In one hour, I’m going to walk away from this keyboard. I’ll shower, shave and dress; feed the dogs, make breakfast, tidy the kitchen, pack a school lunch, help Lola find something, make sure Lola’s hair is brushed, survive Sasha’s perfume cloud, put the kids and dogs in the car and go. It’s a routine that requires dozens of sub-routines. For example, I have to assemble six items for the packed lunch. The process includes numerous sub-items and tasks (e.g. getting and heating a clean frying pan and using paper towels to blot the hot fat off the cooked bacon). I’ll have exactly 45 minutes to git ‘er done. Which I’ve done for years. So it should be easy, right? Wrong . . .
I’m pursuing a goal that involves literally hundreds of variables. Every single day, one of them goes wrong. It’s easy enough to focus on the human element. Many are the days when one of my two kids throws a proverbial spanner in the works: “Daddy I don’t want another bacon sandwich.” The kids are alright—except when they’re not. But it’s amazing how little logistical challenges can cause major hiccups in the kid-to-school production process.
For example, mission critical resources suddenly “disappear.” Everyone wants milk and cereal. Not enough milk. Butter for the sandwich? Someone left it out all night. Clean socks? Poo-poo bags? Where the hell’s that dog leash? “Where are my shoes? They were RIGHT THERE.”
Every single day, there’s something. Something that’s not there or vacated its expected location. Something that gums-up a plan that’s been implemented literally hundreds of times. Something that requires a variation in the overall back-to-school scheme of things. But before I talk about solutions, let’s go back to the psy-ops for a moment . . .
Not the kids. If you have kids, you know kids. Sometimes it’s all about me and I’m dog tired. I feel like one of the dancers in that Kurt Vonnegut story who had to wear weights so they couldn’t be better than anyone else. Everything takes for-friggin’-ever. Sometimes I just don’t want to do it. So I let the kids sleep an extra 15 minutes and convince myself I only need 30 minutes to do a 45 minute job.
Sometimes, I can cope with the inevitable wild card better than others. I can innovate or find some creative solution for a problem—including letting my standards slip (get breakfast at school). Sometimes we’re early and sometimes we’re late. Of course, we always get it done. But then, there’s no real pressure. No one’s holding a gun to my head.
But what if someone WAS holding a gun to my head?
No doubt the entire process would disintegrate. Little things that I’d normally perform on the subconscious level—getting a knife to spread the butter—would suddenly become incredibly difficult, both physically and mentally. No small point that. Mental bandwidth go bye-bye. What if the knife enrages him? Should I try to hide it or use a spoon instead?
I would have to radically shift my priorities. At the same time as I’d have to get the kids ready for school (’cause someone’s holding a gun to my head telling me to do so), I’d have to start thinking how to evade, disable or kill my antagonist. I’d have to re-consider my current routine or devise a new procedure in relation to this new goal.
Let’s say I decided to use a kitchen knife on the gun guy during the sandwich making process [NB: I don't normally think about such things in the morning. Which could be a bad thing on some level.] I’d have to do something I’d never done before (stab someone), time it perfectly and execute it flawlessly. If the plan didn’t work, what then?
Something. I’d have to do something. But there’s no way on God’s green earth I could pre-plan this scenario to the point where I could have a 100 percent chance of success. There are simply too many mental, physical, emotional, tactical, strategic and practical variables.
The same basic rule that’s true for getting the kids to school applies to a gunfight: shit happens. Times a thousand. You can’t plan for every eventuality. A lot of it depends on you—and you can’t depend on you, either.
I repeat: you can’t practice or “what if” an armed confrontation into predictability. I’ve heard (and launched) many debates about best practice for armed self-defense. Semi or revolver? What kind of semi? How many bullets? What caliber? The rabbi will tell you: you can do everything right in a gunfight and still die. You know that bit in Jurassic Park where the hunter dude says “Clever girl.” Like that.
That said, just as you can apply general rules to successful getthekidstoschoolery (e.g. threats work better than promises), there are a few general principles that will help you survive a gunfight.
1. Have a clear goal and faith that you can get there. Preparation and experience may not give you a clear path to that goal, but they help give you faith that you can get there. Somehow. Which gives your strength and enables creative thinking. The best way to stay goal-oriented: mental rehearsal. Think like a paranoid person; run through various scenarios in your head. If you don’t believe something can happen to you, you won’t believe it when it does. Not helpful.
2. Develop a number of skill sets. I hate terms like “skill sets,” but there’s no getting around the fact that general abilities create specific possibilities. I can cook just about anything (not well, but some). By the same token, if you can shoot accurately while running for cover, that’s good. If you know how to fire your weapon from zero distance (i.e. keep a semi’s nose off of the assailant’s body), that’s also good. Hand skills? Excellent. Knife skills? Why not? The more you can do, the more you can do.
3. Practice stress skills. There’s no substitute for training under duress; the way you perform during a full adrenal dump is vastly different from the way you perform under “normal” circumstances. I don’t have the rabbi yelling “GO! GO! GO! MOVE! EGGS! BACKPACK! BACKPACK!” when I’m trying to get my kids out of the house. But I do have him do it during firearms training. If I don’t feel like a complete idiot at some point during training, I haven’t had enough stress.
OK, I’m ten minutes late. Time to move. The funny thing is, sometimes this is fun. And hey, maybe I’ll learn something today.
[Next up: what tying my shoelaces taught me about machine guns.]