So I was at a coffee shop the other day…

Last Sunday morning, I arrived early to meet a friend at a quiet suburban coffee shop. As I stepped inside, I stood face-to-face with a large man standing there with a pistol strapped to his belt in plain sight. Besides the workers, he and I were the only ones in the shop at that moment.

The way he was wearing his shirt he was obviously trying to show off his weapon. He had on a button down shirt that could easily cover both sides of his belt. One side was down, the other side was tucked precariously so his gun was showing in plain sight.

Two things struck me right away. The first was, why is this man standing here at 8:30 am with a gun hanging off his belt, and two, is he going to shoot us?  I have seen plenty of plainclothes police officers with their department-issued weapons and badges on their belts in plain sight, and my instincts told me this person is not an officer.

We live in a conceal and carry state. I don’t personally know anyone who walks around with a gun, so I’m not sure what that looks like, nor do I know the laws, but I was sure concealed meant out of sight. But to be honest with you, I’m not positive what the word “conceal” means when it comes to having a gun in public.

I am very triggered by guns. I have gun violence in my past and the mere sight of them causes me to experience increased anxiety and fear. I stood there frozen for a few seconds, and locked eyes with the guy then scanned the exits. I also noticed the workers were all laughing, singing, talking and relaxed. Just a group of young people working their shift and bonding with each other. I was confused and stood rooted in place until he sat down in the corner by the window.

Because I look at the world through a trauma-related lens, I sometimes need to know what is socially acceptable behavior and what is just extreme distrust in strangers. I honestly didn’t know what to do. In my mind, this person was either a bad-guy and we were all about to get shot, or I was going to ask him if he was a cop and that’s why his weapon was showing.

Intuitively, I thought there could be other possibilities and before I confronted this stranger with a gun, I texted a friend who often suggests other ways for me to look at things (probably the way most people look at social situations) and has saved me a lot of embarrassment throughout the years.  I asked him why a person would be sitting here with a pistol hanging off his belt. He told me to be aware, but most likely it’s just some guy who wants to prove that he can carry a gun. When my friend arrived she looked over at him and made the same determination.

It never occurred to me that I suggest to my friend that we go to another coffee shop because I felt uncomfortable sitting in the same place as this person who was openly carrying a gun. The point is, it didn’t matter why he was there or why he choose to have his weapon out in the open. He has the right to carry it, and he was exercising that right. This is not about him or his right to carry a gun. This is about me, and my feelings of internal safety.

I used to put myself in unsafe situations because I knew how to navigate the behavior around certain kinds of people. I stopped doing that a long, long time ago. I have learned the difference between perceived safety and real safety.  But when I came face-to-face with that guy a few days ago, I immediately got triggered into old patterns of fight/flight/freeze and responded by staying in a place where I didn’t feel safe.

This has all been very interesting to me. I now have it firmly ingrained my mind that I have the right to leave any situation where I don’t feel safe. That is not unreasonable and I don’t have to justify it to anyone. I feel like this was an important lesson for me to learn, and I definitely learned it.

Some people may not have even noticed or cared that this person had a pistol hanging off his belt. I did, but that’s just me. I wonder, What would you do in the same situation?

 

Thank you for reading my books:  If I Could Tell You How It Feels,  and  Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph

 

 

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83 thoughts on “So I was at a coffee shop the other day…

  1. Thank you Alexis. Childhood for me wasn’t an easy thing, but I do believe everything I went through in life has made me who I am today. Of course I wish none of it ever happened, but I have learned no amount of hoping and wishing can change the past. You are so incredibly kind and I am sorry you ever went through anything horrible.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I’m not surprised that you felt anxious. In my opinion, even if a person has the right to carry a gun, it’s the gun holders responsibility to ensure it is carried out of sight to avoid confusion and panic. Especially in today’s current climate!!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Alexis I can completely understand this experience could be disturbing. I live in a state where concealed weapons are allowed so you never know who is carrying. Trusting your instincts is important and often correct. I am terrified of guns because I have lived through violence involving guns, but I try not to compare everyone to those in my past. I am glad you made it out of this situation okay. Stay safe and always trust your instincts in all situations.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Pingback: Of Cigarettes and Criminals Who Are Idiots… – Lavender and Levity

