The Subway Encounter

Last year this time, after a rather warm run (Temps in the mid 90's...), as per my tradition, I stopped by the Subway that is a couple doors down from the Krav Academy to get my dinner before teaching class.

As soon as I walk in I see, or rather feel something... A disturbance in the force so to speak. 

There is a rather strange looking man ordering his sub from the young sandwich artist girl who looked like a cross between a deer in the headlights and someone walking on eggshells.

The man looked to be in his late 50's, possibly homeless, maybe not...He was dressed in a dirty jean jacket, jeans w/nylon cargo style shorts over them. He was bald with longer hair in the back of his head, almost 80's style 'rat tail' if you can remember what those were. His graying goatee and thick eyebrows were dyed a bright pink / red. The dye stained his face giving him the look reminiscent of the Joker who just escaped from Arkham. 

He didn't act like he was on drugs so much as that he needed to be on meds or hadn't taken the ones he was supposed to be on.  

He clearly had some diagnosable issues, complete with body ticks, almost Tourette's style outbursts, as well as talking to himself angerly and loudly.

He was giving off an angry, agitated, unpredictable, energy. An energy that felt like he could turn violent at the drop of a hat... or wrong word. 

I quietly observed him get frustrated with the sandwich artist as she tried not to upset him when he would tell her EXACTLY how his sub should be prepared.

"NO, No, no... Not THAT tomato. The one to your far left... not the top one. No, no, I don't want that one. The one underneath... Yea, Yea, that one. That's it!"

It went on like that for almost every topping. 

This dude clearly had some major psychological issues.  

While all of this was happening I quietly slipped my pepper spray out of my pocket, clicked off the safety and discretely palmed the small canister in my hand without drawing any attention. 

If I had my cell phone, I may have nonchalant slipped out to call the police, all the while keeping an eye on things from the front window. 

Who knows if they'd even have come or come in time, but it's good to have some back up if things continued to go South.

Regardless, that wasn't even an option, because I don't carry my cell phone when I jog. 

Then It Got Even MORE Tense

Just when the young gal got through this guys obsessive compulsive commands and thought she was on the home stretch, things ramped up a bit. 

After she told him the total and took his money, he bellows. "How much? I... I want today's special, with the drink. Here, here. What's the total?" 

The next couple minutes is a back and forth exchange between he and the gal. 

"Just void out the order..." He kept repeating strongly over and over. 

"You count it. Figure it out." He demanded before taking his cup and basically throwing the money at her. 

"You keep the extra six cents." he exclaimed as he walked away from the register, filling his cup with soda. 

This was all happing rather fast.

I was trying to think of something to say to this guy that might sooth him. Calm him a bit. De-escalate the situation. 

He was very agitated and seemed to be looking to go off if provoked.

Her Eyes Pleaded For Help...

The girl was clearly rattled as I looked toward her about to say something. But, before I could speak, her eyes met mine and she asked if I could help her...

The interesting thing was that she wasn't looking for me to protect her from this guy, throw him out or anything like that...

She asked if I could do the math for her. 

She was worried about the money, her till. 

I told her she was doing fine and don't worry. 

The guy left for a second and then immediately came back in and sat in the corner.

He appeared to be calmer, but then burst into a full body tick angerly saying:

"Who does she think she is challenging me like that..."  

He said it to himself loud enough for everyone around him to hear.

I quietly told the girls working there that they should call the police. 

Then I did...

Something I Typically Don't Do

There wasn't anyone in the store except for the guy and two young Subway workers. 

I typically take my sub to go and eat it at the academy, but I wasn't about to leave those young girls be alone with this guy. So,  I tucked my pepper spray just under my leg (so I could easily access it) and I ate my sub there. I did my best to act if this was any other day, as I kept an eye on things.

I'm not sure if the girls called the cops as I requested, but I figured being there might buy some time for the guy to leave, the cops to get there or step in if I had to if things became more tense or went South.

The guy was calmer now, but he started nervously walking around the store a bit as he finished eating his sandwich. 

I decided to talk to him.

I told him I hadn't seen him around here before and asked if he worked out at the gym that was located a couple doors down (between Subway and the Academy).

He talked to me, complaining about the service here and then said,

"Yea, my name is Gym... Last name is Nasium."  

He paused for a second waiting for me to get his joke.

"Gymnasium, I get it... good one" I said trying my best to laugh and treat him somewhat normally.

He laughed, thanked me, said it was good talking. Then he threw away his sub wrapper and left the store.

"I Got Your Back..."

How do things change when you embrace the attitude of...

"I got your back. You are under my care." 

When you can find it within yourself to say that about EVERYONE, then some real significant changes can occur literally right before your eyes.

I tried to say that in this situation by how I acted toward those girls AND the guy who was acting erratically.

I was prepared to do whatever necessary to protect everyone there: Those girls, me and yes, even that guy. 

The more clarity, confidence and skill you have, the easier this becomes... but it is still difficult, even on a good day.

Having this attitude does NOT mean that you are weak, condone disrespectful behavior, nor does it mean that you will sit back and allow violence on your watch. It simply means that you do your best to treat people with dignity and respect, even if you have to engage though your presence, verbally, even physically.

It's Not Perfect...

It's not always clear what to do exactly when the real world throws situations like this your way. The momentum of the circumstance can move faster than you have time to figure out what's going on, let alone what to do about it. 

You do the best you can, and when you begin from the right ethic you'll often land in a better spot. 

Most Good / Least Harm is a good place to start. 

Like Dr. Humphrey said:

"Where ever I walk, everyone is a little bit safer because I'm there."

This doesn't mean go all in 'guns blazing.' but it could, if and when necessary (Like that off duty border patrol officer did during the recent Uvalde, Texas incident)...

Most of the time that's not necessary... Things aren't typically that extreme. You have to have a balanced approach to Life and circumstances alike. You have to have the skills, clarity and confidence to be able to keep your cool and do what is appropriate and necessary. 

That's a tall order. 

This time (like so many others), things worked out.  


If you want more, check out my podcast. I update it every Friday. The next episode I talk about the difference between a Protector and Defender.

Keep going,


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