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You ever get those prickly feelings?

There’s a crew out today, dealing with brush and noxious weeds on my property across the street. Two of the people, a man and his daughter-in-law, have done work for me before and I like them very much, especially her. And I trust them.

But he’s in the process of handing their business off to her and she’s brought in third relative, a man in his 50s.

The new guy’s been here twice and every time he’s around, I’ve got this prickly feeling. First time, he was here only 20 minutes and by the time he left I had the beginnings of a tension headache.

There are objective reasons I don’t take to him. He’s a know-it-all and very patronizing. But this feeling goes beyond that. It’s like somebody’s pressed a ringing alarm clock against the back of my skull. It’s to the point where I’ll probably tell her I won’t be using their services if he’s a regular (which she’s already told me he will be) — and I’d hate that because she’s good and super reliable.

You ever have reactions like this about people (other than ones you meet in dark alleys, I mean)? And have those reactions ever told you anything important?


  1. Victor Milán
    Victor Milán September 21, 2015 11:19 am

    I’ve had such feelings. And I pay attention to them.

    It doesn’t require any paranormal mechanism to explain such misgivings. Your conscious brain gets basically a digest of sensory inputs. There are subconscious mechanisms always at work, a major function of which is to look for subtle clues to threats.

    It doesn’t mean you need to do anything drastic; such feelings (like one’s “rational” assessments) can be wrong. But it never hurts to be extra-wary, does it?

    In general, if somebody just makes me uncomfortable, I either confront them about it or avoid them as completely as possible. Mostly the latter.

  2. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty September 21, 2015 11:42 am

    Oh my goodness, YES. That “gut feeling” was a major part of my situational awareness all the years I drove and worked all over So. Calif – since we were absolutely prohibited from having any physical tool for self defense. I can’t even remember all of the times I listened to my gut feelings and avoided a potential problem. I SERIOUSLY remember a few times I didn’t listen, and came very close to disaster.

    I have cultivated that trust of my gut reaction carefully over all the years since. It is a big part of what I teach in self defense classes. Most Americans, especially women, have been taught to “be nice,” and not listen to their inner feelings. That makes it difficult to change, but it can be done and is well worth the effort. That doesn’t mean you growl at every stranger, or become paranoid, just that you pay more attention to people and your initial reaction to them. I’ve learned over all this time that my first response to any stranger is usually the most accurate!

    That gut reaction is based on your instinctive response to body language, eye contact, and other physical signals including body odor! I happen to believe that there is a spiritual/energy component as well, but won’t argue with anyone over it. Develop it consciously as much as you can, and for pity sake listen to it.

    And trust your dogs. Honestly! A dog is getting the same signals, only more of them and, probably, more accurate. If Alva and the others don’t warm up to that guy… avoid him at all costs. Seriously.

  3. Shel
    Shel September 21, 2015 12:00 pm

    “Trust your gut” is a warning I have failed to follow multiple times over the years, and pretty much every time I’ve made a regrettable mistake. You’re sending out a screaming message here; perhaps part of the reason for posting it was hoping (as I have in the past) that your gut is mistaken. IMHO, it can’t be. You likely would be doing the young woman a great favor if you voiced your concerns. She seems quite clearly to be oblivious, in part, possibly, because he’s a relative. And I agree completely with ML. You would be wise to give Ava the opportunity to confirm the obvious.

  4. Pat
    Pat September 21, 2015 12:20 pm

    Yes. I, too, have had such encounters, both at work and in social situations, and try to break off the relationship ASAP before it goes further.

    Is there any way to find out (in casual conversation) how the woman feels about this man? She may be taking him on to keep the business afloat, or because she can’t get away from his relationship.

  5. Claire
    Claire September 21, 2015 12:21 pm

    Thanks, guys.

    Indeed, Victor, it doesn’t require anything supernatural. It nevertheless feels weird to get such a screaming reaction from just some “everyday guy.” But I do and will continue to trust it.

    Shel, I think you’re right that there’s a tendency (esp. among women, as ML notes) to deny such feelings and to be “nice.” Even to want people to say there’s nothing to worry about. In this case, though, I am going to tell the young woman that I have alarm bells about this uncle of hers and I’m not looking to be talked out of the feeling.

