There are a lot of neat little boxes that people try to put you in—you’re a cautious person, the quiet type, proud, a big talker—but it’s not really a good idea to judge a person based on a single trait.
Take me for example. I am a fairly paranoid person by most people’s standards, yet I see myself as just reasonably cautious. You can chalk it up to all the cheap ninja and secret agent novels I read as a kid, and the martial arts training that I enjoy so much, but as anyone who is labeled as paranoid by others will tell you, a lot of our little “delusions” are actually viable scenarios. Just because something doesn’t happen every single day doesn’t mean that we should be completely carefree and neglect basic precautions. Here are a few common situations which we, the supposedly paranoid people of the world, tend to obsess about, and why we feel it is justified.
1. Leaving a window open at night invites trouble.
Cracking open a window to let some air in is a basic necessity, particularly on those warm summer evenings, but an open window is also an invitation to criminals. I cringe when I see a ground floor window of a house open in the evening, but there have also been real cases when crooks climbed in through a window on the first or second floor. Burglars aren’t as dumb as people like to think. Yeah, it’s not as likely to happen in some neighborhoods, but we paranoid people can’t have peace of mind unless everything is tightly shut.
2. Weird noises around the home can only mean one thing—burglars!
Even though we are very careful when it comes to security, and double-check to see if the house is on full lockdown before we go to sleep, we see a sudden noise in the middle of the night as signal that a great battle is about to commence. I have a simple, three-step process for dealing with such noises:
- Stand up and listen intently like a cautious little Meerkat
- Grab the bedside baseball bat and ask the Warrior Gods to grant me the strength of ten men
- Lurk from the shadows like a vengeful baseball-themed ghost for couple of minutes before going back to bed
People tease me about it sometimes, but every girl I’ve dated has felt incredibly safe beside me, so I guess there’s some benefits to being cautious.
3. Browsing online is like walking down a poorly lit alley in the bad part of town.
Okay, so let’s get one thing out in the open: the Internet is like a vast ocean of information, cat pictures, memes and funny videos, but there are droves of dangerous pirates that you have to look out for. And for those who skipped “analogy class” in school, I’m not talking about the type of pirate that illegally downloads Katy Perry albums; I mean the kind of people that steal your information, stalk you or try to harm your computer with malware. Since totally abstaining from Internet use is not a good solution, other paranoid people like myself invest a good deal of effort into making sure that our online security is as tight as possible. There have been numerous cases of identity theft, cyber bullying and stalking online, and it only seems logical to us to be careful.
4. Someone might be waiting behind every corner.
Stepping as far away from the wall of a building as you comfortably can and getting a good look before turning a corner should be common sense as far as I am concerned. Yes, not everyone worries much about some thug jumping them, but even the most carefree person in the world has to admit that just avoiding bumping into people is a good enough reason for taking a half-second to scan the area before turning a corner or walking to your car in a parking lot. We don’t think danger is hiding behind every corner everywhere, but we know that, statistically speaking, there’s a decent chance that it might be hiding behind one of the thousands of corners that we pass throughout our lives, and we’d like to develop a simple habit that could save our lives in that eventuality.
5. Anyone coming up to you in the street is a potential threat.
I believe that the main reason why a lot of people get called paranoid, is a simple lack of effective communication. When I say that I view anyone who walks up to me on the street and encroaches on my personal space a potential threat, I simply mean that I make a mental note to be ready to move if the person is showing signs of bad intentions and I position myself so that I am balanced. It’s a small adjustment, takes hardly any effort and normal people don’t notice anything strange, but bad people clearly see that you are not an easy target.
6. If you don’t sit with your back to a wall you risk someone sneaking up on you.
There is a short ritual that I do when entering a bar, coffee shop or restaurant—look around, get a first impression of the crowd, find a seat where I can have my back against the wall and have a clear view of the rest of the room. In case of a fire or some other emergency, I have an exit strategy, and don’t have to constantly turn around to check behind my back or move my chair to let someone pass, so it’s a win-win situation.
7. When someone’s late they are probably in grave danger.
Sure, there are tons of people out there who are irresponsible and couldn’t get anywhere on time if their life depended on it, but when a friend’s late and doesn’t answer the phone my first guess is always that their life is really on the line. I have my phone in hand and am ready to call their close family and friends if they are not there within 20 minutes. On the upside, I’m so glad that they’re okay when they finally do arrive, that I don’t get mad at them for being late.
8. Any group of males larger than 1 is probably up to no good.
For me personally, this point is firmly cemented in reality, as my friends and I have had a close brush with a group of drunken guys on more than one occasion. There is safety in numbers, and younger men are teaming with hormones that are supercharged with alcohol and God knows what kind of drugs, which often leads to them acting cocky and mischievous, and becoming aggressive. A good deal of these groups are just regular students or salt of the earth blue collar people, but at that moment they are much more likely to do something stupid, so I feel it’s best not to take chances and just give them a wide berth.
9. Arriving 10 minutes earlier to scan the area is just common sense.
Here’s another one that has always boggled my mind—most people get to a meeting place either bang on time, a few minutes late or incredibly late. People like me who prefer to come about 10 minutes earlier and have a bit of a look around are a dying breed, but if you look at it from our perspective, this approach has several merits:
- You never risk being late.
- You get to look around and find a good place to sit (preferably against the wall and with the view of the entrance).
- You have the opportunity to spot bad situations brewing and avoid certain areas (not being there is the best defense against mugging and assault).
- You get some time to calm the nerves and psyche yourself up before a date or serious conversation.
- You earn people’s respect by being punctual.
Again, it’s something you don’t invest a lot of time or effort into, something that has no potential downsides, but several benefits.
10. A sentence beginning with “I’ve got to tell you something” can only end in tears.
This is something that we can be conditioned to believe through our own previous experiences, but though it may not be true for every single scenario, a majority of “I’ve got to tell you something” or “I have to talk to you” situations end with a harsh revelation, and a long night of drinking and consoling. Think about it, when someone buys a brand new car or gets a promotion they tell you straight away over the phone—enthusiastic screaming is optional—and if it’s a small thing they call you out for some coffee and just start talking to you without stressing the point that a conversation needs to happen.
These are all little things that people who aren’t as obsessive about their safety don’t understand, but there is a clear distinction between paranoia and being careful—truly paranoid people think that someone is always after them and they try to protect themselves against highly unlikely situations, while someone who is careful simply knows that a world is not always a perfect place and has a few safety precautions in place. Even if we do get a bit more protective and cautious or worry more than the average Joe, it’s not without a reason.