you just ruled out all indoor National Park locations, most museums, all post offices, foreign travel (unless you’re making some incredible arrangements), etc.  Some people might be cool with those sacrifices, but I am not.  I wish I was allowed to carry in all of those places, but the fact that I cannot does not mean that I will never go there.  If you choose to live your life more like me, then I would suggest gearing some of your training accordingly.  Instead of taking your fifth carbine course, maybe learn a bit more about empty-hand skills.  Learn how to manage unknown contacts.  Learn about improvised weapons.  Get into better shape so you can evade problems or physically handle problems.  It’s not all about the gun.

I hope you found this interesting and/or instructive.  If you have any questions or comments, please post them below, as we always welcome civil discourse.  And, as always, thanks for reading.

10 thoughts on “Vindication Part II

  1. I’m a cop so I can carry and and also a lawyer. I pretty much just don’t go to a lot of places like you describe. It’s a shame because I very much do love history but I just don’t want the drama of the ghettos even with a gun.

    I’m glad everything worked out well for you and kudos for taking the classes BUT what if there had been an altercation and what if the police had gotten involved. You using the umbrella makes it a “weapon” in most jurisdictions and that ups the charges. If you we’re going to use a weapon it might as well have been a real weapon

    Remember it’s not just you who were at risk. It was your family too. Just because you only saw individual threats doesn’t mean there weren’t more in the shadows—which is far more likely it’s a sad fact in places that don’t allow you to carry that predators run in packs.

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    1. My plan was not to hit this guy for cursing. But if he went hands-on with my wife, my elderly in-laws, or with my 10-year-olds, I think a quick combo with a cheap umbrella sold by a street vendor would be just fine. Especially since this dude was 6 inches taller, 50 lbs heavier, and at least 15 years younger than me.

      As for traveling in packs, this guy was not a street predator, but someone with obvious mental illness (what I do for a living) who everyone was giving a wide berth and keeping an eye on.

      Thanks for the comment.

      –Robert

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    1. Interesting story. Other than the train, I’m not sure what it has to do with mine, but thanks for sharing it.

      –Robert

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      1. Good luck with that. I don’t live in a fictional story, but in the real world.

        But please, feel free to try such techniques with others like the two people from my post and let us know how it turns out.

        Just like I don’t want to shoot anyone, I also don’t really want to engage in conversation with anyone, particularly those who appear to be in the midst of a crisis. I’m not a cop. I’m also not a therapist.

        –Robert

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      2. Brad,

        I’m not sure how long you’ve been reading our articles, but one of the things we stress is to not get involved. A “Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys” attitude. Just like I don’t want to insert myself into an armed robbery of a convenience store I might be about to enter, nor do I wish to insert myself into the land of psychosis.

        There was nothing I was going to do for the gentleman in question.

        Since we can see that I am still here, writing responses to your comments, I think it’s safe to say my laissez faire attitude worked pretty well, no? Had I chosen to “have a kind heart” and see what was up with the guy, perhaps I would not be here today. Who knows?

        The fact is, I have a kind heart. My chosen field of work is not exactly populated by a bunch of assholes. But I don’t think what would need to be a couch session with some rando on a subway was really the best course of action here.

        –Robert

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      3. Don’t think we really have an argument here. Descalation goes a long way…..avoidance even further, you’re right.

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  2. Robert,

    Well done not having an engagement in your encounters. Sounds like you won both fights to me. On my visit to DC two years ago, we met some interesting characters as well and I was just unarmed as you were. More so, not even an umbrella in hand. Glad to see you were fine, get to enjoy your life and and are expanding your skill set.

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