Yesterday we talked about loading your kid first and some options if someone attacked you after you loaded the kid. Today I want to back up and talk about where you park the car. Set up is one of the best things you can do to stay out of trouble.
Busy and deserted parking lots are both dangerous for the same reason. If there is one car there is a place for a person to hide. Where you park your vehicle can be important. Don’t park next to big vans or trucks that hide your car. You want to be able to see around your car when you walk out. You can’t control who parks by your car when you are inside, but you can start out right. I like to park next to a planter or a cart return thing. That way no one can park next to me, at least on one side. It’s also super convenient to get a cart and to return one when I’m next to the return.
Also think about parking in a row that allows you to check out your vehicle before you get to it. I like to walk up the row next to the one my car is parked in. If I can’t see around my vehicle clearly, I’ll walk past the car and then come back to it.
When you are going to leave the store, plan to leave. Get all your stuff together, finish that phone call, and have your keys in your hand before you walk out the door. Take the cart with you, don’t carry three bags in each hand. Keep your head up and walk with confidence. Look around and don’t be afraid to meet other people’s gaze. If someone approaches you that you don’t know, tell him or her to stop and go away. Don’t be afraid to be rude to someone. A good person will understand that you are alone with your child and won’t hold it against you.
If someone asks you if you want help, tell them no. No is a complete sentence. If the person ignores the no and continues to talk, that person means you and/or your kid harm. Yell at them, scream for help, tell people to call 911. That person will most likely leave.
As you are walking towards your vehicle and looking for anyone out of the ordinary, remember that your safest place is probably back in the store. Most people think their car is safe, and it is. Once you get inside, lock the doors, and get the engine running. The problem is that it takes a lot of time to get into the car.
Once you get to your car and start loading the kid and your stuff, keep looking around for people approaching you. With your stuff and kid half in the car is when you are most vulnerable. That said, it’s not a race to put your kid and stuff into the car and get out of there. Criminals are trying to pick the victim that is the least likely to give them a problem. Most are lazy and looking for the easy score (check out Violence as a Deterrent to learn more about criminals). If you already look scared by rushing to put your stuff in, the criminal will use that to his advantage. He doesn’t want someone looking around and that notices him walk up.
Increase your personal space boundaries when you are putting your kid in the car. If someone walks up that doesn’t own the car next to you, challenge him or her verbally. Use an accusing tone and something like “What do you want?” or I use an annoyed loud voice and say “can I help you?” If they don’t mean you harm the worst that will happen is someone gets mad. If that person is trying to get to you, he may say “sorry I was only trying to help…” and continue with some long-winded reason he wanted to help you. Tell him “I don’t need help. Leave!” Use a command voice and don’t add a thank you or I’m sorry. This person is looking for a way to get close to you and your kid. If that person ignores you, start yelling for help, screaming at them to get away, and yelling for someone to call the police.
Once you’ve opened your car and started loading it, you are pretty much committed when you have your kid. So if someone does approach you and looks weird and does or does not follow your verbal challenge, forget your stuff, grab your kid hop in the car and lock the doors. Don’t worry about what door it is, just get in. Ever if you are in the back you can crawl over to the front.
My normal loading drill when it’s just the kid and me looks like this; I put the kid in the basket before we walk out. I’ve got my keys in my hand and am looking around as I walk to my truck. As I come up to my truck I’ll throw my stuff in the bed, push the cart into the return (because I parked next to it), grab the kid and only unlock my driver’s door. I put the kid on the center counsel and jump in the truck after him. I pull the door closed, lock it, start the truck, and then turn around to help my kid into his seat and strap him in.
It’s not a perfect solution and is changing almost monthly as my kid gets older (he doesn’t want to ride in the cart anymore). He’s three now so my load plan won’t work if you have a newborn. Think about how you load your kid(s), when you are at the most danger, and think of what ifs. If someone approaches me while I’m at this point, what will I do? If I’m going to challenge someone, what will I say?