This story came across my desk some time ago.
A woman returning to her vehicle in a busy shopping mall parking lot during daylight hours discovered she had a flat tire. She stated that while struggling to change the tire, a clean-cut, handsome man, in a sharp business suit, walked by and offered to help. She gratefully accepted! He proceeded to put down his briefcase and change the tire.
At about the same time this Good Samaritan was finishing up his task, the woman, (while looking for something in the front seat), happened to notice – out of the corner of her eye – that the man tossed his briefcase into the trunk along with the damaged tire!
A moment later, looking somewhat confused, the man stated he had just realized that he was turned around and had not left the mall via the exit closest to his car. Would she mind giving him a quick ride to his vehicle?
Thinking on her feet, she said that she would be happy to, but inadvertently had left her wallet at the make-up counter and just needed to dash inside to get it and come back to give him a ride. He thanked her and said he would just wait at the car.
When she returned with a security guard, the man was gone. She unlocked the trunk and inside his expensive briefcase they found duct tape, rope and a knife, the tools of a rapist.
We will never know if that quick glance over her shoulder was instinctive or just lucky. Either way, once she understood what was happening, she cleverly extricated herself from the situation.
Absent that glance, she was clearly operating under the assumption that this well-dressed, handsome man (offering a helping hand in broad daylight, in a busy parking lot) could not possibly intend her any harm. Based on appearances exclusively, she did not categorize him as evil and he was able to bypass any precautionary mental filters she may have had in place.
Human beings are the most cunning of all predators. This story is not meant to scare, but to remind us to keep our radar up and “think outside the box” even in seemingly benign and harmless situations. Remember, you can remain comfortable and relaxed while maintaining an elevated state of awareness of your surrounding. This is often referred to as “Condition Yellow”.