How Aware/Alert Are You?

I would say that I’m hypervigilant when I’m out and about in the world. I know what’s going on around, in front of, and behind me at all times. My car doors are always locked when I’m inside, even when it’s just a quick trip to the corner store. I’m frequently scanning for unexpected or unusual activity.

While I’m not paranoid, I do instinctively feel that there are predators out there, perhaps more than one would think. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that there are predators at almost any location, watching people to pick out one that looks weak, unaware, and/or helpless. It’s my goal to automatically come across as most definitely not a target, and it must be working as I’ve never been targeted as far as I know. Maybe I never would have been, even if I’d put myself across as the nicest person in the world, I’ll never know, but I’m happy with my results, regardless.

A couple of weeks ago, a woman was standing outside her car on the side of a busy city neighborhood street and tried to wave me down. I felt bad about it, but I didn’t stop. I may have if my young son hadn’t been with me, or if it had been a remote area, but I figured in that situation the safe thing to do would be to let her flag down some big strong guy in a work truck, one’ll be along any second. Would you have stopped?

Of course, the reason I am so serious about my and my family’s safety is because I’ve been a single mom for a long, long time and everyone’s protection is my job. I imagine men have felt this way for time immortal. It is stressful, you can never just daydream and stare out into the sky. You’re always waiting, waiting, for something odd to happen so you can take action. It’s a good thing nothing ever happens, though, because for all the badass I try to act like I am, I can’t fight for shit. I’d totally get my ass kicked.

And now for the poll part: Are you a drifting daydreamer as I long to be, or are you constantly alert and aware of what’s going on around you as I actually am, or are you somewhere in between? Male or female? Parent or not? City or rural?

Female, city, raised on a farm.

I read a book once where a policewoman was posing as a decoy for a mugger/rapist. She said something like, the hardest part of acting like a regular woman was learning how to NOT be aware, because most women look at the ground and don’t make eye contact. As a cop, she was used to being sharply aware of her surroundings, and looking everyone in the eye, sizing them up.

I’m a natural drifting daydreamer because of my farmgirl past, but ever since I read that, I generally make sure I’m aware of my surroundings, and I look people in the eyes and up and down if I’m passing them late at night or if there’s few people around. It’s a bluff though. I have the memory of a sieve and would make a lousy witness but the way I look at people (well, men) they’d think I’m memorizing their features and clothing.

I hold my head up and swivel it around constantly instead of looking at the ground, which I never do anymore. That’s often faked too though. Admittedly there are times when I may NOT be paying much attention to my surroundings, and thinking of other things, but I’d always look like I am aware to someone watching me.

Looking at or watching something does not equal being observant. Being self aware is invaluable, but only things that are recorded on police reports make it onto the record.
" It’s my goal to automatically come across as most definitely not a target, and it must be working as I’ve never been targeted as far as I know. "

Specious reasoning defined.

A couple of weeks ago, a woman was standing outside her car on the side of a busy city neighborhood street and tried to wave me down. I felt bad about it, but I didn’t stop. I may have if my young son hadn’t been with me, or if it had been a remote area, but I figured in that situation the safe thing to do would be to let her flag down some big strong guy in a work truck, one’ll be along any second. Would you have stopped?

You left her alone. Actually, you just drove by her. Did you think she was going to murder you?
And now for the poll part: Are you a drifting daydreamer as I long to be, or are you constantly alert and aware of what’s going on around you as I actually am, or are you somewhere in between? Male or female? Parent or not? City or rural?


The two “types” of person you suggested are both flawed. Wow, I wish I could help, it seems I can’t though.

The two “types” of person you suggested are both flawed. Wow, I wish I could help, it seems I can’t though.

It’s hard for me to understand your post, maybe I’m just tired. Yeah, I just drove right by her. It was a midtown heavily traveled neighborhood street, so it’s not like I doomed her to wait for help forever. In this town, women are murdered in front of their children for their rims- google Maryjo Borjorquez, I think her name was.

My goal is not so much to remember things for an incident report, more to prevent a spur-of-the-moment harm to myself or my children.

Let’s see…

Raised in an abusive household where there was no reason, logic or predicting when I’d get yelled at, hit or blamed for something I didn’t even know about. Tends to make one a bit vigilant.

Self-defense classes and Martial Arts. Tends to help.