  5. Hi Alexis, thank you for visiting my site I’m liking my post… I have more posts about my trip to New Zealand. I would really like it if people read it. I think it’s important for people to know that people with disabilities can do things like this.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Alexis, I don’t think you overreacted. I’ve experienced and have been threatened with physical abuse but never a gun. I would have been too uncomfortable to stay in that situation…

    Wishing you a Happy 2019! 🙂 xo

    Liked by 2 people

  7. That is so about trauma isn’t it?! I was talking to someone yesterday and I realized the thing that bothers me the most is nowhere did I have the thinking that I could leave if Im uncomfortable. I hope that I have learned that now, but it bothers me that is the one choice my brain didn’t think to make. An interesting lesson for me.

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  8. That would have scared the crap out of me too. I believe in concealed carry (obviously unless you’re a cop) because why advertise the fact that you’ve got a gun? It’s not only dangerous for the person carrying the weapon, but for others around them. And I also believe it’s disrespectful, because there are a lot of people who are afraid of guns. I either would have frozen like you, or I would have left in a hurry, there’s no way to tell. Trauma can make us act in ways that “normal” people might not.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Thank you, K E.
    I do work very hard to change my lens. I used to not even step foot in a coffee shop because of overwhelming anxiety and fear of who would be there. That has changed tremendously and I move about with more freedom.
    But triggers happen with PTSD, especially if it is reminiscent of past events.
    Apparently in MN conceal doesn’t mean hidden. Which Seems So bizarre to me.
    In the comments some people who live in MN have experienced the same thing in restaurants and even a library. A library? A person needs to wear their own for all to see in a library?
    It has been a really good discussion since I posted this.
    Have a Happy New Year! 😊 ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Kudos to you Alexis! As I was reading, I was also wondering if you could put on a different lens, or if you always had to see things from the trauma lens.

    To answer your question, I would’ve been bothered as well, and I probably would’ve asked someone in charge at the restaurant to ask him to actually CONCEAL his weapon. After all, it wasn’t hidden, but then again, it does depend on what the actual definition is for your state.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. I have tears in my eyes, Linda. Thank you so much for your support and understanding. Its hard to discern what is okay with shaming myself for reacting a certain way, because of my history and trying to figure out what would the “normal” reaction be. Its a process thats for sure.

    You remain one of my biggest inspirations. Your history and your resilience is amazing. I know that its been a hard road and it still is very difficult sometimes. And with your recent health scare it compounds exhaustion at times Im sure. I respect you, and your journey of healing, and your commitment to living your best life. Glad we are on this healing path together! ❤️🙏🏼

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I think that if it had only been me there, I probably would have frozen in place. But I had a two year old son and a two week old daughter asleep in the room next to ours, with only a thin trailer wall between us. I really believe it was the primal mother instinct that allowed me to get the gun away from him.

    I didn’t mention that I was stark naked at the time. I had just gone in our bedroom to get ready for bed, when suddenly the door flew open behind me and my drunken then-husband burst into the room, swearing at me, and he had the gun. I have never been comfortable walking around naked, especially not just days after having given birth.

    He was screaming that he was going to kill himself right in front of me, and it was all my fault, and that I would have to live with the memory of his suicide for the rest of my life. I did not want that to happen, of course. But what threw me into survival mode for me and my kids, was the certain thought that, as irrational as he was being, he was going to change his mind about suicide and turn the gun on me and my kids, instead. Because he was way too selfish to ever kill himself. He used suicide threats as a control tactic.

    What threw him into this drunken frenzy? And what made it “all my fault”? His kids from his first marriage had visited earlier that day, and they told their dad that their mom was drinking heavily, and driving while drinking with them in the car, and her second marriage wasn’t working, and their drunken mom had recently cried and told them that she wished she had stayed married to their dad. So, after his kids went back home, he started throwing back one shot after another, until he was finally drunk enough to go into a blind rage.

    Yeah, all my fault. That’s how it is with charming sociopaths, nothing is ever their fault.

