Moodswing - Security issues

Learning to kill my fears

Next week, I get to learn how to kill people, and I can’t wait. Not that I’m itching to slaughter folks at random, just those who are evil and have it in their head to kill me or others whose welfare I might happen to care about in that instance — the instance of the dangerous uproar. I’m looking forward to acquiring certain techniques that can stop these people, pretty definitely, once it becomes evident that such an instance is at hand. Should it happen, I don’t want to be standing there slack-jawed, as useful as a plankton-eating ocean slug. No, I want to be able to kill people in the name of security.

I’ve taken self-defense courses before, but that’s just what they were, courses. This is not a course, this is training. I’ll be in training to be a bad ass, and I’m supposed to expect to be bruised during training, too. I don’t care, I grew up being pummeled upon by every member of my family except my little sister, who was still bigger than me but just didn’t have it in her to hurt people. So bruises are no big deal. I got hit by a car in Costa Rica once, which bruised me up really good, but still I didn’t plunk down wailing over it. I was embarrassed, is all, to have found myself all of a sudden rolling around on the hood of a stranger’s car.

After that, I walked back to my pensione and promptly got bit in the leg by the proprietor’s dog, which looked to be part pit bull and part giant piranha. Its teeth were as long and pointy as Bic pens, and they left a bloody blossom of gnarled flesh on my upper thigh. That there is testimony to my fortitude, I say, because I continued with my visit even though I was all dog-bit and car-hit, and only missed one day of work after I returned to Atlanta not because of my injuries, but because of the misguided conviction that I’d acquired a tape worm during my travels.

So I like to think I’m tough as Teflon. For example, when I was 8, my sisters and I were accosted by bullies on our way home from the county fair, where I’d excelled at a carnival game by throwing baseballs at stacks of comical dolls molded from what must have been melted bowling balls, they were so weighted. Still, I knocked enough down to win a stuffed snake, the kind with glued-on eyes and a wire inside so it could bend. The bullies tried to take it from me that day, but instead I thwacked the boss bully upside her head with it and ran away while she gripped her own ears, stunned. Her two minions took off after me, but it was one of the few times in my life when I couldn’t be caught. It’s a great recollection, but I fear the next time I’m threatened I’ll have more at stake than a stuffed snake.

Hence the training. I have it in my head the only element missing to keep me from feeling completely secure is the ability to kill a person with a Q-Tip or whatever. If I was brawny like my husband Chris, I would feel secure all the time, as he seems to feel, and I wouldn’t need to train in order to uncover secrets to survival for the physically meek. I would just rip the assailant’s brain right out the back of their skull, or threaten to do so, as I’ve heard Chris threaten, and for Chris the mere threat is always effective enough. I am not Chris, though.

“You can’t kill a person with a Q-Tip,” I’ve been informed by various members of certain security forces within the past half-year, not even if you swab the Q-Tip with rattlesnake venom. But still there must be some other simple-yet-deadly methods of self-defense, some MacGyver moves I can use to murder actively murderous people. When I fly, I’ve taken to wearing my hair in a twist secured by a fancy lacquered chopstick. It’s plastic, the chopstick, but it would probably hold up if I had to stab someone in the eye with it.

“Girl, you’ve got issues,” my friend Grant tells me, but he’s hardly one to talk. Recently he personally tracked down the thief who took his moped, and wasn’t satisfied until the police arrived to slam the guy down and handcuff him right there on the floor of the Ponce de Leon public library. Still, Grant thinks I am too enthusiastic about my upcoming training. “Issues,” he repeats.

He might be right, because I have not felt secure in a long while. Looking back, I realize even when I clouted that evil cow with my carnival prize, it only facilitated an escape for me and not my sisters, who were left behind to be terrorized. I always felt bad about that, and today I figure there’s no point in protecting myself unless I can protect others. I can’t help it, I want everyone to be safe. And until that happens I guess I will always have issues about security.

Hollis Gillespie’s commentaries can be heard on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” program. To catch her latest commentaries, go to