Thursday, March 27, 2014

Training - “The Bells, The Bells!!”


A little “book learnin’” first – then to the heart of it . . .

I’ve always attributed this phrase to Quasimodo played by Charles Laughton in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”. One of those things I just “knew”. So in researching this entry paragraph a bit I discovered this little tidbit:

The bells! The bells! Catchphrase of Charles Laughton as Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame? Actually said by Henry Irving in a famous melodrama in which he played a character called Matthias who was haunted by the sound of the sleigh bells of the man he murdered.

Huh – imagine that. Yet, it still fits so let’s just go with it.

There is also a new catch phrase being bantered about recently . . . “hyper awareness” . . . where an individual is “aware” of every single solitary thing around them – music, people, smells, colors, weather, temperature . . . where these and more elements of their current environment are individually sensed and experienced with no filtering what-so-ever. The person is overwhelmed by the texture of their surroundings.

Which brings me to the crux of this post . . . in broad swaths of our nation today, it is all too easy to be overwhelmed by all the “noise” around us making us that much more vulnerable to predators that prey on the “unaware” – those not paying attention to possible threats.

My wife and I are perfect examples of polar opposites in dealing with the “noise”. She simply turns everything off . . . radio, TV, music . . . and enjoys the silence. And, for us, we can truly find silence since we live miles in the country, off main highways and in a small wood patch. We can make a pretty good stab at achieving true silence.

For me, I simply “filter” it. Years . . . ok, multiple decades . . . dealing with various modes of radio communications from CW through SSB – has taught me to simply “turn off” that which I don’t want to hear. I can sit in a crowded restaurant and pick out the conversation of near-by tables simply by filtering out all other noise except the voice of the person I’m interested in hearing. It’s a learned skill . . . my wife hasn’t learned it – and won’t for that matter.

We are also on opposite ends in dealing with masses of humanity as well. A stroll through pre-holiday crowds of downtown Chicago can push my wife to a near catatonic state by the end of a day spent shopping. For me, a different set of “filters” remove the claustrophobic feelings and allows be to simply pass among the crowds without feeling trapped.

For you, as an armed citizen looking to protect yourself, your family or anyone else in your charge – the ability to “filter” the “noise” and to focus on what is truly important is something you need to practice on a daily basis. There are some specific areas you can emphasize to help you do just that . . . to “focus”.

Putting on your EDC gear. As I’ve said multiple times, putting on my gun is something I do as soon as I put on my pants. This is followed by my defensive knife, my ever-present S4 Juice, watch, phone and spare magazine. I insure each tool is in the same spot every day.

I always take a quick scan as I leave the house and head to the Jeep. Honestly there’s a fair amount of cover around so if someone wanted to use it as part of their approach it wouldn’t take a skilled woodsman to cause problems – the yard and surrounding area are always worth a few extra seconds.

One advantage of rural life is that traffic is minimal (well, except during harvest that is . . .) so keeping an eye on approaching vehicles is fairly simple. Yet, I continue a life-long habit of scanning my vehicle mirrors left to right a couple times a minute. Again, in rural areas the primary threat to me is a car popping out on the highway unexpectedly – and my scans have saved my butt on more than one occasion. In a congested city, scanning your surroundings my well save you from everything from an accident to a carjacking.

By learning to focus on important issues – do you have your weapon, is it loaded, do you have the rest of your EDC gear in the proper place, is there anything odd around your house, any stupid people on the highway near you . . . you can learn to reduce the “noise” and learn to focus on possible threats to your safety.

And, frankly, it doesn’t hurt to turn down the radio in the car. While you might be a budding pop star, while you’re singing your heart out and making all the right head movements – some asshole may well pop your door at a stop light and turn your singing debut into a trip home in a ZipLoc. And while a smart phone is truly a cool piece of tech – use of it for texting, finding your location, running a conference call in the middle of a 4-lane is simply an invitation for a one-way trip to the morgue.

Walking down crowded streets also provides quite an opportunity to practice “focus”. Loose the ear buds, keep Blu-Tooth phone conversations to a minimum, loose the hoodie, the hooded coat, the scarf that covers your face and restricts your vision to a couple degrees of center when you stare straight ahead. All of these things scream “rob me first!!” Observe your surroundings, notice patterns of travel of the folks around you, their demeanor, the general “temperature” of those around you. And, trust your gut – if something feels off don’t wait to identify it . . . LEAVE THE AREA IMMEDIATELY!.

We live in a noisy world . . . “The Bells!! The Bells!!” can easily overwhelm your senses and leave you vulnerable to attack. Learn to turn on your “filters”, to focus on the handful of things that will keep you safe and out of trouble. And, when the hair on the back of your neck senses a developing problem . . . pay attention and leave . . .

Focus on your safety and the noise will be much less of a problem . . .


  1. Excellent points, and I'm simply amazed at what I see every day in the 'inattention' category... sigh... Anytime I 'perceive' anything questionable, my automatic response is to unzip the jacket if I'm wearing one...

  2. My filters have gotten better with age, but I worry about the younger ones who are so oblivious...