I’m writing this blog partly because of an event that happened recently and also because of the past few weeks. I’ve been working a lot recently and my job as a carer for autistic children requires me to do a lot of walking around with them, often in some of the roughest and most deprived areas of the city. I’m not saying there is a link between deprivation and autism, it’s just coincidental that one of of my clients lives in a particularly bad part of town. I grew up in an area of relatively high crime and at the time I was growing up, crime was at its highest in the area. I saw things that I wish no one would have to see, groups of men beating people unconscious, people holding a knife to people’s throats etc so I’ve become somewhat a master of avoiding such incidents.
Today, I was walking down the street when I saw some boisterous young men and I can usually tell what kind of people are going to cause trouble or social friction up to a minute before it happens. I’ll teach you how I do it in a minute, but more importantly it’s what I did or what I do, that has kept me safe for all these years. As the group (2 guys and a woman) approached me, one of the guys put his hand up to gesture a high five. He had a cheeky smile and I knew he was going to do something silly so I just looked beyond him and as he walked past his mate shoved him into me, but luckily missed. And that was it, other than me calling them “dicks” as I walked past. These small incidents are the same ones that escalate into bigger problems. I know this because I am one of the only people who would go out virtually every week and NEVER got into a fight in a bar, kebab shop, anywhere. I remember after weeks of going out, my friends went out without me and got into a huge brawl in which some people got very hurt, and it wasn’t the only time.
I am a pacifist, a diffuser. That is the most important part of this whole blog. It’s important to not get worked up over small things and every now and again, let someone undermine you and get away with it. What’s also important is recognizing when things are going south and when/how to get the hell out of there. Here are some of my tips.
Always look ahead and prejudge a group of people
Things you should look for a) do they look drunk? b) are they shouting / play fighting / messing around / looking for trouble? c) how much do they outnumber you by? d) are they physically a lot stronger than you e) have they noticed you?
If none of those signs exist. You can probably just walk past them, but if 2 or more of those signs occur. Find a way to avoid them such as crossing the road or turning on to another street.
Avoid areas of drunk people
Most violent crimes are alcohol related. When your judgement is distorted and your testosterone boosted from being around the lads, you can find yourself doing stupid things. I know the nicest people that just flip when they have had a drink. Another good point is to not hang around with such people, not because they might attack you, but you will become involved in the trouble they have started.
Know what area you are in
Some violence is territory related, usually in bigger cities that have area rivalries. Thankfully, you don’t get shot for wearing certain colors in the areas that I’ve been, but it’s important to know if there is a history of gang violence, so you can avoid groups at all cost and certain streets, neighborhoods etc.
If you do find yourself in a rough area, try not to stand out and don’t look lost. This happens a bit when traveling, and google maps will take you through some of the dingiest parts of a city by accident. Don’t approach younger people in areas like this for directions. If you are traveling and staying in a rough neighborhood, try and ditch the backpack asap and don’t dress in shorts in fucking winter.
What will often happen before an attack is a kind of reaction test. These come in many forms but most commonly a verbal insult or maybe something thrown or kicked at you. Psychologically what they are doing, is letting you know that they are the alpha and are not to be fucked with. The easiest thing you can do is just walk on as if nothing happened. Some people would instantly react and try and show their bravado, but I have found it gets you in more trouble. My friends were shouted at in Dublin by some pikey (Irish travelers) kids and decided to throw insults back. The kids then went and got a big group of blokes and my friends had to leave through the back entrance of the pub. If they would have ignored them, it would have been the end of it. Younger people cause a lot of violent crimes over here and overreacting usually leads to them getting their older brothers or something similar. Just brush it off and get on with your day.
Gift of the gab
If you find yourself in a sticky situation. Try your best to talk your way out of it first. Come across in a friendly way, but also firm, you don’t want to look too weak. Go for the “it’s a huge misunderstanding” approach, but sometimes they don’t buy it. It’s up to you then to weigh up the odds and maybe throw a punch, eye poke and then push them away to make your exit. There is no cowardice running from trouble, but don’t leave people behind to clean up your mess.
These have got me through a lot of sticky situations and after all my years of pubbing and clubbing, I never got into a scrap in some of Britain’s most violent bar streets. There are other things that I do that help such as
-take quieter side roads rather than busy streets at night.
-stand tall when I walk (I’m 6’3, so it’s not worth finding out if I’m tough)
-Put my hood up if I’m walking at night (you’re less likely to be attacked if they don’t know what you look like)
-cross over the road from gangs of teens on corners
– learn how to throw a good punch or know how to hurt someone quick (side kicking the side is pretty useful)