In my time as a social worker, I had to use some practical life skills. Such as How To Survive An Attempted Stabbing, and, How To Avoid Being Assaulted. Social work is a profession someone enters out of their want to do the best for people and society, and needs to use every trick in their arsenal to get through unscathed.
One afternoon, I was going to visit one of my favorite families with a trainee in tow. I arrived at their house to find the door off the hinges and the mother's boyfriend covered in blood, standing sentinel in the doorway. The mother rushed to the door and said in a hushed voice, "You need to get away. Now."
"No problem! I'll call you later," I said in a friendly, happy tone. I then turned around and walked down the street to my car like nothing was off.
"Why aren't we running? We should be running," my trainee said. He was a fit 6'2" and shaking from fear.
"We're not running because we don't want to make ourselves a target," I said. "We don't know who attacked the house, or where they are."
"Oh," he said. "Good thinking."
We got in the car and he started going for his Blackberry. "No," I said. "No phone calls. We'll call 9-1-1 when we're on the entrance ramp. Not pausing here any longer than it takes to pull away from the curb."
"Why?" he said.
"Because," I said, "it's the smart thing to do."
When watching the movie Horns with my husband, the waitress - played by Heather Graham - gets in her car and spends five minutes fixing her lipstick and checking her phone. Women tend to do this in their cars, hanging out, spending some time doing stuff they could do when parked in their garages, or inside the safety of their home.
"Why's she doing that?" my husband asked. "She's going to die."
"Women just do that," I said. "It's dumb."
"You didn't do that, though?" he asked.
"No, I didn't," I said. "Because I learned from playing RPGs and reading Stephen King."
So I think it's high time I present to you, or to anyone, some practical skills I learned from some very reliable sources. So here it is - Learning from Slasher Flicks and RPGs: Survival Techniques.
1) The primary rule is, when you realize you could possibly be in danger, feel your gut. What does your gut tell you to do? In unexpected situations, such as the scene with the broken door and bloody boyfriend, senses go into overdrive. In that scene, I saw how boyfriend was standing, guarding the door. I noticed he was looking down the street. I followed his gaze, seeing four people watching him, not looking friendly. I also made note of how the mother had some blood on her, and how she warned me away from the house in a quiet voice.
From this quick glance and the mother's quiet insistence I knew whatever had happened was very recent and still very close. Also, the mother thought being associated with the family could be hazardous. Pulling from my knowledge of all things pop-culture, running away could make me clumsy, miss stuff, and a target. We needed to walk away, look like we were in control.
This could have backfired. We could have arrived there 10 minutes earlier. There's a lot of what-ifs, but in situations like this, you can't get bogged in What-Ifs. When you do, you lose sight of What-To-Do. Don't get lost in a swamp of what could happen, and just make it happen. You can always run later, sprint later, toss the purse, etc.
2) There is an overwhelming sense that our cars are safe places. Yes, cars are safe, they have safety ratings and airbags and roll-cages and all of that. But they also have windows, and are sometimes not parked in places with totally safe people. I don't mean to elevate your paranoia to Red Alert Levels, but, consider this: sitting in a parking space for twenty minutes is a dick maneuver; one likely to get you eaten alive by zombie werewolves.
When you get in your car, remember what happened to Heather Graham, or half the girls in the Scream franchise. If you really need to answer that text message in private, go to your bathroom. It even comes with a built-in chair! You can put on that lipstick when you park at home. And that guy isn't going to notice how perfect your hair looks if you use the emergency car-curling-iron, it's not going to matter; your date's probably thinking about something else. Just turn the key, pull away, and get a move on. Let the zombie werewolves attack someone who doesn't read this blog.
3) I walk every day, and I live in a very commercial part of town, and yes, I listen to music while I do it. But I look people who pass me in the eye, and often check behind me and across the street for two reasons: I don't want to be the jerk blocking the bicyclist (who should be on the damn road but whatever); and I don't want anyone sneaking up on me/following me. This might make me look paranoid and a little crazy, but looking off-kilter never hurt anyone, and they're right.
Here's a story: The path between Grand Central and Penn Station wasn't the safest place to be after dark in 1996's Manhattan, but I walked it three or four times, alone. It's probably the stupidest thing I've ever done, but I did it, and I was aware of how unsafe it was. I devised a plan to make this trek alive and untouched: If I looked like the craziest person on the sidewalk, no one would mess with me. So, I put my earbuds in, running the cord so it was invisible, setting the volume super low. Then I air-drummed and yelled lyrics the entire way to Penn Station. People crossed the street to avoid me. The homeless moved away. No one wanted to deal with me. Mission: Accomplished.
That ends this part of the guide - The main thing to take away is to be aware of your surroundings at all times. Don't depend on someone else to do it for you, because they might slack off for five minutes. This guide is for men and women, yes, even the part about the cars. Most of the time being a decent person and knowing what's around you is enough to keep you out of trouble. So don't punch people at concerts, don't threaten anyone ever, and look out for anyone who looks like they're about to do either of those things and get the hell away.
Because, I know from personal experience, you do not want to hang out in the Emergency Department Waiting Room for 4 hours while bleeding. It's one way to make sure you do punch someone.