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danger

The first book to change my life was safety expert Gavin de Becker’s The Gift of Fear. As I’ve written here several times before, it may well have saved a sister’s life.

For all I love de Becker, I ignored everything his books have taught me this morning … and I did so at my own peril.

I just called the credit union I visited this morning. I told the rep that I’d encountered someone suspicious at the ATM this morning. I wanted to alert them in case he’d installed a PIN skimmer.

She asked me to explain what made me suspicious. I described the encounter, and only realized after I’d hung up the phone that he might not have been interested in skimming PINs at all.

My blood ran cold.

The man at the ATM had a hoodie wrapped so tightly around his face that no features were visible. He turned away and stepped toward his car. Funnily, he didn’t seem to have taken anything from the ATM.

I stepped up to the ATM and began my transaction, assuming he’d gotten into the car. Waiting for my receipt. I heard a shuffling behind me. I turned to look, and the man was behind me. He quickly turned away and scrambled into his car.

He sat there in his car, face to the steering wheel, features hidden.

I climbed into my car. I drove it to a spot where I could see and write down his license plate number.

He didn’t have a license plate. 

Oh, well, I thought. I’d tried.

I reminded myself to change my PIN and call the bank during business hours.

One of the key lessons de Becker teaches is that fear–which is completely distinct from anxiety–is a gift. When we feel genuine fear, it’s because we’re picking up subtle cues that something is unsafe. Our logical minds try to swat these thoughts away: “Don’t be ridiculous! Come on, you’ve done this hundreds of times before!”

In these cases, our logical minds endanger us.

This morning, before I even stopped the car, I looked toward the man at the ATM and thought, “I shouldn’t get out of the car.” But, dammit, I wanted to deposit that check, and I got out of the car to do just that.

I’ve read too damn much de Becker to do such a thing, and yet … I did. I didn’t even remember the thought until about five hours later.

That thought was my protector, and I discarded it.

The point is not to be anxious about everything all the time. It is to notice that one time out of hundreds that you do feel fear, and to treat that fear as the gift it is. To protect yourself.

If you want to know more about why you should listen to that voice, please read The Gift of Fear.

Whether or not you read the book, please listen to and act on that protective voice of fear if you hear it. To read de Becker is to understand that this often makes the difference between life and death.

Please protect yourself.

Please.

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  1. October 12, 2017 at 12:05 pm

    I am obviously very dense, but I’m still not sure what you’re implying he wanted to do (besides skimming)….

    • October 12, 2017 at 12:09 pm

      There’s no telling what he was after, but it was (quite) literally dangerous for me to assume that PIN skimming was the worst case scenario.

  2. October 12, 2017 at 12:21 pm

    A good reminder for us all. I would say you were very lucky!

    • October 13, 2017 at 5:17 pm

      Agreed! I’ve been reading these books about exactly this kind of situation: what seems likely to you isn’t the actual range of possibilities that’s out there. Danger flows from misperceiving that it’s so. It was so wild to me that I could understand this completely while reading a book, and yet so utterly fail to act on it.

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