  6. Claire
    Claire September 21, 2015 12:25 pm

    Pat — Good point. I have the impression that she’s taking him on because he’s got professional landscaping experience (although that’s not necessarily an asset around here where most people have miniscule budgets). I don’t get the sense that she’s nervous around him, but he is acting as if he’s her boss rather than the other way around, which is one of the conscious things that irks me.

    She’s easy to talk to though and perhaps I’ll probe a little to see how she takes to him before I tell her my reaction. But don’t worry; he won’t be working here, not in the long term.

  7. Claire
    Claire September 21, 2015 12:45 pm

    Well, that was interesting. So far, I don’t know the guy’s last name. But I did look up D. the lifelong felon I wrote about a month or so ago. Found 17 entries, including four felony convictions, for him just in the last 7 years, from two counties and multiple court levels. Plus another 19 sub-entries just on his current case alone. The prosecutor’s getting very serious about this one.

  8. Pat
    Pat September 21, 2015 1:21 pm

    “… but he is acting as if he’s her boss rather than the other way around, which is one of the conscious things that irks me.”

    Then again, she may have asked him to take charge because of his expertise.

  9. Claire
    Claire September 21, 2015 1:46 pm

    I don’t think so, Pat. I think she’s just used to being the helper and he’s just naturally somebody who takes over.

  10. Karen
    Karen September 21, 2015 2:56 pm

    It’s a shame to lose a good reliable worker, but I have to agree with everyone else that your feelings are probably spot on and shouldn’t be ignored. My first thought was to have Ava and Robbie check him out, but Robbie’s old and Ava would probably love him if he happened to carry a tennis ball with him.

  11. Claire
    Claire September 21, 2015 3:01 pm

    Steve Ramsey — Turns out Mr. Creepy has an extremely common name that yields several hundred search results from probably half the counties in the state. There is someone by that name (and a distinctive middle name) who’s been committing crimes for 20+ years in every nearby county. Some of those are felonies with victims. But I have zero way to know if it’s the same person.

    It’s an interesting exercise. But OTOH, he could be pure as snow and still exude creepiness or he could have been committing crimes elsewhere.

  12. Claire
    Claire September 21, 2015 3:04 pm

    “Robbie’s old and Ava would probably love him if he happened to carry a tennis ball with him.”

    So true! Yes, generally I’d trust my dogs’ instincts, but not necessarily these dogs. In addition to Robbie being old, he has always adored all men who smell like hard labor. Grease, grass, gasoline, wood shavings, power tools — Robbie thinks any man who smells like these things is absolutely the cat’s meow.

  13. Ellendra
    Ellendra September 21, 2015 3:38 pm

    I’d suggest watching him like a hawk, but in a way that he won’t see you. If he notices you watching him, he’s likely to take it as a sign of interest, and that adds a whole ‘nother dimension of ickiness to it!

    (Based on my experience with every guy who gave me the creeps.)

  14. Plug Nickel Outfit
    Plug Nickel Outfit September 21, 2015 4:48 pm

    I’d go with that ‘gut feeling’ – but that’s just me. Too – you don’t necessarily have to explain why to the daughter – particularly if that might affect a relationship. Finally – I’ve met a handful of criminals that worked with ‘landscraping’ businesses – they used the work hours in order to ‘case’ properties for further attention.

  15. Tahn
    Tahn September 21, 2015 6:22 pm

    If he is “That” type of bad person, just by telling the nice lady in charge and she relates it, could set him off. Watch your back.

  16. Claire
    Claire September 21, 2015 6:36 pm

    Thanks for all the good wishes and hints. I’m really just fine dealing with this guy, though you’ve definitely brought up some points I hadn’t considered. Didn’t mean to make this “about me,” though.

    I was really more wondering how many of you had had these “alarm clock” reactions, and if so what they they told you.

  17. Jim B.
    Jim B. September 21, 2015 7:41 pm

    There’s another point to consider. If the guy’s in his fifties and has professional landscaping experience, my first question would be, “Why didn’t this guy go into business for himself away from his relative so as to not compete with him?” Most people that go into the landscaping business usually do so with the intention of going into their own business.