    If I had been you, Alexis, in that coffee shop on Sunday morning — knowing your trauma history like I do, after reading your memoir twice — I am sure that I would have felt exactly like you. The dissonance of a visible gun in that peaceful setting, the body language of the man with the gun, and with all the horrors we read about in the news about shootings in Taco Bells, in McDonalds, in movie theaters, in malls — yeah, I would have been hypervigilant and hyper triggered if I were in your shoes. And I am sure that it would take me days to get over it.

    I am so glad you are all right!!

    Liked by 3 people

  13. The gun culture of the US is something I think most Europeans struggle to understand or feel safe with. Times I have seen people (professionals) openly with guns at airports, or royal guards etc; it freaks me out. I don’t think displaying a gun so overtly is normal behaviour, but then again I have a trauma-lens too. I wouldn’t have stayed there x

    Liked by 3 people

  14. That is terrifying! Oh, wow Linda that would be so hard to process and move on from. You are one tough women with all the adversity you’ve had to overcome.
    Im glad you’re safe and Very glad you have increased instincts and resilience.
    Thank you for sharing. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I agree with you about asking the question, why the need to openly carry a gun in a sleepy coffee shop first thing on a Sunday morning. That’s the root of the dissonance for me I think. You hit it right on.
    Having a gun so open implied he thought there was a threat. And there wasn’t any. If there was and it concerned him, well then maybe he should stay at home. Im going to email the company this morning and ask their policy. Just so I know and can make choices about spending my money there. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Guns trigger me. I have had several terrifying, life-threatening experiences that involved guns.

    Two weeks after my daughter was born, I wrestled a handgun away from her father to save all of our lives. He was in a blind manic rage at the time, and he was much stronger than me. But my adrenal glands were kicked into high gear by my maternal instincts. I knew that I HAD to get that gun away from him, or my two children and I were probably going to die.

    When I finally got the gun away, he ran out of the house, jumped into his truck and took off. I hid the gun. A few days later, as soon as I had the chance, I took the gun and threw it and all the bullets into a lake.

    Much later, he asked me where his gun was. I told him it was in the lake, and he got very upset. “What if they dredge the lake someday and find the gun and do a ballistics test and discover that the gun has been used in a crime?” he said.

    Gee, I wonder what made him think of that….

    I’m so glad that I am not married to that crazy, violent man any more. I am also glad that we live on two different continents, separated by the entire Atlantic Ocean!

    Liked by 2 people

  17. I don’t know the laws in your state. In many, guys like that can carry openly and even if everyone, including employees, are frightened no one can do anything. I don’t think it’s healthy though to *want* to carry into a coffee shop. I definitely hope I’d leave, and maybe even stay around down the block to call 911 if something happened later, but I might just freeze, too. “Don’t look here” is a valid survival strategy, but hard to overcome later. But, if you can move your body through the dissociation, I’d definitely leave in the future if you can do so safely (aka without having to pass directly where you cut him off or might draw his ire.) The U.S. has more mass shootings than any of our peer nations, and there is a multi person shooting every few days on average. (I forgot the exact statistic, but it’s high enough to shock.) I think being wary is statistically sound around guns in public places in the U.S… 😦

    Liked by 3 people

  18. How uncomfortable! Im glad you went to the management. After today and reading the comments, It seems like this is common here, less common in other countries. Thanks for sharing your experience with me.

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  19. I wrote a post about this about this six months ago. I was in kohls and a big brawny guy had his gun in plain view. I didn’t see a reason for that. He was big enough to kick anyone ass. There were only three people in the store. I told management that I was uncomfortable with it and they were going to have security talk to him. The guy was pushing his baby around in a stroller. Did he really need to show everyone he had a gun? I dont care if you have a gun but I really dont need to see it. Seeing that gun out in the open like that kinda shook me up. We dont own a gun and I have never held a gun in my hand. It made me think about a lot of things

    Liked by 3 people

  20. I’m used to seeing weapons because I know a number of veterans who have conceal & carry. what amazes me are the number of “cowboys” around here who like to show off.

