Tuesday, July 10, 2007

TRAVEL TIPS Part 2: Staying Safe When You Venture Out to Play


Part 2: The Nitty Gritty of Staying Safe

YOUR WEAPONS

12. Your best weapon is YOU! Listen to your “inner-voice” (not your inner-editor who is always nagging you about word choice and plot structure), but that “inner-voice” that senses danger. This voice is important. Listen to it, whether it’s whispering, “Uh-oh” or screaming, “Run!”

One year I attended the SCBWI Summer conference in Los Angeles. It was Monday afternoon and I was exhausted. My head was effervescing with information and ideas as I made my way to my car. I stepped onto the parking lot elevator, hit the button, all while jostling a suitcase, my water pillow and two over-stuffed book bags. The door was inching shut when a hand shot through to stop it. A young man dressed in scruffy clothes slid inside.

My inner voice said, Uh-oh! Not a good situation. I thought about my first preventive step: projection. I looked him directly in the eye, puffed up with an “attitude” and said, “How’s it going?” in my strongest "tough girl" voice. I then shifted my keys (remember—I always take them out in the lobby) to a position where they became a weapon. The man smiled, nodded and took a quick glance at my keys. Of course, chances are he had no ill intentions, but at that moment, all I wanted was to project an attitude of “Don’t mess with me!” I didn’t care if I came off as slightly paranoid or even if I offended him a bit. When it comes to my safety, social graces go out the door (in this case, the elevator door).

13. Keys. Holding your keys with the sharp end turned out will transform them into a weapon (just make sure you don't slip your fingers through the key ring). A gouge to the face or eye could buy you the opportunity to get away.

14. Shoes. Shoes are a great weapon, especially if used by surprise. If someone grabbed you from behind, scrape the outside edge of your soul down the attacker’s shin or use your heel to stomp on his foot--HARD.

15. Your knees. It almost seems redundant to say this, but we all know the power of the knee. One strong thrust to the groan could save your life.

WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS

16. What if you still find yourself in the grasp of an assailant who's pulling you into an isolated area? Resist and yell “Fire!” (not “Help!” Sadly, people are not as likely to respond). This grabs people’s attention and that’s the last thing a predator wants. The more you resist, the higher your chances of survival.

17. Do whatever it takes to prevent an attacker from taking you to a secondary location. Secondary locations are where the worst case scenarios occur. Even if you're thrown in a car trunk, kick out a tailight panel and try to signal for help.

Writing and illustrating is a solitary profession, but we do get to come out and play occasionally. And just like on the schoolyard playground, not everyone plays nice all the time. So whether you’re attending a conference, doing a book tour or school visits, always remember to play it safe when traveling alone.

Bon voyage!

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