I pulled into my local Starbucks just after dark. Across the street, about 70 yards away, the bank’s alarm was going off. The days of a bell with a striker are long gone; the intermittent audio advisory sounded like something you’d hear in a sci-fi prison movie. A light on the side of the bank flashed like an airport landing beacon. I watched the bank from the coffee counter and then stood with my Joe outside by the parking lot. I know: situational awareness fail. I should have left. But the road system (excellent for quick getaways) would’ve forced me to drive by the bank. Besides, the bear’s been chasing me recently. A remote viewing of an armed robbery might’ve been just the thing to cheer me up . . .

Anyway . . . Nothing. Five minutes went by. Six. Seven. Nada. No bad guys. No cops. Nothing. Oh yeah life goes on, long after the thrill of bank robbing is gone. A customer walked out. Starbucks does its thing. And then Paul Blart came around the corner.

Actually the security cop ambled up to the front of the bank. He’s a short stout fellow (of course). Trailing behind him: one of the bank employees. The cop swung a set of keys in his gun hand (I swear).

The two men looked at the light in wonderment and (eventually) checked the surroundings. They look up and down the street and then went back around the corner down an alleyway (a.k.a. a funnel of death) and headed to the back of the bank.

Ten minutes. No cops. And then it happened: a customer walked IN to the bank, happily surrendering his plastic to the ATM in the brightly lit fishbowl that houses it. It was a truly stunning display of Condition White.

I eventually risked dying in a hail of bullets, drove past the bank to RTB. Twelve minutes after I’d arrived. I have no idea how long the alarm was sounding before I arrived.

Beat that.

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41 Responses to Question of the Day: What’s the Worst LACK of Situational Awareness You’ve Ever Seen?

  1. I live in a college town annually inundated with flocks of young people. The young women do the most stunningly foolish thing: they walk or ride their bikes to and from their apartments after dark. In, around and through bad neighborhoods. I see it so often I just shake my head, unbelievable.

    They need SA (and a handy pistol) more than most of us, but they seem blissfully unaware. One more reason they say youth is wasted on the young.

    • How dare you! Everyone knows that no rape or mugging victim ever had anything to do with making them a victim. You’re just another MAN blaming the victim. Why do you think getting so drunk that they can’t stand, let alone walk, and parading through dangerous, low-traffic neighborhoods in revealing clothing would make them a target of anything bad?

      /Sarcasm.

  2. I live in a nice tiny town in oregon, with nothing of interest usually happening. I used to work in a building next to a bank branch, and one day when I was doing some minor work, I noticed that the armored car had gotten stuck trying to get into the parking lot past the dumpster.
    First, the guy riding shotgun got out to see how much space they had, and then when the driver still had trouble figuring out how to navigate his way out, HE hopped out too, leaving the doors to the truck open and the engine running while he walked around it to talk to the other guy.

    • she should have lost custody for 6 months. apply the damn parking brake. keep one hand free. put down the phone, coffee cup, etc. always assume the worst.

  3. Unfortunately, it’s probably not helped by the good ole car alarm. After so many years of hearing one go off when you walk past one, many have become desensitized to it. Condition White is all too common as you say. I am sitting in a coffee shop now watching people come in and out and observing their SA, which is basically non existent, with their heads buried in their smartphone. Me, I’m sitting with my family, back against the wall, facing the door. After years of practicing SA, it is now second nature. Good post and reminder during these busy holiday times when it’s easy to let your guard down.

    • +1. Wifey nows lets me decide where to sit first when we go out and I am slowly getting her to see that SA comes in many forms, such as car keys in the same place, every time, no exception. Practicing getting in and out of the car with a nice sweep of the mirror and glance over the shoulder before exiting, etc.

  4. Nobody pays attention to alarms anymore. Most people assume they are false alarms and nothing is wrong. Think about that when you install a siren alarm on your house. Unless you have a dialer to the cops and are prepared to pay a false alarm charge once in a while all alarms are good for is waking you up so you can load up.

    My neighbor has ADT and every other year the cops show up, walk around his house, declare it safe and then he gets hit with a bill. Not sure what it costs but he says at least he knows they will come out. They sent two cars last time, maybe he got a double charge.

  5. I was 12 and my sister took me to Cancun. We were walking down the street and approached a bar that was obviously patroned by the locals only and where gringos were persona non grata. Several inebriated patrons were milling about the front and locked eyes on us as we approached.

    I saw them looking at us and could tell, even at such a tender age, that they were giving us more than the stinkeye. I could practically see the thought bubbles above their heads, “Surely these tourists are not going to think about walking through us.” My sister was oblivious. No, really. I looked at her and she had absolutely no clue as to what was going on.

    I slammed on the brakes and tried to clue her in. I made us cross the street so we didn’t have to walk through the group of drunk locals. My sister blew it off and as an overreaction, safe in her bubble that there is no way they would dare think about hurting some precious Americans. I was astounded by my sister’s absolute cluelessness and arrogance.

    • It’s not just people in foreign countries, out of towners do it in their own countries too. They’re in a strange city, don’t know the ‘good’ side of town from the ‘bad’ and just wonder around blank faced with loads of cash and cards, clothes that scream “I’m not from around here!” excess camera equipment hanging all over them and a couple of young kids that are eating up the last little bit of attention they aren’t using to keep from wondering into traffic. I’ve never robbed or wanted to rob anyone in my life and even I’m watching them go by thinking ‘Geez, there is an easy mark. . ‘.