    If it’s because he doesn’t have the money to get the equipment, that’s another thing to consider. Bad money management perhaps?

    From what you tell us in the relationship between him and the new owner, it sounds like they’re heading for rocky times. Primarily because as she goes along and get management experience and confidence, she may end up butting up against him. I don’t think this will take long. The only question will be, can she make her business survive dealing with him. Of course this is not your concern, dealing with the immedicacy of the guy is, however what I just said can be an indicator of how bad this guy is.

    Watch your 20.

  18. old printer
    old printer September 21, 2015 9:24 pm

    Claire, SW Washington and the area I’m guessing you live has a big meth problem, as does a lot of small town rural America. I know my own neck of the woods has it. Petty crime, home invasions, and worse – much worse. Trust your gut. Having said that, I wouldn’t want to be in that guys shoes if he tried something with YOU!

  19. LarryA
    LarryA September 22, 2015 12:10 am

    Listen to them, absolutely.

    I’ve spent a bunch of years working for agencies that help survivors of sexual assault and other violence. A huge majority of the stories I hear from that source start out, “I felt like something was wrong, but I thought I was being paranoid/rude/mistaken/etc.” They weren’t.

    For 30 years my self-defense students have been telling stories about listening to those warnings, with much better results. I’ve had several such experiences myself.

    Have you read The Gift of Fear, Gavin de Becker? it lays out how that warning system works.

  20. Gunny
    Gunny September 22, 2015 5:04 am

    I don’t but my wife seems to have a “sixth sense” for sniffing out undesirables. When we meet someone new she might say, “Don’t trust that SOB.” Better than 9 out of 10 times she will be right.

  21. JacknOK
    JacknOK September 22, 2015 6:22 am

    All good advice above; TRUST YOUR GUT. Could tell many examples where this has proven valuable for me.

    “Left of Bang: How the Marine Corps’ Combat Hunter Program Can Save Your Life” “Left of Bang offers a crisp lesson in survival in which Van Horne and Riley affirm a compelling truth: It’s better to detect sinister intentions early than respond to violent actions late. Left of Bang helps readers avoid the bang.” —Gavin de Becker, bestselling author of The Gift of Fear—GQL&dpSrc=sims&preST=_AC_UL160_SR100%2C160_

  22. Vince
    Vince September 22, 2015 6:31 am

    It seems like others have covered most of what I would say. Victor hit it squarely. Our five senses feed info to the brain which can twig to something we aren’t actively conscious of.

    A few years ago when my daughter lived in NJ (since moved to NV) she was out on the front step of her apartment smoking a cigarette. Two black teens were walking by and as soon as she saw them her radar went off. She ignored the impulse to immediately run inside and lock the door because she “didn’t want to appear racist.” For her efforts she was treated to a gun shoved in her face, forced inside and was robbed of her stereo, some DVDs and a thousand dollars.

    Fortunately, that was all that happened. Suffice it to say that she pays attention to lizard level brain warnings. Regrettably she still smokes but did move out here to Nevada and now trains with a glock.

  23. Stryder
    Stryder September 22, 2015 7:07 am

    First, I’m all for trusting your gut, that said, if your gut tells you something is wrong and you act on it, you’ll never really know if you’re right or not. The only way to find out is by NOT trusting or acting on it and getting a bad reaction.

  24. J Lyn Morris
    J Lyn Morris September 22, 2015 8:04 am

    Oh, golly does this hit the memory-nail on the head! Several years ago…foolish me was walking to work, early dark winter morning on a lonely dark side street when out of the corner of my eye I saw two dark figures across the street lateral to me. I was wrapped up, bundled up, and yet…a cold streak hit me right up the back of my neck….and even as I watched one dark figure crossing the street to me, and the other figure walking on ahead…I still didn’t start running.

    Well, stupid me…my senses were right, even though my muscles still couldn’t react and the dark figure stepped in front of me, grabbed my bag (which he didn’t realize was wrapped under my heavy winter coat and over my neck…and empty no less). Since the bag was so well secured, the man threw me on the ground, me hitting the curb and then dragged in the gutter, until he was able to cut the handles off the bag and gun away.

    NOW…I am thankful these jerks were really new at muggings, and I am so thankful I had not carried my gun that morning, (but there after I carried in on my person). But had I paid attention to my senses of what was going on around me, I probably could have averted these amateur muggers altogether.

