I have to tell a little story on myself if only because it is, in retrospect, a bit funny. The experience also serves as evidence of the mind’s ability to process information quickly. Quickly is not the same as accurately.
I was shopping in Staples. Office supply stores are a personal weakness and I often allow myself some wandering time by rationalizing that there’s probably something I need that I’m going to forget. I was near the front of the store, noting there was already some Christmas spirit in the air.
Noticing things is important. I’ve always prided myself on being “situationally aware” — a skill that’s helped me avoid trouble on more than one occasion. In addition to the Christmas spirit, I noticed another shopper standing about six feet away. She seemed distracted and was gazing about the area.
Suddenly a dot of light appeared in the center of her chest. Just as quickly it disappeared. But in what must have been a second or two I saw it re-appear, moving from the left back to the center of her chest. It was like a scene in a movie.
For a split second I considered yelling, “Gun!” and tackling her to the floor.
Except there was no gun.
A quick look around yielded no shooter but did reveal more dots, some on me. And they weren’t just red. Some were green!
So it turns out there was actually a laser light attached to the ceiling of the store. Similar to the disco balls that were popular a few years ago, it was rotating and sending random dots of red and green light throughout the front of the store’s featured gift area. The intent was, of course, to contribute to the holiday spirit and not to create momentary panic for those familiar with laser gun sights.
Since I try to find lessons in life events, I’ve replayed this several times in my mind. But instead of finding a moral in the story I tend to get chuckling over the prospect of how it might have turned out if I had reacted by leaping forward and tackling my fellow shopper. I’m sure it would have frightened her at first. So one version of the story has us both getting back up laughing. But another considers the panic that could have resulted, not to mention someone deciding I needed a psychological evaluation.
We think of “situational awareness” as being attuned to our environment–sensitive to what is taking place around us. But it also includes a need to be aware of how we are responding to the events and conditions going on around us. Overreacting may be as dangerous as not noticing.