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A small “situation”

I’ll tell you right off that nothing dramatic happened. But it was interesting.

I’ve been working my way up to making my quarterly stop at the town liquor store. Today was the day for me to buy my Bloody Mary vodka. But as I pulled up at the curb in Old Blue, a black-clad, hooded young man wearing a backpack stepped inside the shop.

Something about him caused my hackles to rise. I nearly drove off. Then I thought about Deana (not her real name), who owns the pocket-sized liquor store. A young woman in there all alone. I got out of the car, laid my hand on a weapon and peeked through the glass door.

Deana seemed relaxed behind the counter and the stranger, with his back to me, didn’t appear to be doing anything untoward. So I went on in. The only money in my wallet was a $100 bill somebody gave me last week. Even though everything felt peaceable, I knew I didn’t want to wave that thing in front of that man, so I paid by debit card and as I was doing so he left.

Deana sighed and said, “Thank you for coming in just then. That guy was creeping me out. He says he’s trying to get to (Big City) and he wanted me to drive him there. Maybe he was harmless, but …”

I asked her if she was armed. She showed me a couple of non-lethal weapons behind the counter, admitting that she couldn’t find them in a hurry if she needed to.

“Have you considered getting a gun?”

“Well, you know how it is. They say you’re more likely to shoot yourself than somebody else.”

“That’s old debunked nonsense.”

We then talked about training and muscle memory and how we might react in a panic. Apparently, some of her friends, including police, have urged her to take training with the man who instructs all the local cops. She’s not inclined to, but I told her about the kind of training they get — not just plinking at a target, but using cover and concealment, shooting while lying on their backs or crawling on the ground, even shooting when half-blinded by Vaseline-smeared goggles. That interested her.

Don’t know if she’ll change her mind. But in her position, I sure would.


  1. jed
    jed February 13, 2016 6:44 pm

    Good on you, Claire! How was your heart rate? 🙂

    With all the attention women are getting these days, in re. the shooting sports, lots of resources for your friend. ML, of course, can tell her a few things for sure. And I’m trying to think of the self-defense instructor Tam links to sometimes – my brain is now stuck on Mausers and Muffins and that ain’t she.

    See if you can at least get her reading some good gun blogs. And I hope she’s done some practicing with those non-lethal things. Joe Huffman has some good stories about taking new shooters, including women, to the range for the first time.

    Somebody, maybe Alphecca, maybe Kevin Baker, was trying to do a “new shooter” network, identifying people in every state who’d volunteer to take new shooters to a range. I’m not up there, but I’ll pledge the cost of a box of .22lr for her to shoot.

  2. MJR
    MJR February 13, 2016 6:47 pm

    Clair you probably saved a life today. I suspect that had you not been there your friend would have been forced into a “ride” to the big city and the body would have been found in the spring.

    Non lethal weapons are fine if there is a back-up plan i.e. run. In a enclosed environment like behind a counter in small store there is a problem with that. After hitting the bad guy with the non lethal weapon the person has to make their way out from behind the counter out of the store and away. Meanwhile the bad guy is going to get up, clear his eyes, whatever and depending upon his mind set if your friend isn’t outside where she can run, well, then the fun starts.

    Using the police trainer guy is fine but doing one course then putting the gun under the counter and forgetting about it is silly. Practice, practice, practice.

    One other thing you could do for your friend, introduce her to CEPTED.

    It actually works. If you want anymore info on this drop me an email.

  3. LarryA
    LarryA February 13, 2016 8:07 pm

    Email Deana about Cornered Cat, starting with “Why a gun?”

    Your alarm went off. Deana’s alarm went off. Something was wrong. Imagine what happened in Hoody’s head:
    Ah. Likker store. Cash, drink, ride, maybe some fun. The clerk’s a girl, and she’s scared.
    Wait. Another girl. Holy s**t, that b*tch is not prey.
    Time to hit the road, look for an easier mark.

    Yeah. Instinct runs both ways.

  4. Fred
    Fred February 13, 2016 9:03 pm

    yep – Cornered Cat is what I was thinking as well.

  5. Eric Oppen
    Eric Oppen February 13, 2016 9:14 pm

    Glad you’re both all right! And my learned friend above is right—you very likely may have saved your friend’s life.

  6. Alien
    Alien February 14, 2016 12:25 am

    Good job, Claire, and you need to stay on it and not only for the owner’s sake, but yours: If the owner fails to take security and the consequences of security failure seriously her store becomes “a dangerous place” which constitutes a risk to you.

    While crime can happen anywhere, liquor stores are frequent targets for those with criminal intent. Consider the possibility that you had entered that store 60 seconds later while a robbery and/or assault might have been in progress, potentially with a criminal armed with a gun, knife, or even a whiskey or heavy wine bottle grabbed from a shelf. And don’t rule out the possibility of more than one criminal – an unassuming accomplice adds another level of threat.

