Staying Safe and Smart

Years ago I taught self defense to women and children. The main point of my class was to teach them how to avoid trouble, use their heads, be aware of their surroundings, and to stay safe. If I were still teaching today, I would also add tips on how to keep people’s belongings safe as well.

I am flabbergasted by how many people these days not only leave their cars unlocked, but leave the keys in the ignition as well (for those of you who own what I call “button start” vehicles, you may not need a key to start your car, but please lock the doors!).

Same with people who leave their houses unlocked. Life and people are different these days, and you need to be careful and vigilant.

Not to put too fine a point on it, I have noticed the absence of what we used to call “common sense.” It doesn’t appear to be too common these days, though. It seems as though many people are not only complacent but much too inner-focused. Those two things alone can be deadly.

Here is my list of things to watch out for these days:

*Cell phones/Smart phones – quit putting your phone in your back pocket or an open purse – you won’t feel it when someone takes it. Also, think carefully about what you put in your phone. If it’s stolen, then someone else has all your information. Also, do not confuse convenience with intelligence. Just because ‘there’s an app for that,’ doesn’t mean you have to use it. Think smart, not convenient.

Purses – I recommend a zip top closure (and remember to zip it up!), and do NOT hang your bag over your chair. Be aware at all times where it is. I have seen more women in grocery stores leave their purse open (wallet in full view) in the cart while they wander off to look at something. It takes a thief about two seconds to grab your purse or just your wallet and go.

Backpacks – these are ridiculously easy to get into as the zippers are usually on the back, facing out. Someone behind you could remove your valuables and you wouldn’t know it. If you must have a backpack, get one where the opening is against your back.

Money – don’t flash your cash around where people can see it. Same with personal information—do not carry your Social Security card with you, do not leave bills or letters with your address and account number lying around where anyone can see (and possibly photograph) your information.

Credit cards – always write down your card number, the 800 # if it gets stolen—keep this information at home as well as with you. Also when you buy something, get the receipt. Each day, check your receipts against your balance. Keeping your receipts without making daily checks gets you nowhere. If someone has gotten into your account, the sooner you know about it, the quicker it can be fixed.

Kids and pets in the car – stop leaving your kids or pets in the car (in hot or cold weather) while you go to work, go shopping, or meet your friends for lunch. If you can’t remember that you have a child or a pet in the car, then perhaps you should invest in one of those devices that remind you to look before you leave.

Crossing the street – folks, there’s a reason why there are crosswalks. However, do not assume that, just because you are walking in one, talking away on your phone, that traffic will automatically stop for you. Put down the phone, use your eyes and ears and LOOK before you walk. These days a lot of people assume that, the second they put one foot in the crosswalk, that everyone will see them and stop. Do NOT assume; this is why you have eyes and ears.

Take out the ear buds – you may think that you can listen to your music or motivational speaker and be aware of what’s going on around you, but you can’t. If you are doing your morning jog alone, you are asking for trouble if you are not aware of your surroundings or who it around you. You may want to consider carrying pepper spray and one of those devices with a piercing alarm. Ear buds are fine in the gym, but outside you need to use them and be vigilant.

Road rage – do not engage when you are on the road and someone does something stupid. Do not flip anyone off, do not follow after them or do anything aggressive. I know how frustrating it is when you are minding your own business and driving safely when someone does something incredibly dangerous and stupid. You are going to have to train yourself to let it go. You don’t know if they are carrying a gun, if they are crazy, if they are homicidal, etc. Don’t take chances.

“Selfies” and other non-essential stuff – For all those who enjoy taking pictures of yourself in the nude to send to ‘just one friend,’ don’t do it. Once that photo is out there, you can’t get it back. Can you really trust that friend NOT to forward your picture on to ‘just one person?’ If you think that this can’t happen to you, just check out what happened to Anthony Weiner.

Mountain climbing, hiking, etc. – first and foremost, let someone know where you are going and when you expect to be back. If you are hiking or mountain climbing, do your homework first.

I used to climb Mt. Washington here in New Hampshire in the summer. I always wore a backpack containing long pants, a sweatshirt, extra socks and a hat. Although it may be 88 degrees when you start climbing, it will be considerably colder up on top where the temps can go down to the 40s even in summer. Also, when you climb any mountain, be sure that you sign in at the bottom and sign out when you get back.

I lost a dear friend years ago when a couple of people never signed out after climbing Mt. Washington. My friend was part of the rescue team that went looking for them, and he died in a sudden avalanche. This never should have happened.

In conclusion, the world is very different today than it was years ago. People have become too complacent and self-involved, and are not paying attention to the world around them. In order to survive and live well, you must be prepared and stay alert. It doesn’t take a lot of time to take the necessary precautions to be safe, but you can suffer for a lifetime for not doing it.

As I used to say to my self defense students: be safe, not sorry.

*A note here about cell phones of all types: if you cannot be bothered to look up to see where you’re going while on the phone and you fall into a big puddle, that’s your own fault. If I see you do it because you are too wrapped up in your phone, I will not only have no sympathy for you, but I will laugh my head off as well.