Always have an exit strategy.
A couple of months ago, my wife finally started catching on to what I do. We were out walking around downtown San Antonio and I grabbed her by the arm and crossed the street without thinking about it. At this point in my life, I’ve been paying attention so long that I don’t even question my intuition. I don’t even know why I crossed the street. There was just a little message in the back of my head that said move, so I did. My wife asked me if it was because of the person walking toward us on the sidewalk. I told her I didn’t know, I just did it by instinct. But the weird homeless looking guy staring at my wife was a good reason to cross the street. There was also construction on that side and a fence was sitting on the sidewalk, cutting off half of our maneuver space.
When I talk about being prepared to leave, it needs to be that fast and easy. Last week, I was in a convenience store and a cop walked in. I asked how he was doing just to be friendly and he gave me the quick fine without looking at me. He was there looking for someone and I was out of there.
Any time you go out, you should be looking for danger indicators and be ready to leave. You have to be prepared physically and mentally to leave. Start with the mentally. You have to be able to swallow your pride and move across the street when a group of gang members comes down the street in front of you. Yes, you have a right to be there and shouldn’t have to move for a group of criminals, but there is right and there is safe. They aren’t always the same thing. When it comes to my family, I’ll suck up my pride (and us Marines have a lot of it) and keep my family safe.
You have to be able to suck up the embarrassment. When the group you are with says let’s go down the dark alley where you see a couple people hanging out looking at you, you have to say no, we aren’t going. A couple weeks ago, I was with a group of friends that said we needed a beer run but all of us had already been drinking, so I said no (we all had rooms to stay the night). At first I was laughed at, but I held my ground and we drank what was there (and didn’t run out). So you have to have the internal fortitude to stand up for what’s right even when ridiculed by your closest friends and family.
Once you get through the mental, the physical becomes easy. Just always know where an exit is and don’t be afraid to use it. If you cross the street, you can always cross it back. If you leave a convenience store, there is another one a mile down the road. Even if you have to leave a restaurant without paying, you can always go back and pay later. The physical part just has to be fast. Do it without a second thought. As soon as you get even a thought that something is wrong, leave. Do it quickly and quietly without a second thought.