I literally did everything wrong the other night. For one thing, I was on the phone, completely distracted by a small family drama that was taking place at home, about 1,000 miles from me. I was on yet another work trip, still sitting in the rental vehicle in the parking lot of my hotel, with surroundings I was not familiar with … in a city where I had never been.

Mistake One

It was not extremely late, but late enough to be dark. And since I was not at all familiar with this location, I should have been cautiously looking around, carefully gathering my belongings, and strategically planning my course of action. Instead, I had parked in one of the first and easiest parking spaces I could find. Unfortunately, it was not well-lit, and it happened to be rather far from the building. That was my first mistake.

Mistake Two

Flustered and frustrated with the ongoing phone conversation and with the thought that I still needed to check in and settle into my room for the evening, I swung open the door, slammed it behind me, and started to walk around the other side of the vehicle to get my backpack and purse. That was my second mistake.

Mistake Three

I had the rental car key fob in my hand, but I was also unfamiliar with that. I couldn’t get the button to work to pop open the trunk. And as I reached the back of the vehicle, that’s when I finally noticed the people walking toward me, now just a few feet away. That was my third mistake. I was still on the phone, still somewhat distracted, but in that moment, every Spidey sense was tingling. And I knew I had done everything wrong.

Defensive Quick Thinking

I tried to look calm and in control as the two figures came toward me. Both were tall men. Both had their hands deep within their pockets and hoods pulled around their faces. I immediately thought to myself that it wasn’t even that chilly outside, so the clothing and the body language appeared odd to me. And I tried to pay close attention to the hands of the two strangers. I noticed them both look at each other and speak something, not loud enough for me to hear.

At that point, they were so close to me, I could have been easily overtaken if that was their objective. Worst of all… I was in a state that did not have reciprocity with my own for concealed carry. So I was unarmed and already feeling out of sorts and vulnerable.

I still didn’t know what to do next. The key fob in my hand was foreign, so I couldn’t press the panic button. So I did the only thing I knew. I said into the phone, “Oh, you can see me from the room? Awesome…. Then why aren’t you coming down here and helping me with my luggage? Don’t just watch me; come down and get your stuff.”

I said it loud enough, hoping the strangers would believe that a loved one was indeed watching me at that moment through a hotel window, waiting for me to arrive and keeping an eye on the goings-on below.

As the figures slowly walked past, I finally figured out how to open the trunk and get my suitcase. I pulled myself together and walked briskly and purposefully into the hotel, breathing a sigh of relief when I encountered a group of people and the reception desk attendants. Still, I chastised myself mentally as I got my room key and settled my thoughts. I was much more cautious and alert as I went up to my room, observing all surroundings, exits, people, and anything that looked or sounded (or even smelled) out of place.

Awareness Lessons Learned

Amazing how even something that we teach and live every single day can slip away in just one distracted moment. Let this be a lesson to you: Don’t be complacent! Pay attention. Take extra precautions. Always be the wrong person. And stay safe.

Why do I share this moment of vulnerability? This lapse of judgment? I share it because it can literally happen to anyone, anywhere. I also share it because with Thanksgiving in mind this month, I am so thankful for the opportunity to learn and train and I am forever grateful for the right to have a firearm as a last resort should I ever need to stop a threat.