    Liked by 2 people

  21. Im so glad to hear what its like in other countries. I think here we are getting so desensitized to guns and gun violence. It scary to me. Knife crime would be terrifying too. I would like to live in a world where we can go get coffee with no worries about our safety. Doesn’t that sound great?! 😊❤️

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  22. Being in the UK, something like this would be very, very odd and disconcerting. Imagining I’m in a state where carrying is legal, well, I still wouldn’t feel entirely straight. That said, there’s more knife crime in the UK and those things are well concealed usually, and my feeling of wavering internal safety can be triggered by just a look, just a slight change of atmosphere, so I guess seeing a gun hanging casually would just increase that ten fold. x

    Liked by 4 people

  23. Wow, thanks Jackie. Its interesting to know how the laws work here.
    I also doubt that a person who is triggered would ask for a permit. I think that would be awkward even if you are not triggered. Or maybe that is my MN nice, I dont want to bother you coming out. Im not sure.
    Thanks for sharing. ❤️

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  24. Thank you Ashely. I love the perspective of another country where the idea of it would be bizarre. I think there are many, many of us who agree with that.
    I definitely learned a lesson to trust my instincts and not stay there. But it wasnt my feeling. I just stood there dumbfounded. I hope next time (if there is one) I just tuen around and walk away.
    I was supposed to meet a friend at the same place next week. We both feel the same unease and decided to go elsewhere.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Jacqueline S Zeigler

    When I worked at a library, the same thing would happened occasionally. I was not triggered by guns but a couple of my co-workers were. Every time it happened a debate would ensue about whether people could carry guns in public facilities, and what our policy should be. Should it be posted that they not be able to carry? I learned that a public facility in MN cannot ban guns. A private business can. I learned that many people who have a permit to carry will purposely leave their gun out like that because they think it’s less threatening than concealing it. I also learned that anyone who carries has to have their permit or badge with them.

    There are many situations where people are at work or even in public where they cannot leave the situation if they are triggered. In those cases its perfectly acceptable to ask anyone carrying a gun to provide their permit. Would people who are triggered do that? I highly doubt it.

    It’s a dilemma I certainly don’t have an answer for.

    Liked by 2 people

  26. Thanks for sharing this, Shelley.
    It would take some time for sure to get used to a place where its common to see people wearing their guns at the grocery store.
    Im glad you found a different way to think about it and that helps you feel more at ease as you become more acclimated to the surrounding culture.
    Perspective is definitely important and can calm an emotional topic.

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  27. I can only imagine how triggering that must have been. Being Canadian the very idea of someone feeling the need to carry a gun (openly, at that) to a coffee shop seems extremely bizarre. In a situation like yours I’d feel extremely uncomfortable, but I’m not sure whether I’d have the presence of mind or not to get up and walk out.

    Liked by 2 people

  28. Touching Butterflies

    Thanks for this post!

    Here in my state the law offers the same option for those who desire to carry. When we first moved here it was alarming for me to stand in line at the grocery store with someone “packing”. As time went on I came to understand this is not unusual here. Yes, there are some who find security in their physical stance of showing their guns in public, but mostly it’s just part of the fabric of the culture here in the NorthWest. I can’t help but wonder about the underlying “fear factor” that seems present in the DNA in many of the longtime residents. We live in a reasonably safe rural setting, so it always seems so contrasting to what some may think as a safety need. What is the possibility that they too have been impacted by trauma, even indirectly that may cause an unrealistic need to protect themselves with conceal and carry? Considering this gives me new perspective.

    Liked by 2 people

  29. Wow Rosy! Thank you so much for sharing this. Its amazing that the candy stores policy is guns allowed.
    When we meet for coffee next week, Im going to suggest a different coffee shop then the one we met at before. I think both you and I are on the same page about how comfortable we would be there.

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  30. I’ve not had any bad experiences with guns, but I still would have reacted as you did.
    I wouldn’t have stayed and chosen to gone elsewhere. He was certainly showing it off, having his shirt tucked in the side the gun was.

