Freehold Friday: Going Gray

Welcome back, muchachos.

Continuing my Prepper theme of posts, I decided to touch on a prepper concept popularized as “Going Gray”.

No, I’m most definitely not talking about turning any shades (50 or otherwise) of gray. In the world of preparedness, “going gray” or becoming a “gray man” (or woman!) means to be invisible.

Think about it. When you walk down the street (if you don’t have your nose buried in a smart phone like just about everyone else) you’re probably not paying all that much attention to people around you. If you’re a prepper, you’re most likely in possession of a keener than normal sense of situational awareness (that’ll be another post!), which means you’re aware of who’s near you, any threats that may approach you, and a general sense of your surroundings. This can get pretty detailed—hence a separate post. Suffice it to say, a prepper probably knows there’s a woman and her child ten steps behind, a guy on his cell phone to the left, a shop with an open door and music blaring on the right and a car crossing the intersection a dozen paces in front. The prepper, therefore, is aware of the situation he/she finds himself/herself in.

Now let’s look at what the Average Joe might see. Where’s Billy? Oh, there you are. Did you make it out of D.C. okay?

“Um,” says Billy, staring at his Twitter feed. “Yeah. I almost died but I made it.”

Ah, excellent. That’s the great thing about being a construct of my imagination—I can kill poor Billy as many times as I want and he still keeps coming back for more.

“Thanks.”

No prob—hey, at least I gave you that cell phone back.

“Thanks again,” Billy says, rolling his eyes.

Right then. Let’s throw Billy on a semi-crowded street in Anytown, USA. He’s finished some shopping and heading home, staring at his ever present cell phone, like everyone else who isn’t actually talking on their cell phone. Billy’s wearing his most expensive shoes and jeans, fashionably dressed for Milan, sporting his $300 designer sunglasses. He proudly flaunts the labels on the bags he carries—he wants everyone to know he only shops at the best stores, recession be damned.

Next to him walks Adam Gray. Adam also shopped at some high end stores (electronics, not clothes), but instead of dressing to the nines, Adam is wearing jeans and a plan blue sweatshirt. He put all his items in one bag and turned it so the garish label faced him. To the outside world, his bag is plain white and could be full of dirty laundry. In short, it’s unremarkable, just like Adam. He looks like he just stepped off the local college campus without a dime to his name. Adam, in his worn in sneakers, picks up the pace a bit and pulls away from the walking advertisement, Billy.

Presently Adam passes a young man in a puffy winter coat and baggie pants, dressed for weather that’s about 30 degrees cooler. Adam, using his finely attuned sense of situational awareness, recognizes the warning flags. Something isn’t right here. The young man dressed for a ski trip is sweating profusely and looks nervous, his eyes darting back and forth, never settling on anything for long. As he looks toward Adam, Adam makes sure to look straight ahead, while keeping the suspicious fellow well in his peripheral vision. Adam passes by quickly—but not so quick as to make it look like he’s running from someone—and continues on his way, conscious of the fact that he feels like he just dodged a bullet.

Meanwhile, Billy, flaunting his loot and expensive clothes, soon meets the suspicious young man, who pulls a revolver from his voluminous jacket and robs Billy of everything except his coiffure.

Adam, you see, was a Gray Man. He was invisible to the predator. Billy, showing off his fashion sense and wealth, had a flashing target on his chest saying “Rob me!”.

You know the old saying, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease”? How about “the nail that sticks up gets hammered”?

Those adages were about going gray. Blend in, become faceless, become completely non-threatening or interesting. In a world of vibrant colors, become gray. Fade into the background. Predators, be they of the criminal element or something more nefarious (I’ll let you decide what that is for you…for me it’s aliens from Mars).

How does this tactic fit into the prepping mentality?

Imagine if you will, a disaster has struck. Pick your poison—hurricane, terror attack, bio-weapon, invasion, volcanic eruption, what have you—when that thin veneer of civility starts to collapse and the darker side of the human experience rears its head (look up the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina if you don’t believe it can happen in America), trust me, you want to be invisible.

The police—if they’re still around, probably won’t care who’s head they bash in order to maintain order. If you don’t stand out, if you’re…gray…you stand a better chance to slip through undetected and unabashed.

And if it’s the bad guys who are out and about, going gray definitely makes you look like less of an appealing target. Not so much so that you appear to be a threat to them (that’s a whole other thing), but if they see someone like Billy, they’re going to rob him first, just because Adam might be carrying dirty clothes in that bag and who the hell wants to steal that?

