I grew up in a military family and was taught never to feel too safe or secure, no matter how unthreatening my immediate surroundings, to anticipate whatever threat from whatever direction, at any time. Such caution has served me well in a number of situations.
After getting out of the military in the mid-‘70s I took a sales job with a company that sold steel products to the construction industry. In the course of about three weeks in 1978, I was forced to draw a firearm to protect myself on two different occasions.
I covered 13 states by car and normally spent several nights a week in hotels. It was lonely work and nights were normally spent in my hotel room. I was raised in a military family and grew up shooting a 1911 .45ACP. It was my weapon of choice and I purchased a new Colt Commander when I got my first traveling job. I used to take it with me on the road for protection. I would look for indoor pistol ranges in the various cities that I traveled to and would normally shoot at least once a week.
That same year, my company hired another salesman and he traveled with me for a two-week training period. One night we returned to the hotel from dinner and as we were getting out of the car, the trainee asked to borrow the car to go to the drug store for some cold medicine. I was in a dilemma.
My pistol was loaded under the driver’s seat and I was not willing to let him take the car with the pistol. I gave him my okay but quickly took the pistol and slid it into my pants in the small of my back underneath my sports coat. He left and I started walking to my room. I stopped in the lobby to get a cup of coffee and then headed across the lawn to my room on the inner courtyard.
This was long before any states of awareness were taught but I would have classified myself that night as Condition White. As I walked I was slightly surprised by a man who came up on my right and started up a conversation. We said a few words and then I continued to my room, opened the door and went in to put my coffee down. As I put it down it dawned on me that the door had not shut. I turned to push it closed and found the man I had talked with standing in my room with a look that spoke trouble.
Instinctively, I reached back, drew my pistol and pointed it right at his chest. The click of the safety coming off sounded loud in the room. Before I could say a word, his demeanor changed and he blurted out, “I think I’m in the wrong room.” He turned, grabbed the door handle and was gone. I was stunned and it took me several minutes to calm down.
Three weeks later in another hotel room, someone knocking loudly on the door awakened me around midnight. As I looked through the peephole I saw a woman dressed in an open blouse and skintight shorts. In very seductive language she implied that I had asked her up for a good time. This time my awareness jumped immediately to Condition Orange.
I retrieved my pistol from the bedside table. On a hunch I went to the other side of the room and peered out of the window from around the curtain. A huge man stood in front of the window with a baseball bat in his hand, waiting for me to open the door. I pulled the curtain back enough for the man to see me hold up the pistol and again snap off the safety. His eyes got very big, but he showed no fear. He walked up to the woman grabbed her arm and they simply walked off.
In both cases I reported the incident to the hotel management. Both apologized and said that sort of thing just never happens in their hotel! I wasn’t convinced and went home and asked my boss for a larger daily hotel allowance. I’m considerably older now but as I look back on those experiences I can see that was the time that I got serious about protecting myself and my family. By the way, my late father-in-law was robbed in that same hotel a month later.