God gave us five senses (and a sixth, our intuition) and being aware of them is only half of what you need to do in order to stay safe from all sorts of dangers in the world, not just the social and asocial predators out there. Walking into work today, I had the opportunity to consider what good our senses are if we don’t confirm the information they are sending to our brain. This is a regular topic from your Basic CCW course to the Advanced “Operator” courses available in the firearms world. Trainers incessantly talk about awareness because it is our first line of defense, and the one that will get you out of 90% of the dangers you come across. Haven’t we all heard:
“Pay attention to your surroundings!”
“You must be situationally aware!”
“Your general state should be Cooper’s ‘Condition Yellow’!”
… and so on. I’ve heard some variation of that admonishment (and said it myself) in every class I’ve been to. That gets me to today’s lesson. The second half of that equation is confirming what your senses are telling you, which is what I did today with a very regular occurrence in all of our lives.
As I walked from my parking lot to the office (about 3 blocks), I began crossing the street at the light. Iced coffee in hand, I clearly observed the light change, and I had the white “Walk” sign. I had looked both ways (even though it was a one way street) and observed a car approaching the red light. It was still quite far away so the driver had ample time to slow down and stop. I began crossing the street and at about the mid-point, I realized the car was still coming pretty fast. I didn’t see it. I could hear it. Rather than make the assumption he was going to stop, I looked to my left and confirmed that “yes, the car was still coming at me” but “yes, he was in fact slowing down and coming to a stop.” He just had to get his foot a little harder on the brakes. Maybe he was on his phone, maybe he was still waking up, it really doesn’t matter. My brain received “out of the ordinary” information signaling potential, albeit unlikely, danger. I still picked up my pace anyway, not much, but enough to move me “off the line” of the vehicle.
To put it into Boyd’s OODA loop, I observed by hearing a vehicle still moving faster than I expected, I oriented by turning my head and visually confirming what I was seeing, I decided by noting the driver was slowing down sufficient to stop, but still I acted by picking up my pace enough to get me off his line. This all literally happened in less than a second. There was no real danger, but I confirmed my senses and acted to move into a better position had it turned into danger. Maybe his foot would slip off the brake. Maybe he realized I was that lawyer who screwed him over years ago and here was his chance. Maybe he would have a psychotic brake in that moment and began a vehicle rampage. All unlikely, but my decision to follow through with OODA at least put me a better position if something did. And it cost me nothing more than a turn of the head and small increase in my step.
Don’t just be situationally aware. Confirm your awareness.