Had an encounter with a member of the urban underground today. I got off my usual interstate route to work due to traffic today and went to work via an alternate route that took me partially through a portion of what is know as "the campus area" in Columbus. It was not actually part of THE Ohio State University but it was adjacent to it and is largely inhabited by students and student oriented businesses. Anyway, being a cold and rainy day I stopped by a gas station to get a cup of their burnt, strong but hot coffee. After killing off the taste with ample sweetener and creamer, I headed back to my truck which was parked around the corner.
On my way out tot he truck, I was approached by a individual who asked me for some money. I politely answered no and continued to my vehicle. The individual in question then proceeded to follow me to my vehicle to the end of the parking area and continued to pry me for money. I again told him I did not have any (and I wasn't lying, I actually had no cash, I paid for the coffee from quarters and dimes in my ash tray). Next thing I knew he was beside my truck with me as I was trying to get into the door. For whatever reason my spidey sense tingled a bit. Here I was with this guy out of view of most onlookers - if there were actually any - due to the size of my truck and I was channeled in between my truck and another vehicle beside me. To my rear I had an avenue of escape as to the best of my knowledge there was nothing behind me. For some reason I chose otherwise, against what I would normally preach. I dropped my coffee (damn) quickly retrieved my chem spray from my pocket (for some reason I did not carry today, I had a pistol in the truck, but it was locked in the lock box)and brought it up in front of me to where it was not directly pointed at his face, but about halfway up his body. I could have brought it up and sprayed in less than a second. I told him something to the effect "look, I've tried to be polite until now, I don't have any money, go away!" in a very firm but controlled tone of voice. For me that's saying a lot since I am one of those types that the fight-or-flight response seems to kick into high gear quickly. He quickly and turned an ran around the corner back in front of the store. I don't know if he thought I had a gun pointed at him or not, but I definitely had an effect on him. It probably didn't hurt that I am 6 foot and over 240 pounds. When I puff my chest out it can be daunting to some people I am sure.
Realizing that the best course of action now would be to retire from the field of battle I quickly jumped into the truck and got out of there. The first thing I thought was "gee, I wonder if he went to get a friend". After getting out of there I re-evaluated the situation in my head.
- For some reason I got into a "safe zone" mentally that day, maybe the familiarity of the drive, the weather making me concentrate into getting back into the warm truck or whatever. For some reason I did not anticipate the threat until it was already on me. I further made an error by stopping in a section of town I was not totally familiar with. Sure, I used to frequent the area YEARS ago, but places change and so do the people in them.
- Not carrying in this case was probably a good thing, as I think the odds of this guy actually wanting to mug or rob me were pretty slim looking back. He was probably just cold or hungry and wanted something to eat or to buy some booze or whatever else he may of been addicted to. Either way, producing a gun may not of been the best course of action and actually elevated the confrontation. At lease if I did have to of had sprayed him in 15 - 20 minutes he would of been more or less fine. If I shot a bum, well, what would of happened then?
- One thing I thought about was that I have often thought, and possibly even commented on this blog about, the fallacy of drawing a weapon as a deterrent, the "warning shot" defense so to speak. If I drew that canister it should only of been to use it. Not only did I escalate the confrontation but I also tipped my hat to my possible future actions. What if he had been armed? He could of taken this threat and responded by drawing a knife or firearm and then what do I have to counter with?
- I should of just walked to the back of my truck and left the area. The vehicle was secured, he wasn't going to get in. I did not have to escalate the situation by taking a stand. Maybe somewhere in my mind I thought that he might have a friend back behind the truck waiting for me. I don't know. I never did check and didn't turn around when he started running to see if anyone else was back there.
Despite all of these doubtful thoughts I thought about the rest of the way in, I do not regret taking a stand for myself. I refuse to let myself be ruled by fear of the harsher aspects of living in proximity to one of the largest cities in Ohio. Sure, if I got a "do over" in this situation I might choose to act differently. But in the end both I and the other party got out of it unharmed and to what I would feel would be a legally justified application of force by myself since I did feel physically threatened at the time by an unwelcome advancing party.
Do you think I acted properly? I am not above receiving criticism if it is constructive so let it fly. James R., if you read this I would be especially interested in your comments.