  6. I was in a car being driven by a lady. The lady has a friend rush up to the vehicle in traffic and start a conversation with the vehicle stopped in the turning lane. My driver informs her that she has a job to do so her friend let’s go of the door and turns to walk away.

    She is immediately struck by a car. Standing in the middle of a five lane main street in the middle of the afternoon eluded her. We waited for the ambulance and the driver cried and blamed herself.

  7. If you’ve seen anyone get seriously hurt from something easily avoidable, you can’t help but feeling like trying to help them while at the same time question their mental state. Seen my share of bonehead car accidents and traffic violations directly in front of marked police cars. Thankfully nobody has died in front of me yet.

  8. Heck with the personnal defense stuff…wait until the driving a vehicle SA subject and blog starts up! Now they have a 2 ton bumper car to play with!

  9. I denounce myself.

    I popped into a Wal-Mart in a bad section of town. Knowing that this neighborhood was a good place to get shot, I kept my on a swivel and my gun hand free. I did my business and walked out to my car, carefully keeping my bag in my left hand, and it wasn’t until I got my car and turned to open the door that I noticed a guy had been following me less than 3 feet away from me, probably since I walked out of the front door.

    It was then I realized that I while I was dutifully looking left and right as I walked out of the store, I wasn’t glancing behind me or over my shoulder.

    Whoops.

    • I noticed a guy had been following me less than 3 feet away

      Once while walking around my neighborhood, the sun was low and behind me, I noticed a long shadow approaching silently from behind. It was a large dog but fortunately a friendly one. If the shadows had been falling some other way I would have been unaware.

  10. Memorial day a couple of years ago for perfectly good and sufficient reasons I was carrying 2 pistols openly (one in a shoulder holster, one on the hip in a Kydex OWB holster) plus a BUG in my front right pocket.

    Walking through Target with my wife we see 3 cops approaching, so she says “Ooh, purses!” and heads out while I make clucking noises at her retreating back (this, BTW, is nowhere near my first “moment of unusual interest” with local LEOs).

    Naturally they disarm me first thing (including the BUG) and start harassing me for open carry (which is perfectly legal in MN). We spend about 20 minutes in the store going back and forth and chatting (“Are you a member of the NRA” asks one? “Nah,” I reply “they’re too wishy-washy on the subject of gun control for my taste.” I think he thought I was kidding; I wasn’t) while they’re waiting to hear back back the station.

    They finally decide to take me out front by the squad (not in the squad, by it). As we’re walking towards the door one of them taps my right hip and asks “What’s this?” I have a nice black leather holder for my cellphone so I said “My cell.” The cop replied “Not that, this” and taps the holstered FULL-SIZED, DOUBLE-STACK Para P-14 .45 ACP that has been on my right hip the whole time the three of them had been talking to me!

    One of the junior guys said “Man if I ever get in the sh!t I’m calling you for backup!” The sergeant was not amused, however; I hope he had a word with them (and took stock himself) about just how F*%#ed-up the situation could have become if I’d been a BG.

  11. im a cop and gotta say that most people in this world walk around in “lala land”. White, after all, is the color of sheep.

  12. First hand I have seenpeople try to get themselves run over every day at my college because they won’t even glance up when crossing the street.

    But secondhand from one of my friends comes the story of being too hung over to realize that the Denny’s you are currently trying to sober up at is being robbed. One of his friends had gone in after a night of drinking, sat down and ordered. when his food never came he went to complain to the manager and the guy was stunned that he could have missed the dude with a ski mask and gun.

  13. Ok, I will fess up to my morning bouts of situation transparent (even less aware than white). With the exception of the usual TDYs and vacations, for almost thirty years I have gotten up at the same time, driven the same route and ended up in either the north end of Crystal City or the Pentagon. Some days I have absolutely no idea how I got from my front door to office. It’s like one moment I am in my house and the next moment I am at my desk. I have no recollection of anything in between.

  14. I can’t give too many bad examples, but I can give good ones. Several times I’ve been walking late at night with a heavy jacket, hoodie up, hat pulled low, hands deep in pockets, and scanning the sidewalk. I look like a hoodlum, but it gets cold in Pittsburgh and I’m a good ‘ol boy from Georgia. About half a dozen times in the past year, people have crossed the street to get away from me, or started to walk a whole lot faster. One time a woman stuck her hand in her purse, followed me with her eyes, and didn’t take her hand out until I was at least a block away. But I’ve been aware each and every time.

  15. I’m a BIG guy, almost 400 lbs. Long hair, long grey beard, I look like the stereotypical biker, that I am NOT.

    I don’t want people afraid of me, but I’m amazed at how many times I’ve walked into a mini-mart, gas station, drug store where only a single female or two are working, and they go right on texting, shooting the breeze, and NEVER look up.

    I sometimes throw my wallet into the door pocket rather than sitting on it on a long drive. Which means I often have to go BACK to the truck or car for my cards so I can buy something. So here’s the question I’ve got.

    WHY would you not keep an eye on ANYONE who walks in at midnight or 2AM when you are alone, much less NOT watch some wild lookin’ guy who shows up, but to let him walk in and OUT without EVER looking up seems like an invitation to let miscreants steal!

    That leaves out the whole RAPED and robbed aspect of not paying attention.

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