Being aware & staying safe part 2

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, February 8, 2017

By Sidney Walker

Just before Thanksgiving, I narrowly missed becoming a crime statistic right here in Picayune.

During a trip to the pharmacy I feel I could have been the victim of a purse snatching. Here is what the experience caused me to learn.

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I always park to the right of any store entrance. This simple habit enables me to find my car quickly, and it helps me to pay closer attention to where I am.

I already have the strap of my purse on my shoulder when I get out of the car, and I don’t allow myself to be distracted by extras like keys or cell phone or other stuff as I’m getting out–those things are already put in their places so that I can focus on my surroundings

I stop to look around me before I exit the car. I want to know who and what is nearby.

As I get back into the car to leave, I already have my left hand on the inside door handle and I pull the door shut as I am entering the car. I keep my purse on my shoulder as I enter the car, and I lock the door immediately. (This is very important: if I had known how to do this before my purse was stolen many years ago, I never would have been mugged in the first place–back then, a guy punched me in the face as I was taking the time to put my purse in the car before I got in myself.)

The most important thing of all: I never put my keys in my purse. If someone takes your purse and your keys are in it, they not only know where you live but they can get in easily. Very scary. Keep your keys in your pocket.

One possible minor exception to the no-keys-in-the-purse rule: if you have a clip on your keys (like a carabiner–which is great because you can clip the keys to your clothing if you haven’t got a pocket to put them in), you can use that to attach the strap of your purse to your shopping cart.

This will prevent someone from easily taking your purse and the jingling noise will alert you to anyone meddling with your purse.This may seem obvious but I always keep my purse closed. If a purse isn’t zipped or snapped, it’s all too easy for someone to reach a hand in for a wallet.

I put all my receipts and so forth away as I leave the register and before I exit the store. Anyone who is fiddling about with that stuff as she goes out the door is not paying attention to her surroundings and that’s when she becomes easy prey.

I pay attention to my intuition–if something doesn’t seem right, it may very well not be. Fear is there not to make us feel upset but to keep us safe, to keep us alert. It can be a good thing.

If someone makes me feel uncomfortable, I look them in the eye. They won’t want to be recognized if they are up to something, and they are likely to want to get away fast.

I remind myself to breathe. It’s human nature to hold your breathe when you’re scared but if you do, you’re robbing yourself of the oxygen you need to help you think properly.

This is not a matter of being scared of other people; most folks truly are good. Being aware is simply about exercising good self-care so that we stay safe.

I am not strong, I don’t know how to do self-defense, and I’ve never punched a person in my life. The thing I can do is to pay attention to where I am and to what I am doing. Sometimes the basics are all you need. That’s surely what I needed when I walked out the door of that pharmacy last month.

Since that time, this safety issue has been much on my mind as I have noticed many women and their habits–leaving purses unattended and open in shopping carts, walking out of the store without looking up. Several times I have stopped to mention precautions to others. Then, just this week, I saw a story in the news from Gulfport about a woman who was purse-snatched as she was exiting a store in precisely the same way that I nearly was here in Picayune and it seemed important that I try to say something more.

It is my holiday wish that everyone would take the small actions to keep themselves safe: be aware of your surroundings and watch out for your belongings.