Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Lines in the Dirt, 3

Continued from "Lines in the Dirt, 2"

See if you don't like the following scenario better than the previous one:

Your hands are full, carrying shopping bags to your car at a location with just one other person around. You see him from the corner of your eye, and he has cut off the route of return to the safety of the crowd. Your internal orc-alert is in full alarm. You decide that if it's a choice between you or him, you're going to take him out.

You turn to face him fully.

"Those packages look heavy. Need . . . ?"

You interrupt him in mid-sentence: "LEAVE ME ALONE."

"Hey, I'm just offering to help." He smiles broadly as he continues toward you.

You drop your shopping bags and bring your hands up into the non-challenging defensive position. "STOP! I SAID, 'LEAVE ME ALONE.'"

(Dropping your packages sends a message. If someone is just trying to be helpful, it lets him know that you are alarmed and want him to go away. It also informs a predator that you will not be easy prey. Since you are speaking in a loud voice, it also alerts anyone within earshot that trouble may be brewing. As a bonus, it says to your more timid self that your assertive side is taking over.)

At this point, you have drawn a line. It's not a literal line on the asphalt of the parking lot, but a psychological line of words. At this point, anyone with truly good intentions is not going to cross that line. In this example, though, Providence has not sent someone with good intentions.

"Oh, look. You've dropped your packages. You're probably one of those paranoid people whose mother told them not to talk to strangers. I'll help you pick up your stuff." He closes the distance.

You uncork your fury and counterattack as though you are fighting for your life -- for you are. By ignoring your verbal warnings, he has crossed the line; he has made his intentions known. Even though you may strike the first blow, his attack begins the moment he crosses the line. At that point, the fight is on.

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