    To some degree your well being depends on that liquor store’s attractiveness as a criminal target. You might have been in the process of paying with that $100 bill when that suspicious character entered, and sight of it might have been all that was necessary for him to try to take advantage of a visible large bill and an open till. I’m a bit surprised the owner doesn’t have a policy of “nothing larger than a $20” although ti doesn’t sound like she’s given much thought to security at all.

    It was a smart move not flashing the Benjamin. “On the street” I carry two wallets, my real one and a worn throwaway with $30 in small bills and some credit card-sized plastic (sometimes trade shows use them for attendee identification). Nothing with my real name or address on them, and the bills are “padded” with several pieces of colored paper to create the impression that there is a little more money than is actually there). Absolute worse case, I can use money from the throwaway to pay for something and replenish it from my real wallet when I’m in a safer place.

    Pro tip: If you ever have to actually use the throwaway, don’t hand it to the criminal, toss it to him (her?) just inaccurately enough to miss them by a foot or two and make them pick it up. That gives you time to escape or “respond in other ways.”

  7. Jimmy T
    Jimmy T February 14, 2016 4:51 am

    Good job, Claire

  8. Karen
    Karen February 14, 2016 5:26 am

    Good timing and good decision, Claire! I’d be interested to hear if your local news reports any other local crimes or carjackings when the guy decided to look for easier pickings elsewhere.

  9. Claire
    Claire February 14, 2016 5:52 am

    Thank you for the kudos, guys. But I didn’t do anything but make a small — and probably insignificant — judgment call. It’s true Deana might have been in danger and that merely by being there and being alert I helped her. It’s more likely that the creepy guy was just some hitchhiker without much common sense who would have wandered off on his own.

    Now that I think about it, however, there are two doors side-by-side in that building and he chose the liquor store and the woman over the barber shop and the man, even though the barber shop door was standing wide open. So maybe he was going out of his way to pick the more vulnerable person and/or the more tempting business rather than just looking for help. We’ll probably never know. Karen, I will keep my eye out for any reports of unusual local crimes — if the weekly paper chooses to print them. If not, I may talk with the town police chief or the sheriff.

    As further evidence that I really didn’t do anything much, it never even occurred to me until you guys brought it up that I should go back and urge Deana toward better store and personal security. But I’ll do that now — with the help of Cornered Cat and other great resources.

  10. Claire
    Claire February 14, 2016 5:55 am

    Pro tip: If you ever have to actually use the throwaway, don’t hand it to the criminal, toss it to him (her?) just inaccurately enough to miss them by a foot or two and make them pick it up. That gives you time to escape or “respond in other ways.”

    Very good one, Alien.

  11. Claire
    Claire February 14, 2016 5:59 am

    “And I hope you’re drinking something decent – Ketel One?”

    LOL, jed. No. For Bloody Marys, I buy the cheapest, least distinguished vodka available. The very few times I’ve had “decent” vodka in a Bloody Mary, the thing has tasted wretched because the vodka wants to dominate, which is just wrong.

    The only exception to that is a lovely vodka from here in the northwest called Dry Fly. It’s crisp and fresh and enhances every ingredient that comes in contact with it. But it’s not within my budget and it’s not a priority because … well, a Bloody Mary is mostly V8 juice, lemon, and Worcestershire sauce and everything else is just a hint of this or an overtone of that.

  12. capn
    capn February 14, 2016 6:56 am

    Whew …
    I am relieved to hear that you both are alright.

    By all means attempt to convince Deana to take “Security” much more seriously and “Good OnYa” for taking the initiative in helping or suggesting she help herself.

    My opinion of your “common sense” and all over “goodness” has increased and I would have thought they couldn’t get any higher.

    Stay Safe (Seriously)


  13. TJ Madison
    TJ Madison February 14, 2016 7:32 am

    Ms. Claire,
    I agree with LarryA, something WAS wrong. Your instincts alerted you and they were confirmed by Deana’s reaction to the individual.
    Unless they do things waaay different in your part of the country, hitchhikers don’t enter brick-an-mortar business’ looking for a ride from an employee; much less the only employee. What, he thought she would close up and give him a lift? Let him wait around till closing? Methinks not.
    You’ll never know what the outcome would have been had you not decided to enter the store nor how significant your actions were in determining the outcome however, you DO know that you did not ignore your instinct, took it upon yourself to act on it and the outcome was a good one for all involved.
    That’s a win in my book.
    I presume that the weapon you ‘laid your hand on’ also accompanied you into the store*; that being the case, I would have acted as you did had I found myself in your situation.
    *not asking for confirmation 🙂

  14. Shel
    Shel February 14, 2016 7:41 am

    I agree with the others, what you did was very courageous and definitely not insignificant. If “Deana” said he was “creeping me out” and you later thought it was insignificant, it means his demeanor likely changed dramatically when you came in. Echoing Larry A, you were a b*tch at just the right time. Presumably you kept your hand in your pocket, which he could not have failed to notice. He knew you were aware, and that was enough to convince him to find another victim.

