Your Phone Or Your Life – Choose Situational Awareness

You’re bored — we’ve all been there.  You’re sitting in a small cramped room waiting for the mechanic to decide which kidney he’s going to need in order to fix your car.  It’s the perfect opportunity to pop on your phone real quick and catch up on some work emails.  Did you know Aunt Phyllis is having a birthday real soon?  Oh, that neighbor’s dog is adorable (if she would just stop barking all the time).

A text.  It’s your significant other wondering what to pick up for dinner.  A simple question turns into a light-hearted conversation.

Where the hell is that mechanic?  You wonder absently but your face never leaves your smartphone.

That’s when it hits you… You don’t hear any hydraulic ratchets on lugnuts or see any of the technicians rolling out new tires.  Did everyone go to lunch at once?

If you’ve ever found yourself in this situation — one where you look up and everything has moved on — you’ve likely lapsed on your awareness of your surroundings.  It’s okay.  Every single person on this green earth suffers from the same thing.  We’re human, after all, and our attention and focus has its earthly limits.  If there is one thing that this society is good at, it’s making another widget or doo-dad to get sucked into and lose reality for several hours.

As a concealed carrier, be aware that lapses in situational awareness are a liability.  You cannot defend against what you cannot see or hear.  Boredom is one of the hardest obstacles the mind has to overcome.

We’ll go over some games to fight boredom and keep your situational awareness right where it needs to be.

Game 1: Passive Periphery Scan

In a previous article, we briefly touched upon Active Field of View (AFOV) and Useful Field of View (UFOV).  The UFOV is the area you can gain information from without moving your head or eyes.  What’s your UFOV picture look like?  With your face buried in your smartphone, try to make out the boundaries of what you can see.  For instance, if you are sitting in that mechanic’s waiting room – can you see the door?  Can you count the number of people waiting in the room with you?  Now remember – no moving your head or your eyes.  Once you have a mental picture of what you think is there, look up and see if it’s right.

Game 2: Figure Eight Passive Scan

If you’ve ever taken a defensive driving course, you may have learned of a strategy called “figure eight” scan.  It basically means, without moving your head, let your eyes roam in a subtle figure eight motion across your Active Field of View (AFOV).  So, this means you don’t have to move your head one bit but simply let your eyes roam side-to-side.  This technique is pretty good if you’ve been absorbed in your smartphone (or book — come on, now!) and need to get an idea of what’s going on around you.

A Couple Considerations For The Phone-Heavy

In a cruel twist of irony, you may indeed be reading this article right now while sitting on your phone in a mechanic’s waiting room.  Here’s a couple things that are good habits to get into if you enjoy this article and also like to maintain situational awareness.

  • Sit with your back against a wall.
  • Make visual confirmation of your entrances and exits.
  • Confirm (roughly) how many people are in the room with you.
  • If you’re waiting in line, leave the phone alone.
  • Sit with your back facing away from entrances and exits.
  • Visually confirm each and every person that goes through those doors.
  • Change your AFOV every 10-15 minutes.  This could be as easy as getting up and sitting in a different chair or just slightly rotating in your chair.

Situational awareness is your early detection system in the event of an emergency.  You can’t react to what you don’t know.

About James England

James England is a Marine Corps veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and has served as a defense contractor in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. He is currently an advocate for veterans and constitutional carry in the State of New Hampshire. His daily carry is the Glock 19 Gen 4 in an Alien Gear Cloak Tuck 3.0.