I was having dinner with my family this past week at a local burger joint. Since we are a larger-than-average family, there are only a few tables that will accommodate our number, so we were unfortunately (from a tactical/defensive standpoint) seated in the rear of the restaurant near the restrooms and kitchen area.
The public entry doors were both toward the front of the restaurant. One was about 20 feet away leading to the side of the building; the second was at the front of the restaurant about 100 feet away. It is a given that I am going to be looking for the exits and easiest path to safety whenever I enter a public space, and I am going to make sure my family is on board with my plan.
Thus it was that after the drinks were served and our order placed, I asked them about escape routes in the event the place was under threat. They all agreed that we should retreat to the kitchen area and escape through the rear door that we know is there. In a pinch, we could seek refuge in the bathroom, but that preference ranks pretty low since there is only one door and no windows.
“Which bathroom,” I asked. That is when our natural penchant to follow rules kicked in. The rules say go to the bathroom that you know is socially expected (especially here in the deeply traditional rural south). However, when our lives are at stake, the rules go out the window.
Are you prepared to break the rules when a life-or-death situation is at hand? At that point, doors that read ‘Employees Only’ are no longer barriers. Running the stoplight or stop sign to escape the road-raging aggressor is necessary behavior. ‘No Exit’ signs suddenly don’t matter.
We are told from the time we are old enough to speak that there are rules and laws that must be followed for our own well being and the well being of others. By the time we reach adulthood, we have spent the better part of 18 years shaping our behavior to conform to the expectations that others set in the way of rules and barriers. All of that training doesn’t just go away in a moment.
The truth of the matter is that we have to directly tell ourselves that it is perfectly OK – indeed, it is necessary – to break the rules in order to save ourselves from harm. It is why when we enter a public space that we must identify not only the public access areas of the building but also the ‘hidden’ non-public spaces that might be utilized as escape routes or hiding places.
If you feel like you need someone else’s permission to break the rules, then here you are: you have my permission to break the rules of whatever establishment you happen to be occupying should you find yourself in a potentially lethal situation.
In the meantime, train your mind in order to prepare yourself to break out of your socially prescribed role as rule follower. Plot escape routes, determine hiding places, and make sure your loved ones are on board with your plan.
Sometimes breaking the rules can save your life.