I was walking through downtown Houston with two friends a month or so ago when we passed a man muttering to himself and, if I remember correctly, taking out his childhood anger issues on a styrofoam cup. We were on our way home, and one friend had parked in a different part of the city. We offered to escort her to her car. Because, you know. Muttering man with violent tendencies.
“No, I’m fine,” she said. “I have a taser.” She noted this in a breezy manner, as if she was offering a stick of gum or commenting on the weather.
“Can I see it?” I asked. Because when someone has a taser, you have to see it.
And she did! She had a taser in her purse. So bad-ass.* When she pushed the trigger to demonstrate its creep-aversion abilities, it produced a small arc of electric blue electricity with a sharp, satisfying crackle. The man with the demolished cup, startled, found a different street corner. When I asked how one comes by a taser, my friend informed me that you can buy them at any local sports supply store. Perhaps between the volleyballs and junior soccer league shin guards? More likely among the hunting rifles, perhaps.
I’m not a violent person. I have never punched anyone, and I don’t really want to. (I once slapped a classmate on the leg in elementary school, not even very hard, and it led to a fiasco of tears and humiliation, masterminded by an evil troll of a teacher. And I don’t use those words lightly, as I come from a family of teachers and know how difficult it is to control a classroom. Moving on.) I have issues watching action and horror movies. I was disturbed last night when my cats killed a ladybug. But the power of the taser is appealing to me. I don’t want to use it one on someone. I just want to carry it around with me and spark it up if a crazy cup man gets too close. I don’t want a taser, I suppose. I want the threat of a taser.
At least I thought I did. I was discussing this over coffee this afternoon with another friend who did not witness the power of the taser. This led to a consideration of all forms of self-defense often recommended to young women by worried parents. Carry your keys laced through your fingers, so you can jab the sharp points at an attackers’ eyes. Be prepared to scratch and, if necessary, bite. If you’re going to kick, aim at the knees. If you’re going to punch, aim at the throat or upward, into the nose.
“Danny always tells me that an ear can be ripped off pretty easily, with five pounds of pressure,” I add. Another useful lesson from the army.
“Really? Hmmm.” My friend nods, considering.
“But then you have an ear in your hand,” I concede. This has been a persistent concern for me, ever since Danny apprised me of the shocking vulnerability of the human ear. “And what do you do with the ear? Do you throw it at your attacker? Do you thwap it on the ground and stomp on it?”
” Do you keep it as some sort of trophy?” she suggests.
” Or maybe you throw it away from you,” I decide, “into the bushes or across the street — because hopefully this person would go chasing after it?”
This is the problem with self-defense strategies. I know what to do, but would I actually do it? Do I want to be holding my attacker’s ear? Would the adrenaline in the moment really push me to take that drastic and perhaps necessary step? My friend has talked this over with her mother. All of these precautions are useless, she said, if you can’t follow through. You have to be able to imagine yourself taking a swing or a kick, to be in a mental space where it can happen, before you need to fight.
Which is hard to do. Tasers are only bad-ass, I think, when you don’t have to use them.
*Not as bad-ass, of course, as Sandy’s bear mace. But we can’t all be such renegades.