    Don’t know much about vodka. My first drunk was vodka, when I was in high school and weighed 145 lbs. I was spending the night at a friend’s house. I started drinking shots; when they began burning too much, I made them 50% water. I essentially drank a pint of vodka straight. Then we got in my car and I tried to see how close I could swerve to parked cars. My friend convinced me that I had gotten really close and that we should go back to his house, where we took off in his father’s car. He would swerve a little and I would fall over on the seat and laugh (no seat belts in those days). In the glove compartment we found a couple of miniatures, one bourbon and one scotch. They went down like water. We returned to his house, where we spent the night as planned. I was sick for two days and threw up three meals. My parents never knew about it – pat on back to self. I don’t expect to be learning the subtleties of that type of drink, but it was good for memories.

  15. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty February 14, 2016 7:49 am

    I’m so glad it worked out for everyone! And yes, listening to your gut reaction to people and situations is one of the most important parts of self defense.

    From my experience and training, I’d like to make a few general suggestions:

    It is usually best (in my experience) to urge people who are new to self defense and guns to take the most basic class first. A class of the intensity and variety you describe would more likely intimidate and discourage new folk, especially women.

    Any course taught by an cop or for cops would be of much less value, in my opinion, than basic NRA or other such classes. Cops have an entirely different mind set and learn different skills than us ordinary folk. Not that some of us wouldn’t want/need to learn them at some point, but they are inappropriate for the newbie self defender, and could get them into serious trouble if used.

    It is very easy for new folk to get wrapped up in the gun, gun skills, and all that goes into a carry gun… without truly spending significant time on the why, where, and all the potentials. Gun skills without serious situational awareness is one of the biggies… but there is significant required thinking on the topic of: if I had to shoot to save my life… could I actually deal with the grave injury or death of another human being?

    My little book, “I Am NOT A Victim” covers a lot of that and presents a good many ways to practice these things. It also tells the story of the man I had to shoot to save my life. If anyone wants a free e-book copy, just send a request to mamaliberty at rtconnect dot net – replacing the symbols and removing the spaces. Use “self defense book” in the subject line so it will go to the right filter. I’ve given away about 9,000 copies… and have LOTS left. LOL

  16. peter connor
    peter connor February 14, 2016 7:49 am

    Well done Claire! Never question your intuition about people, it evolved over many millions of years in naked survival situations…..

  17. Laird
    Laird February 14, 2016 9:17 am

    Frankly, it astounds me that anyone who owns a liquor store is not armed at all times. Liquor stores have always been a prime target for petty thieves, as surely she must know. It sounds to me like she is not cut out for that business. She should open a greeting card store or something equally innocuous.

  18. Claire
    Claire February 14, 2016 9:54 am

    I was kind of surprised, too, Laird. This is a small town where nobody expects trouble, but years ago we did have a murder in a c-store less than half a mile from there. And being on a highway, we do get weirdos wandering through more often than a lot of people imagine.

  19. M. C. Ridge
    M. C. Ridge February 14, 2016 11:08 am

    I was going to recommend I Am NOT A Victim before I saw MamaLiberty’s post. I asked for a copy and permission to share years ago. I have given copies to lady friends and hope they read and understand. The basic NRA class is a good place to start, but more training and practice should follow. Living where you both do, there should be no problem finding classes. Good thinking on your part Claire during the incident and good luck to Deana, hoping she choses to become more self reliant.

  20. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty February 14, 2016 12:12 pm

    M. C. Ridge, you might want to send for another copy of the book. It’s been updated and edited several times since you got your copy. 🙂

    And yes, anyone who receives this is free to give it away to others. All I ask is that you give them my email address and urge them to write to me. I’m delighted to have feedback and/or answer questions.

  21. Jim B.
    Jim B. February 14, 2016 10:42 pm

    I’m sorry to say that running a Liquor store is basically working in a bullseye for criminals.

    On another note, because I know many members of the TMM Forums check this blog, are you having trouble accessing the Forums? Once, tried refreshing the page to see any new posts, the page have gotten smaller and smaller. Than later when I tried to go back, I can’t sign in, with it saying the Username doesn’t exist.

  22. Karen
    Karen February 15, 2016 6:23 am

    Jim B, from Bill St Clair at TMM,
    “Sometime around 11pm eastern time last night, somebody broke in to the forum, and deleted all the members except the one they used to do the dastardly deed, all the categories, all the boards, all the topics, and all but one message.”

    It’s been fixed using Bill’s backup system, so you might try again to log in.

  23. Claire
    Claire February 15, 2016 8:22 am

    Oy, that’s terrible! Thank heaven, once again, for Bill!

  24. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty February 15, 2016 8:32 am

    Yes indeed, thank goodness for Bill. Without my TMM fix each day, I get really cranky. 🙂

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