Five years living in Uptown and working Downtown, followed by 11 years of living in a declining neighborhood.

Three years of Security work, including 14 months driving Armored in both Downtown and Uptown. Tends to make one very aware of one’s surroundings.

Six civilian instances of having a gun in my hand in self defense. Five of those to stop someone from breaking into my house, one to stop two guys from mugging me at a remote wayside rest in Idaho. Never fired the gun, never pointed it at them. Another three instances of having a gun in my hand to stop someone from being terminally stupid while working Armored.

Numerous incidents of stopping attempts before they became attempts by being aware and having the right words at the right moment, the right look on my face, the right body language…or by seeing it coming and not being there.

Never been successfully mugged, never been robbed, never been assaulted. Never harmed another human in any of those situations.

Great instincts, great awareness of my surroundings.

But definitely not paranoid, stressed or worried. There is no need to be.

I’m usually very aware of my surroundings, I don’t like to have my back to people. If I’m sitting in a bar I like to be able to see everything that is happening. When I’m walking down the street I tend to look behind me every 30 seconds or so. My Dad is also very much like this and gets mad if I’m standing in a position where he can’t see if anyone is coming.

Nope, I’m not very aware/alert for danger at all. And I’ve never been attacked, so it must be working.

(See how dumb that sounds? Not being attacked is as much a function of how little actual violence there is out there - at least in proportion to what we’re told to expect by fear-mongering media - as it is a function of your personal actions.)

But seriously, no, I’m not hyper-vigilant. Sometimes I’m downright spacey. I tried the hyper-vigilant thing for many years - it was finally diagnosed as an Anxiety Disorder, and I got over it (mostly.) I’ve decided that I don’t like the way it feels to be that alert all the time, and that I don’t want to draw that kind of energy to me, so I don’t. I go about my day, and I lock my doors when I go to bed most of the time, and when I leave my car, and I keep my purse snug to my body, but beyond that, no so much. I do make lots of eye contact, but that’s because I’m friendly, and so I make eye contact and smile with everyone who does the same and occasionally exchange pleasantries while walking past.

I guess even though it’s become a bit of a joke, I really do feel like if I live as if something bad is going to happen, then “they” have won. Whoever “they” are that want me to thing something bad is going to happen all the time.

I live in Chicago, by the way. So it’s not a small town/rural thing.

ETA: oh, female, 32, with children.

First, to answer the OP. I have been described by others as “hyper-aware” or “holy shit, do you even notice that there are other people/things in this world” un-aware. The vast difference is due to the following: I only pay attention to the things that matter. Someone waving at me from another car? Not important. A 5’8", 180 lb black-haired, green-eyed white guy with a gun wearing a blue hoodie, tattered Levi’s and black sneakers? Important.

The only people I have met who are more aware of their surroundings are some soldiers I know who spent time in country. I never tried to reason why I am as aware of the minutiae as I am, but after reading Chimera’s post, I guess that’s a pretty good explanation. Although my mother was the same in that she had no rhyme or reason to when she was going to explode and start beating me, there were always subtle clues. I guess I got in the habit of watching for subtle clues and that leads to the whole minutiae thing.

Alice The Goon, I agree with dnooman that your logic is flawed. You seem to be equating paranoid with aware. They are not similar. Not to mention your thought that just because you haven’t been attacked means you must not look taregtable. May I point to Chimera’s post – although he/she has never been successfully targeted, he/she has been targeted. When someone is looking for a few dollars to get more meth, they’re not being logical and thinking “hmmm, that guy is looking at the ground instead of me, I should rob him.” They’re thinking in terms of “hey, that woman is carrying a coach bag, I bet there’s some cash in it, even if not, I can sell that bag.” Sometimes, they’re not even thinking trust me – I know these people.

As for the incident where you drove past some lone woman on the side of the road with the reasoning that she would be safer waiting for some big guy to help her – WTF. Seriously, the reason the woman tried to flag you is that she didn’t want to be possibly raped or killed. You, with a child in the car with you, were a much safer bet than some big, burly trucker guy. How would you feel in her shoes? I would have stopped, provided there weren’t other reasons not to – such as, oh, I don’t know – it was midnight, she was acting suspiciously, it was the middle of nowhere, she was waving a gun…stuff like that. But then again, I have been targeted (unsuccessfully) and walked away with my life and sanity each time.

