Non-Events as Learning Opportunities

Plenty of contributors and content creators on the “Gunterweb” will take news stories and use them as teachable moments. I think that’s a great idea. Otto von Bismarck famously said “Only a fool learns from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.” Before I was ever aware of that quote, I was fond of saying “I’d rather learn from people who learned the hard way”. These are easy to draw lessons from because there’s generally a clear outcome, either positive or negative. 

What I personally find a little more interesting, albeit less dramatic, is dissecting and Monday morning quarterbacking what I call “Non-Events”. These are situations that are seemingly benign, but could have the potential of degrading into something serious if not handled properly. Going through my social media posts, it looks like I average one of these “Non-Events” every year, so I decided to share them, in the hopes that it will encourage others to analyze their habits and how they conduct themselves.

Non Event Jan 2019:

On my way home from work today I stopped to put air in my tires. As I pulled into the air station, I noticed a dude on the corner of the sidewalk. Initially it looked like he’d just left Buc-ee’s and was waiting to cross the street. Except that, after I’d pulled through, dude was still just hanging at the corner. It’s 40° in Houston right now. Nobody’s voluntarily spending more time in that shit than absolutely necessary. (Red Flag number 1)

Here’s where things get interesting: An occupied Pearland Police cruiser was parked almost right next to me, so I figured that would be my scarecrow… Nope!

As soon as I kneel down to put air in my tires, my man starts paying attention to me. As I move to my next tire, my new friend CROSSES IN FRONT OF THE HOOD OF THE COP CAR, and is now positioned between my car and Mr. Popo. (Red Flag #2)

I have my OC palmed already because I’m wearing one of my favorite pairs of shoes and a watch that would be a bitch to get fixed, so you bet your sweet ass I was fixing to hose this fella down if MUC1 didn’t work.

Nothing happened. But it could have easily gone the other way.

Non Event August 2018:

We’re leaving the grocery store, and I see two dudes in line at the Western Union counter “admiring” my wife. It wasn’t a fully predatory look, but every male on the planet recognizes that look as one of less than innocent thoughts.

On any other day I would have just dismissed it, but I had just finished listening to John Johnston ‘s interview with Tim Chandler discussing the Petit family home invasion murders.

I made very direct eye contact with these two, and made damn sure the message received was “I see you motherfucker” Not because of some ego driven notion of defending my wife’s honor, but making sure it was clear that if there was ill intent, they should move on to a softer target.

Some people will call this paranoia, but they are mistaken. I don’t think anyone’s coming to get me. I do however recognize cues of potentially predatory behavior, and know at least loosely how to avoid fitting the template of “the victim”

Did I overestimate the situation? Probably. Did it cost me anything? Not in the slightest. The thing is, I’ll never know if I read the situation correctly or not until it’s too late.

Dr. William Aprill says in his class “weird is enough”

Non Event 2016/2017:

I was gassing up at the local stop & rob in the late morning (around 10-11 AM) before going into work. All I remember specifically is that a truck pulled up to the pumps opposite the gas tank (I could see the gas cap, so they weren’t there to fuel up), and that one of the 2 dudes in the cab had a tallboy in a paper sack. They attempted to engage me verbally, but I politely but abruptly gave them a “I’m good man! Have a good day!”, got in my car and drove off. I decided to remove myself from the situation because Unusual Behavior + Day Drinking = no possible positive outcome for me.

It very well may have been nothing, but I preferred to not stick around and find out. 

Non Event November 2015

So I just had another “non-event” that I figured was worth documenting. Nothing happened, but it definitely is one of those scenarios that most people shrug off, but have the potential to change everything:

Scenario: I was walking my dog around the track behind our house. During my 2nd lap, I noticed a guy walking down the street, and crossed into the area of the park. He was alone. He didn’t have a dog to walk, and he didn’t start walking around the track. I thought he was maybe going to sit down at the bench, but he continued towards the picnic tables.

The initial alert was that this appeared to be an able-bodied man of working age. Now, I’m gainfully employed and was at that park at noon on a weekday, so that in and of itself wasn’t a major alarm bell, but it does deviate from the norm enough to warrant attention.

It was what he did next that elevated my alert level: He appeared to be picking up or looking for cigarette butts around the benches and tables. This isn’t normal behavior. He then started arguing with himself, pretty aggressively. As soon as I heard that, I turned down the street instead of continuing to walk the track.

Seemingly innocent, but these are also the types of situations that end up as headlines and lead stories on the evening news. Previously, I may have just tried to avoid him, but continue on my way. But after reading The Gift of Fear, as well as works by Rory Miller, Greg Ellifritz, and George F Matheis Jr, I had the good sense to “un-ass the area”. I was able to enjoy a leisurely stroll with my pup instead of having an unscheduled date with a cop or EMT.

While you’re out and about, keep your head up. Pay attention to who’s paying attention to you. Did you get home safe because of what you actively did, or were you just not the slowest gazelle today?

One thought on “Non-Events as Learning Opportunities

  1. I think too much emphasis is placed on situations that go way south, and not enough on situations that don’t. While there is a lot to learn when everything goes wrong, there is something to be learned from situations that could have gone wrong. Those are what I’m likely to encounter, and what I need to be focused on. We don’t all get to fight off 5 or 6 armed home invaders.

    Liked by 1 person

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