    I have had such ‘alerts’ to people since that episode, and I PAY ATTENTION and avoid contact even. It sounds a bit anti-social, but….at my age, I LIKE less social!! LOL

  25. Pat
    Pat September 22, 2015 8:40 am

    “The only way to find out is by NOT trusting or acting on it and getting a bad reaction.”

    That’s where learning from experience comes in. Listening to our gut reaction is where we improve the odds (with no or minimal harm) before the experience becomes painful.

    But yes, it is possible to learn from listening to your inner voice – you learn to trust it.

    Once when driving fast on the highway I felt a sudden urge to slow down, and did so – just before a tire blew out. Another time I made a sudden decision to take an alternate route home, and later learned a bad accident occurred about 1/2 mile up the road where I would have been had I traveled the original route. These incidents didn’t involve people; others did. All of them together teach us to “obey the instinct” – and that’s why Claire is aware of her “prickly feelings” now.

  26. Ellendra
    Ellendra September 22, 2015 8:43 am

    “I was really more wondering how many of you had had these “alarm clock” reactions, and if so what they they told you.”

    Ahhh, you want stories!

    Several times I’ve been in training for a new job, and someone else in the training class set off alarm bells. EVERY TIME, that person has later tried to ask me out, refused to take “no” for an answer, and started the creepy stalker-ish behavior until I had to report them for harrassment. I hate reporting people for that, because it seems like it’s become a method of abuse by too many women, but there always comes a point where I run out of less drastic options. I started wearing a fake wedding ring just as a preventative.

    One guy had no concept of personal space. While walking past his cubicle he reached out and grabbed me by the name badge. (Here’s a tip for you guys: There is NO place a woman can wear her badge where it is appropriate for a stranger to grab!) The next day I was live-monitoring a very important call, I had a sign over me saying that I was not to be disturbed, so this guy decided to stand so close to me that his belly was touching my ear, and tried to start a conversation. “Monitoring those calls, hmm? Gotta listen to those calls. Really listening to those calls, huh?”

    He later reported me for “bullying” because I didn’t talk to him enough. I should mention, at the time I was dealing with a problem with my vocal chords, I couldn’t talk, period! The HR person who handled the complaint nearly laughed herself out of her chair.

    In my current job, there has been worse on top of that. There were a pair of twins (was a pair of twins? blanking out on the grammer rules here) who every woman on the floor kept gushing over how gorgeous they were. I never saw the appeal. They didn’t give me the “creepy stalker” vibe, but there was definitely something about them that set my teeth on edge. I couldn’t explain it, they were nice guys, so I chalked it up to paranoia.

    Until I caught them commiting fraud.

    I’m the QA auditor at a call center. On one call, I caught one of the twins saying “I saw your account was billing way too high, and this plan would save you money, so I went ahead and submitted the contracts in your name.” He had never talked to this customer, the customer had never agreed to anything, there was no way in hell this was legal, and yet when I brought it up to their manager the manager made excuses and promised she’d take care of it.

    She didn’t take care of it. She encouraged it. As long as their sales numbers were high, she didn’t care how they got there. She had always set my teeth on edge too, but I assumed it was because she was loud and brash. But every time I caught one of her people breaking the law, she covered for them. The twins were her favorites, I heard them selling products that didn’t exist, they put through contracts the customer never agreed to. They swiped stuff from other people’s desks. Nothing mattered, and they got bolder as the months went on.

    A week after the manager retired, the twins were fired for fraud. 2 weeks after that, they were arrested for armed robbery. It seems they made a side business of robbing gas stations during their off hours.

    You’d think the director here would have learned. Twice more, someone was hired who set off my littler alarm bells, was caught commiting fraud, only to be sheilded by their own managers. And one who didn’t commit fraud, but was so abusive toward his support team that he got marched out by security after they forwarded an email from him to HR.

    The more interesting stories it’s always guys who set off the alarms, but there are woman who do, too.

    Scary, though, is when my dad sets them off.

  27. Claire
    Claire September 22, 2015 9:52 am

    “Ahhh, you want stories!”