Oh, and the comment about people being murdered for their rims? Wow, if you’re that worried about some woman killing you for your rims, is it really worth having them on the car? I assume that you must have some dope tires to be worried about a single woman on the side of the road trying to flag you down in broad daylight to kill you for your rims.

Me, I tend to stop to help people. Especially single women – I donno, call it banking my karma, paying it forward, doing unto others, whatever you want – it’s just something I do. When it is my day to die, nothing I do or don’t do will change that, so I live each day as if it could be my last. Meh. YMMV.
OOPs, ETA: Female, 35 – single mother for the first 7 years, grew up in the country, have lived in many major cities.

I was raised on a farm, and did all of the jobs there are to do on a farm. You can’t just wander around, unaware of your surroundings when you are living and working on a farm.
So, you get quite used to paying attention to things.

Nowadays, I still consider myself to be aware of what is going on around me…most of the time.
I do keep my doors locked at all times, both when at home and when in the car.

There are times when I do stop to help someone, especially if they’re stranded in the middle of nowhere, and they have a child with them.
My husband keeps telling me that will be my end, one of these days.
Of course, he’s a hardass when it comes to that kind of thing.
Otherwise, if the person is alone, I really don’t give it much thought, and drive right on past, going happily along my merry way.

I’m married, age 45, one daughter, and I’ve lived in a rural area all my life (We do venture into the big city ever so often).

I don’t think I’m alert enough when I’m out on my own. I’m trying to be less spacey and pay attention to what’s going on around me… I just tend to get lost in thought very quickly. I’m far more alert in unfamiliar surroundings, like when I visit Melbourne. It’s a bad habit to feel safe just because I’m in my hometown, but I suppose 30 years of nothing ever happening to me here has lulled me into a false sense of security.

Would you have stopped?
If I felt unsafe stopping to see if I could help her, I’d have pulled over a little further up the road and called the local police department to ask them to check on her. In this town, the police would probably cruise on by within quarter of an hour or so, and wouldn’t mind being summoned for the purpose. I realise not all police departments everywhere have the manpower/flexibility to deal with non-emergency situations.

I’m female, not a parent (yet) and from a rural city.

I also think there’s a huge difference between aware and paranoid.

I’m aware without really thinking about it. I don’t worry about anything, or stress out over it, but when I’m walking down the street I notice every passerby, and environmental things like a scaffolding in front of a building that creates a non-visible area. I do a memory dump, though – as soon as I arrive at my destination, I couldn’t tell you a thing about who/what I passed on my way. I think I honed these skills due to city living, but I notice things even more when I visit my mom in the 'burbs – they are many more dark/desolate areas. I’m not peering around like a lunatic, either – I just walk with purpose and look alert. Many/most of the things I’m looking out for aren’t deliberately harmful, but I don’t want to daydream and fail to notice an uneven patch of the sidewalk. It’s the same way that I am aware when walking though a parking lot – I notice when a car’s lights go on. I don’t think the driver is trying to hit me intentionally, but I want to know which cars are on the verge of moving just in case the driver doesn’t see me.

It’s tricky about the situation with the woman. I would have stopped, or at least started to stop but been prepared to change my plan should anything seem funny or wrong. I’m not a mom so I don’t have any perspective on how having a child with me would impact this.

I’ll echo what was said before, that any decent MA/self defense classes will stress and improve one’s vigilance. After a while it becomes second nature to just be aware of everyone around you, potential threats and excape routes, etc. Such awareness is IMO probably the single most effective aspect of self defense. Far more useful than knowing how to throw any particular technique.

When I was really into fighting, I sorta visuaized every situation as a potential threat - calculating distances, angles and such as tho at any moment walking down the street I would need to fight against multiple attackers. Over time I realized I didn’t care for the effect that mindset had on my personality.

Oh yeah, male, married, 3 kids 16-20, live and work in and around Chicago.

I don’t know how to quantify it, but I feel that I’m fairly alert to threats and totally unaware of anything that would be helpful to the police. I don’t know what I’m wearing, and unless it’s skimpy and she’s hot, I don’t know what anyone else is wearing either.
I notice cars that follow me through two or more turns, anyone walking in the same general direction as myself, angry looking people, etc. Couldn’t describe them tho.
I’m far more alert when with the family than when alone.

Male, parent, suburbs.

