What Would You Do – Creepy Store Employee

Garand Gal shared a story the other day about an experience she had while shopping for new glasses for her daughter. I’ll let you read her post for the whole story, but here’s the gist of what happened:

The technician was complimenting her on how pretty her eyes were, then it was her hair (it’s long, she’s never had her hair cut) and then he kept asking her to turn around so he could see the butterflies embroidered on her back pockets (he did this at least three times) and telling her how cute they were and how pretty she was, did she wear make-up etc. I saw red flags flying all over throughout the conversation. One of them being that when he was doing the store spiel he was using a normal tone of voice but when he was complimenting her or asking her to turn he was using a very quiet voice. I assumed so it wouldn’t be picked up by the surveillance. Another was that he waited until I appeared distracted with my other children or my phone before he said anything, not realizing that I was texting the things he was saying to my husband and that as a mother I can pay attention to several things at once. When I didn’t give him any indication that I’d heard, he started saying more and more things to her.

Garand Gal asked her readers what they would have done in a similar situation. I think she handled what happened well (you can read her post to find out what she did), but I wanted to link to this because I think it’s instructive to talk about what Garand Gal did right.

As her story demonstrates, the first – and most important – part of keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe is being able to recognize danger when we see it. This is especially challenging for women, because we’re socialized not to be “rude”. We’re taught to be pleasant and polite and agreeable, and so it’s hard for some of us to trust that little prickle on the backs of our necks that says Something is Not Right. So, too often, we do nothing and wait to see if the situation will change or improve. Too often, we wait for evidence that our instinctive concern is wrong – even though our intuition never responds to nothing. By the time the potential trouble turns into actual trouble, we’ve given up the space and time we need to react.

In this case, Garand Gal recognized immediately that the situation didn’t feel right, and she trusted that feeling and acted on it. This is the critical first step toward safety, and one that turns out to be surprisingly difficult for many of us to take. She didn’t dismiss her concerns or discount them. She recognized what they were and acted quickly and decisively.

In her case, Garand Gal chose to respond in a way that let the store employee know that she had noticed and recognized what he was doing. This is huge, because predators rarely want to attack a prey that is ready for the attack. Predators, by their nature, rely on stealth and the element of surprise. They rely on their victims being in a Code White state of unawareness. Once the employee knew she was watching him, her daughter became much less attractive prey.

Now, it’s true that the employee’s interest in Garand Gal’s little girl could have been purely innocent. It’s possible (though, after seven years as a rape and child abuse victim advocate, it seems highly unlikely) that he was not, in fact, a predator stalking a victim. But Garand Gal and her daughter were alone in the store, with someone whose behavior was suspicious, and that someone had access to their home address and phone number. In such a situation, it’s always better to err on the side of caution. I’d much rather have a store employee think that I’m a rude, mean, heartless bitch than have to face the aftermath of a predator’s victimization of me or my loved ones. If the eye-care center employee thought Garand Gal was an overreacting crazy woman, so be it. When faced with a conflict between safety and manners, safety wins every time. It’s not even a close call.

The one thing Garand Gal did that I’m not sure I would have done in the same situation was to let the store employee know she was armed. I live in a very gun-unfriendly state, and in an especially gun-unfriendly part of that state to boot, so letting others know I’m armed is generally an option of last resort for me. In a different place with a different political climate, I might not have the same hesitation – though I admit I am generally reluctant to give up the element of surprise that I gain from potential perps not knowing I’m armed. Though escape is always my first and best choice when danger finds me, when escape is impossible, that slim edge of surprise might disrupt my attacker’s OODA loop just long enough to give me the space I need to survive.

Was the guy in the eye-care store just being harmlessly friendly toward Garand Gal’s daughter? You can draw your own conclusion. I’d say the fact that she was able to tuck her daughter safely into bed that night makes her response to the situation a correct (and successful) one.

What do you think? What would you have done in the situation Garand Gal faced? Let me know in the comments.

Photo credit: stock.xchng

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