    Yes. And those were some good (albeit damned creepy) ones, people. Stalkers and fraudsters and muggers and home invaders … Ugh. Just who I’d expect to raise the hackles.

    It also seems it’s easier to protect ourselves when we have some TIME. It’s those fast do-I-or-don’t-I decisions that seem to lead us (esp. women, IMHO) wrong. We just don’t want to believe what our instantaneous reactions are trying to tell us.

  28. Joel
    Joel September 22, 2015 11:50 am

    You don’t need good reasons. Since the point of calling this service is to make your life easier/less stressful, the guy doesn’t have to be on a registry of serial killers for you to never call that number again. “I don’t want to” is reason enough.

  29. Laird
    Laird September 22, 2015 11:52 am

    Well, now . . . .

    Everyone here is telling you to “trust your gut”, that the “creepy” vibe you’re getting from this guy is the result of millennia of evolution training your “lizard brain” to correlate and synthesize all the various sensory inputs you’re receiving, consciously and otherwise. And I completely agree with that.

    But now I go back to the story du jour last week about that “geeky kid” who fabricated an electronic clock and took it to school. The teacher who saw it and reported him was also “trusting her gut”, as were the police who arrested him. (After all, outside of the specialists on the Bomb Squad who among us really knows what a bomb looks like? What did the mechanism inside the pressure cooker bomb at the Boston Marathon look like?.) And yet ever since then the whole country has been undergoing paroxysms about how those people “over-reacted”, and how they were “profiling” him, yada, yada. So which is it? Are we to “trust our gut” except when the person in question is a Muslim, or is black, lest we be labeled a racist? In this era of school shootings shouldn’t we expect a teacher, charged with the safety of an entire classroom full of children, to err on the side of caution and “trust her gut” when confronted with an unknown and unusual electronic device?

    Just asking . . . .

  30. Tom
    Tom September 22, 2015 12:12 pm

    The clock thing was just another MEME brought to you by Goebbles on the Potomac. Pure BS.

    Your gut feel on the other hand should be respected. Always. I’m a huge believer in situational awareness. Head on a swivel. IF someone feels wrong then respect that until proven otherwise or the feeling goes away. Just my .02

  31. Claire
    Claire September 22, 2015 12:22 pm

    “Just asking . . . .”

    Interesting contrairian thinking, Laird. But there’s no evidence that anybody involved in Ahmed’s arrest was actually “following their gut.” Follow procedure? Following the needs of bureaucracy? Using excess caution? Following the dictates of “If you see something, say something”? Following stereotypes?

    All of the above. Maybe. But the real gut-level “I don’t know why, but I know there’s something wrong”?

    I don’t think so.

    AND … even if it were that, that’s NEVER enough to arrest somebody. It might be enough to start an investigation, but not to just arbitrarily arrest somebody.

    So … nice thought experiment, but I think the answer’s easy.

  32. Claire
    Claire September 22, 2015 12:23 pm

    Yeah, Joel. You be right on that.

  33. LarryA
    LarryA September 22, 2015 7:40 pm

    After all, outside of the specialists on the Bomb Squad who among us really knows what a bomb looks like?

    [hand goes up] And every cop ought to.

    Anything that only has wires and electronic parts isn’t a bomb. Other than in Hollywood, there’s no substance that a thimbleful of will blow up a building. Even letter bombs take extra postage.

  34. pigpen51
    pigpen51 September 22, 2015 10:58 pm

    I have found that I have no sixth sense or anything like it. I have to force myself to always be aware at all times, especially with the way our once peaceful area has become to a dangerous place to live now.

    However, my wife, on the other hand, is very, very sensitive to feelings, or senses, or inner voices. She has often had me drive a different route, or changed plans for a trip at the last minute because it “didn’t feel right”. And I have learned over the last 23 years, to trust her completely. One time I didn’t was when we were going on a quick getaway from MI where we live, to FL, in December.

    She had been having bad feelings about the trip, but didn’t know why. I kind of pressured her to go, mostly because I hate cold and snow. So off we went. Shortly after we got into the air, no more than 10 minutes, our airplane blew an engine. When I say it blew, I mean IT BLEW! We were sitting about 3 rows ahead of the engine on the left side and when it blew up it sounded like a shotgun had gone off inside of the airplane. And it exploded 2 more times. Nothing flew out of the engine, but it scared everyone aboard. The flight attendants were scrambling back to look out to see if there was a fire or anything, but there was nothing.