I don’t know what your definition of “paranoid” is, but mine is pretty much this:

Anyway. . .I’m aware and alert when I think I need to be, and not when I don’t.

When I’m gassing up in a sketchier part of Baltimore, or walking home late at night, I pretty much have my head on a swivel.

But, when I’m in neighborhoods that are crime free, and I’m in the daylight. . .no. I don’t lock my car. I certainly don’t think that there are predators out there waiting to pick out the weak ones. I don’t look around searching for predators.

I am vigilant bordering on paranoid. I cannot stand being in a room where I can’t see the door. I frequently try to devise ‘‘exit strategies’’ wherever I’m at. I always lock my doors and I always look in my back seat before I get in the car. When I eat in a restaurant, I loop my purse strap under a leg of a dining chair so it doesn’t get snatched.

I can walk down a street at night and generally feel safe, because I am always aware where others are in relation to me, and I exude self-confidence. I am a fighter (this probably comes from martial arts training earlier in my life.), and I think people who are looking for targets can generally deduce that.

Despite being extremely vigilant, I’m also aware that statistically speaking, I’m not very likely to be a victim of violent crime. I think most murders are committed by a spouse or SO, and since my husband is not confrontational or remotely violent and we have a lovely relationship, I figure I’m excluded from that possibility. I currently live in a very safe neighborhood where the biggest problem is stealing laptops from students on campus.

So, my hypervigilance isn’t very rational now that I’m an adult. I’ve tried to scale it back. There is a balance to all of this, and I think I’m striking it, more or less.

I think I’m fairly aware of my surroundings and carry myself confidently, with my head up and friendly eye-contact with most people I come across. I never lock my house, and rarely lock my car. I certainly don’t think there are “predators” lurking around every corner; and in fact feel confidant that if I did encounter one of the very rare predators out there that one of the multitudes of nice people would come to my aid. I’ve never been the victim of any type of violence, nor have any members of my immediate family. I can’t imagine going through life like the OP.

Female, mix of city and country, 26, no kids.

Male, grew up on a farm, still live rurally

I’m generally aware of my surroundings, decent situational awareness, have a couple of good, basic emergency/evac kits set up at home, set up my car as a rolling Bugout Bag

I also EDC a good variety of tools, I generally carry with me;

Victorinox SwissChamp and CMG Infinity 1AA LED flashlight (blue/green LED, 48+ hours of runtime) on my left side belt holster
Spyderco Paramillitary Serrated in LF pocket, car keys in LF pocket
Spyderco SE Tasman Salt hawkbill utility knife in LR pocket
RR pocket contains Inova X1 Gen 2 1AA light (20 hour runtime)
RF pocket contains SureFire E1L-SR (Seoul Semiconductor P4 LED and reflector in KL1 head) running on a rechargable 123a cell (90-100 lumens, 4 hour runtime), and a Spyderco Delica4 Wave
right belt holster contains a SureFire A2 Aviator with a 2-stage “Aviatrix” LED module, the Aviatrix has 1 low red LED for preserving night vision, and two white LED’s for general use, as well as a 75 lumen regulated incandescent bulb for when I need throw
Neck lanyard with an Arc AAA-P flashlight (5-7 lumens, 5 hour runtime)

What can I say, I like gadgets :wink:

that said, the tools that see the most everyday use are the E1L-SR, the Swisschamp, and the D4W

yes I’m overprepared as far as lighting and blades are concerned, but the lights all back up each other, and having multiple knives means when one goes dull, I switch to the next sharp one, then sharpen up the dull one when I return home

plus, it gives me stuff to play with in my idle time…

…and the only things that are actually visible to the observer are the two belt holsters, the rest of the stuff is undetectable

Me, 41, female, small town, married:

Very vigilant, but not paranoid. I do all the reasonable things one can do to avoid being victimized, but don’t sweat it too much (lock doors, know who’s near me). The one way that I do let paranoia affect me is being unwilling to be out in a semi-secluded area alone–riding my bike, or such–but I don’t really think that’s all that unreasonable, either.

When they invented the word “oblivious”, they were looking at me, although I wasn’t aware of it at the time.

I always check all around me continually wherever I am by habit .
Its something I’ve aquired over the years having spent a fair amount of time in not so safe places .
I could no more switch it off then I could cross the road with my eyes closed.