Around 9:30 pm tonight, my wife and I were leaving a celebratory gathering at popular bowling alley on Houston’s west side when I spotted a male subject moving between my car and another vehicle on the south end of the property. As we walked toward the car, the subject began moving in a direct line toward us. Within a few yards, the subject intercepted another male patron from the bowling alley. Their conversation seemed to be starting with “…hey, let me talk with you for a minute…” Not that anyone has a reason to know this but, for me, those words coming from anyone, make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Why? Because never in my life has anything good come from someone saying, “…hey, let me talk with you for a minute.” It seemed like the wife saw this too as she didn’t resist when I grabbed her hand, told her we needed to return to the building. Once inside, I told my wife I thought I was seeing a setup for a robbery and suggested she take a quick restroom break while I looked for a manager.
The subject, we’ll call him Goofy, was a black male in his late twenties or early thirties, dark complexion and about six-feet tall. Goofy had short dreadlocks and was unshaven with an uneven beard. While Goofy was wearing baggy clothes, nothing about his build or movements suggested that he’d missed any meals or had any reason to be begging for food or money. In fact, I’d say Goofy appeared to have a fairly athletic build (broad shoulders, thin waist) that suggested he’d be able to put up a fight.
With the wife headed to the restroom and no manager in sight, I poked my head outside the building again to look for Goofy. When I looked toward the last place I’d seen him, I saw Goofy had disappeared. I continued scanning and spotted what appeared to be Goofy and the other male patron moving south, beyond the south end of the property, toward a Valero on the next block. There was no lighting between the Valero and the end of the property so it was hard be positive about what I was seeing but, there was a marked Houston Police unit at the Valero and I figured if Goofy was really going to be a problem and headed in that direction, it would be that officer’s problem and not mine.
Rather than waiting for the wife to return, I decided it would be best to go get the car without her and get the heck out of Dodge sooner, rather than later. So, I “texted” her instructions to wait for me inside the entrance while I retrieved the car and brought it to the door. Not knowing if Goofy had really vacated the parking lot, I decided it was better to be ready for a fight that never comes than get caught behind the curve. So as I walked along the side of the building, as surreptitiously as possible, I retrieved my pistol from my pocket holster and held it under my sweater as if my hand was simply in my pocket. Fortunately, it became apparent as I approached the car that Goofy really had moved off with the other patron toward the Valero by the time I reached my car. So, I re-holstered the gun, started the car, moved it to the building entrance where my wife was waiting and we departed the area immediately.
Now, some will ask why I didn’t notify someone (i.e. tell a manager or a security guard). Quite honestly, I hadn’t seen anyone I could clearly identify as a manager or security guard for the facility all night. It’s Friday night at 9:30 pm and were standing in a crowded bowling alley that is part club, part restaurant, and serving lots of alcohol. No good could come from staying there any longer than we absolutely had too. I wanted to get us out of the building and on our way as soon as humanly possible. Goofy was off property when I looked for him the second time so there didn’t seem to be anything to tell even if I did wait to find a manager. I am sure I could have handled it differently but, it ended with zero personal injury, zero property damage, no shots fired…Happy wife, happy life.
Lessons learned/reiterated: 1) Shit happens when you least expect it. Coming out of a graduation party, walking into what looked like a potential robbery was not what I was expecting for the night. 2) What looks suspicious, probably looks that way for good reason. Don’t continue walking into trouble when you can see it coming. 3) Have a plan. Every situation is different but, if I’m out with my wife/family, my first plan is always to immediately move her and/or others to a safer location immediately if it can be done without engaging a threat. 4) Don’t dither! You can choose to always wait for more information and suffer paralysis of analysis or act on the information you have in hand. That’s not suggesting you shoot first and ask questions later but, if a situation looks like it has the potential to get ugly, don’t stand there waiting for the shit to hit the fan.