    Liked by 3 people

  31. So stressful! I agree about about the crime too. My past is not one of poverty, but of powerful people doing despicable things. Money doesn’t dissuade a person if they are inherently cruel, controlling, and narcissistic.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Rosy

    My friend, Michael, was in the popular candy shop, downtown St Paul. He saw a man, holding a toddler in his arms, and was surrounded by a lot of kids and their parents. It is a candy store! His gun was clearly visible since his jacket was pushed to the side (holding the kid) but what was really scary was the toddler kept reaching for it! The man casually brushed the toddlers hand away, as if it were nothing. Michael asked the manager if guns were allowed in this store. The manager said yes. Michael said, “You just lost my business!” He told the manager that he did not feel safe and there was no reason he could give that would justify a gun in a candy store, filled with children! After hearing his story, Ron and I quit going there.. My personal opinion, if you are paranoid enough to feel you need a gun in a coffee shop or a candy store, etc., then I can question your mental health. Glad you left! I refuse to let “carrying a gun” in public places be my new normal. It’s not normal!!!! Thanks for sharing this.

    Liked by 4 people

  33. I worked on the Upper East Side aka the Gold Coast of New York City for ten years. The land of private schools and millionaires. Rich and wealthy People commit as much crime as the poorest neighborhoods but rich People can literally get away with murder. Money will buy you innocence. Even though I’m retired I still have nightmares about that Place. That will never go away. I just don’t discuss my feelings or emotions.

    Liked by 1 person

  34. I’m sure that similar things happen in small towns but they are just covered up. A great amount of mass murders happen in Places much smaller than New York City. I Love where I Live. I know how to Govern myself accordingly.

    Liked by 1 person

  35. I think maybe people who live in large cities develop a trust in their senses. You are absolutely right that it wasn’t worth the anxiety. Its been an interesting few days as I’ve examined this experience. Thank you for your feedback!

    Liked by 2 people

  36. You know, that is a really good idea about the coffee shop. Business, churches around here all have signs. This place is a chain so it would interesting if I email them how they would respond. Thank you for the idea!

    Liked by 1 person

  37. Trust me when I there have been times in my former job and on the subway when I had to defend myself but I know how to read situations. If I’m forced to into a fight then I will take that person down. With no regrets or remorse.

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  38. I lived in New York and Paris without incident, but I was aware to the point of changing subway cars between stops if I even got a strange feeling about a situation. I think leaving the coffee shop was your best option in that scenario– not worth the anxiety or worse!

    Liked by 2 people

  39. Actually a few months ago a fight nearly broke out at the Coffee Shop across the Street from my house. However if needed I would have beaten the idiotic woman to a bloody pulp because she was harassing an older man. Fortunately he was able to diffuse the situation but She needs to get Her ass kicked.

    Liked by 2 people

  40. Wow, this is such great perspective and another really good lesson. I think the lessons from living in a big city are very appropriate and timely in this day and age.

    What you experienced in the subway would have been terrifying. Im so glad you noticed the change in body language and ran!

    Liked by 1 person

  41. Seems like the old west around here sometimes. Here in Kansas we have businesses that will not allow guns inside,and have a no firearms sign at the door. Find such a coffee shop if possible or politely request that the business follow a no firearms ordinance in the future. Good luck.

    Liked by 3 people

  42. I would have left. There are lots of gangs and gun violence in New York City. I remember in January 2010 I was Traveling on the subway and things seemed normal. A group of young men were also laughing, joking and had made purchases at a local mall. Then we all got off at a transfer point then I noticed one guy’s body Language changed. He had spotted an enemy from a rival gang. As I saw him pulling out his gun I took off running. The other riders briefly wondered why I was running until the shooting started. I prayed as I ran and as the connection train pulled into the station I jumped on it.

    My previous job as a Security Officer, four years in the United States Army plus Street smarts has Taught me situational awareness.

    At the time the subways didn’t have Wifi. I go with my instincts at all times. Also my Mom always told me to never hang around or watch a fight. Survival is more important than trust. I like living and getting shot is not part of my game plan. Given that Gun violence is at an all time high with mass shootings every day. I keep my distance from crazy People.

    Liked by 3 people

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