    The pilot came on the intercom and said that we were going back to Lansing, which is where we had gotten the flight from, because it was so cheap. He sounded almost bored. We landed safely, but you could feel him throttling up and down continuously with the remaining one engine.

    Once back on the ground everyone just applauded the captain, who could not have been more than 30 years old, but looked about 19. He seemed embarrassed by the whole thing.

    In the lounge, I heard him on the phone talking to someone, and he seemed like it was no big deal to him at all, like he was saying, “yeah, I won’t be able to go golfing tonight, but try and get us a tee time tomorrow morning”.

    In the meantime, they were flying another plane in from Atlanta to bring the passengers down to Florida. There was no way in a hot place that my wife would come within 10 miles of an airplane that day. Because she knew, just knew, that something bad was going to happen that day, but I wouldn’t listen to her. So Allegiant air gave us vouchers for the entire price we had paid for our tickets, but it took some arguing with them to get it. I mean, after all, they said, eventually the flight did get to FL. But we had flown with them on numerous occasions, so finally they relented and gave us all our money back, so later we were able to go there, just not that day, because my wife somehow had a “bad feeling” in the pit of her stomach.

    I didn’t listen to her that day when she told me about that feeling. I have never made that mistake again.

  35. Laird
    Laird September 23, 2015 9:07 am

    Still not buying it, Claire. “Excess caution” and “stereotypes” are just alternative means of saying “trust your gut”. (There is a reason for stereotypes, even though obviously they can be wrong in individual cases.) And LarryA, do you know what every type of bomb looks like? Frankly, I doubt it, and I certainly doubt that your run-of-the-mill policeman does, either. After all, it needn’t have been one big enough to “blow up a building”; a tiny one could wipe out a room full of kids.

    An arrest is often the beginning part of an investigation. Would you have just left him in school while the police determined what the device was? What if it really had been a bomb? Detaining him for a few hours while a thorough investigation is conducted doesn’t seem out of line. In the end he wasn’t charged with anything, and nothing will go on his record. No real harm done.

    After all, this wasn’t some kid chewing a pop-tart into the shape of a pistol; that’s just stupid. It was a strange electronic device of unknown purpose, containing a timer. Under the circumstances, exercising extreme caution would seem to be only prudent. But I agree that threatening to charge him with a “bomb hoax” is patently ridiculous.

  36. Claire
    Claire September 23, 2015 10:03 am

    “What if it really had been a bomb?”

    But Laird, it’s clear that none of the authority figures involved even truly suspected it was a bomb.

    The teacher who confiscated it reportedly stuck it in her desk and kept it there for several hours. Nobody ever ordered an evacuation of the school. That’s not how authorities react to a bomb scare.

    As to “no harm done,” perhaps not. But that will depend on how resiliant Ahmed’s mind and spirit are. Being dragged out of school in handcuffs for an innocent exploration of science or engineering seems likely to cause plenty of harm, if you ask me.

  37. LarryA
    LarryA September 23, 2015 10:21 am

    There are two basic kinds of bombs, incendiary and pressure. For either you have to have some amount of some substance that will burn or create pressure. Wire and clock-size electronic parts will do neither. (Which is as specific as I’ll get online.)

    There is a reason for stereotypes, even though obviously they can be wrong in individual cases.

    Exactly the problem here. Whether the teacher and administration looked at Ahmed as Muslim, black, or a student, they saw him as a potential deadly threat. So procedures were followed.

    Had they looked at Ahmed they might have seen a bright kid with a clean record who liked to tinker and bring things for show-and-tell. They might have considered his body language, demeanor, voice tone, expression, and what he was saying, rather than fixating on “wires+pieces=bomb!!!”

  38. LarryA
    LarryA September 23, 2015 4:37 pm

    Being dragged out of school in handcuffs for an innocent exploration of science or engineering seems likely to cause plenty of harm, if you ask me.

    Don’t know about today, but back in the ’60s it would have put a serious dent in my ability to get parental approval to take a girl out on a date.

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