Two police officers rushed over to me, “are you the one that called 911?”
“Yes” I said. “I came out of the strip club and was headed to my car when I heard a gun shot.”
I pointed to the far side of the parking lot and they ran off in that direction.
Curious I followed at a distance.
There on the ground between two parked cars was large man with a gun shot wound in his chest. He was writhing in pain.
I stepped forward to see what was happening and took out my cell phone and started taking photos. The officers told me to back away and surrender the camera. I replied that I knew my rights and that I could take all the photos I wanted.
Then in one swift motion the gunshot victim pulled a revolver and shot both officers then looked at me.
We stayed like that for a long time. Then he smiled, cocked his head and said “two more down…I could keep this up all day.”
He put the gun back in his pocket, leaned against the car and pulled out a cigarette.
Both officers were still standing frozen in a stunned silence.
Keeping it Real
The parking lot not behind a strip club, it’s located behind the San Francisco Police Academy and the man with the gun shot wound and I were taking part in a simulation training exercise.
“Don”t worry guys”, the supervising officer said, “this particular simulation is designed to get you shot.”
He told the cadets that their responsibility was safety not health care and that the teams never properly searched the victim for weapons.
And so each of the 10 pairs of cadets that came through our scenario was shot….with one exception. One cadet survived, but his partner did not.
The Big Lesson
When I walked into the main training room where the instructor was addressing the whole class he told them that they all made a fatal flaw. He said that no one of them arrived on the scene and took a deep breath.
“You must arrive on the scene and take a deep breath.” Assess the situation and then proceed.” Take a deep breath”, he repeated.
This is the same advice I often give to actors, improvisers and the men and women I train in presentation skills.
- •A breath is natural.
- •A breath calms you down.
- •Taking a deep breath gives you something to do when you have nervous energy and have to ‘do’ something.
- •A breath connects you to your body.
- •A breath brings you back to the moment.
- •The audience will (almost) always read meaning into a deep breath.
It does take a bit of practice to actively do something that the body does automatically without thought, but practice is helpful. Do it now. (breath) Notice how you feel after the breath. Grounded and alive. Isn’t that the state we want to be in when we’re in stressful situations?