I was in Livermore, California yesterday. A good friend of mine lives there, and his business is there. He is also my client as to custom business software — and his business is under attack, computer-wise, in a subtle way against which I can defend. I am enjoying the process of safeguarding my friend in his business.
This role fits my self-image on good days, as a tall, muscular, blonde warrior queen protecting the innocent from evildoers.
It’s a fine line as to when to engage vs. when not. I used to fight others’ battle for them and I found ample reason to not so do any more. That includes someone who got himself or herself in trouble knowingly, sort of as in playing with fire and getting burned. In such cases, I sympathize … the burned party can still be in the right, like someone who tells a Nazi inspection squad in the late 1930s that no, they can’t come in and inspect the basement. Brave and righteous, but it sets the person up for the sort of reprisal that makes martyrdom likely. That’s not when I step in to help defend. It’s when, by my standards, someone was for the most part minding their own business and going to reasonable measures to stay out of trouble yet even so, trouble finds them.
Instead of a sword, my weapon is typically a computer keyboard — and not in a physical sense, as in I don’t beat bad guys over the head with it. Even so, a computer keyboard is not always my only weapon — sometimes it gets physical.
For example, I was in a Chinese restaurant in Oxford, England a few years ago, enjoying a quiet dinner. A burly typically-English-looking guy with a bad attitude was having a loud argument with the diminutive Asian owner of the restaurant, The English guy was being blatantly unreasonable and had already done something violent — and things seemed likely to get worse. To my surprise, the other patrons were trying to pretend that nothing was happening. I stood up, walked over and stood next to the Asian guy, shoulder to shoulder, face to face with the aggressor. The gesture radiated protection and allegiance. The aggressor went berserk. He seized a 5’ tall chromed-steel “please wait to be seated” sign as in wanting to beat me with it. I was expecting something like that but I didn’t have time to respond. The restaurant staff swarmed the guy. He threw a heavy glass dish at one of them, but missed. Soon he had half a dozen Asian guys all over him and the next thing the aggressor knew, he was out the door. The restaurant owner was very appreciative of my allegiance.
Another similar time happened last year. A trans girl friend of mine (yes, in this case there is a space between “girl” and “friend”) was ready for her first day out in public, as the girl she has always been though this time, openly so. I was supportive as to her looks and styling and off we went to spend a fun day in Reno. Things generally went well, in part because I chose safe places with friendly faces, but in one case I had misjudged. At a restaurant, someone was saying mean things to my friend. I’m all for the right to freedom of speech, and someone can be as insulting as they like; that’s their right. It’s when they seem likely to be about to get violent that things change, for me. That’s a fine line to read well– especially in this situation because the mean person was behaving erratically and talking oddly, and had made a comment to the bystanders that she was on crack cocaine. This would explain the peculiar behavior and irrationalism. I’m all for people putting drugs they bought in their own body but my concern was that she was about to do something violent to my friend, as in it seemed likely that I would imminently need to protect my friend from physical attack. My friend might have been able to defend herself physically but psychologically she was not in that mindset – I’d read her as feeling very vulnerable, something that she later confirmed.
I decided that our “dine in” order had just become a “to go” order and I briskly escorted my friend out to the car. My friend was at the time trying to quit smoking but she was so shaken she needed some nicotine, pronto. I’m all for her enjoying her chemical of choice but I don’t like the smell in my car, so she stood outside the car.calming her nerves, while I kept watch. The crack lady came out of the restaurant and headed toward my friend. Battle stations. I instructed my friend to get in the car and lock the door. As for me, it wasn’t so simple.
Sometimes the safest thing one can do is to run away. Other times, that can be the most dangerous thing. For example, when face to face with a Nevada mountain lion, if one were to turn and run, one has just announced “I’m prey, chase me” to the big cat and it might well end fatally for the prey. By contrast, standing one’s ground intimidates the big cat, typically enough to make it turn around and slink away. The same analogy can apply to humans. I remained assertive and watchful, neither retreating further nor escalating. I watched and waited. The on-crack lady walked a safe distance past me, got into her beat-up old van, and that was the end of it. As it happened, she’d intended no further malice; my car had just been parked between the restaurant exit and where her van was parked. Even so, it felt good to be ready.