Depending on your physical stature, going gray may be easier or harder for you. Those people over 6 feet tall are naturally going to be larger and therefore easier to attract the eye of undesirables (whoever that may be). So rely on your dress and your gear. Don’t wear flashy clothes like Billy. Don’t wear the latest tacti-cool digital camo backpack that looks like a Navy SEAL might go into Afghanistan with it on his back. Carry your gear in a simple backpack suitable for a student. Plain colors, nothing fancy, nothing that screams “I’ve got really expensive survival gear in here!”

Think about it as if you had a concealed carry permit (maybe you do—and if so, good for you!). The law just about everywhere states you have to make sure no one knows you’re carrying a gun, right? Well, that’s sort of like going gray. You look like everyone else—nothing to see here, move along.

So whether you you’re 6’5“ man or a 5’2” woman, don’t wear bright colored or revealing clothes in a survival situation—people will take notice and look at you. Wear something nondescript. Carry your gear in a backpack designed for a college campus. Now you look like a student—everyone knows they only have one thing: debt.

Going gray doesn’t just mean your outer appearance. You can go gray in a bad neighborhood by driving a car no one would want to steal—okay, you don’t have to go buy a Pinto or anything, but don’t roll around in a Bentley, right? Car choice works in everyday life though—imagine there are two cars parked next to each other, a 1996 Ford Escort and a 2016 Chevy Suburban. A thief bound and determined to steal something will go for which car (whether stealing the car itself or breaking a window to see what’s inside)? What are the chances the ’96 Ford even has a CD player? That little Escort was probably a nice car back in the day—but 20 years later? It’s something a kid might get as a first (hand-me-down) car or something someone just out of college might be able to afford. In short, it’s a car, it’ll get you from point A to B, but it ain’t nothing to write home about. It doesn’t attract attention like the glitzy shiny new latest model sparkling in the sunlight with a fresh coat of wax. Which means the criminals will probably walk right past it too—hey, everybody has to have standards, right?

OPSEC

You can apply this idea to all aspects of your life if you sit and think, what will draw attention to me if I do X? Come up with an appropriate answer (launching a mortar at the guy who looks like he might try and rob the gas station you’re at is not an appropriate response). Then do the opposite, whether its buying clothes, cars, food, even the stores you shop at or the places you visit.

This concept also extends into Opsec (a term that means Operational Security). You’re a prepper—you have a decent amount of food stored away for emergencies in your house. You have a pretty impressive amount of camping equipment (you do have gear, right?) and hunting gear. You may have a decent firearms collection. You know what all that stuff is?

Loot.

On the best of days, a burglar that randomly breaks into your house would find a treasure trove of stuff. Maybe not jewels, but you’re likely to have a lot of stuff he might want. On the worst of days, when the world around you descends into a world without the rule of law (WROL)—even if only temporary (like the aftermath of a big hurricane, where the police might not be able to get to you for a few days…you don’t have to think ‘end of the world’ every time) all that stuff in your house will be worth its weight in gold.

The UK Fuel Protests of 2000 proved that society is only 9 meals away from collapse (as we know it). Read up on this thing folks—it took a tiny number of people (relative to the general population) to blockade the refineries in England and shut down gas stations.

What am I talking about you ask? Well, those trucks (lorries) that delivered food to grocery stores required gas (petrol). When the gas stations couldn’t get deliveries, they closed. When the trucks that delivered the food to the grocery stores couldn’t get gas, they stopped driving. When the grocery stores stopped receiving food, they began rationing what they had left—after only 48 hours (that’s 6 meals).

Back home in the USA we saw how people panic just two weeks ago during Snowmageddon ’16. And that was just a snowstorm that everyone knew would come to an end in 48 hours or so—yet they still ransacked stores and bought enough milk in NYC to make the cows in Wisconsin nervous. Imagine what went through the minds of people during that fuel protest 16 years ago—there was no end in sight, the news grew bleaker every day. By luck or planning, the protest only lasted a few days, but no one in the general public could know that’s how long it would last—hence the panic buying of food and water that led to stores rationing things…like food and water.

Loose lips sink ships.

When that happens (and it will, the question is for how long—like a few days for a hurricane or snow storm or a few weeks for a terror attack) again, if you’ve been running your mouth to your neighbor or not being smart and allowed the entire neighborhood to see you transfer 10 cases of bottled water from your car in the driveway to your basement…people will quickly put 2 and 2 together and realize, hey, you’ve got a bunch of stuff I want!

Best case scenario, your neighbor shows up—there’s Billy again—asking for a little water. Or food. Or power (you do have a generator, right?). What if he then says something to a friend or neighbor. Now word spreads and you’ve got half the neighborhood at your doorstep. I’m sure we’d all like to help as many people as possible, but things will quickly come to a point where you have to weigh the safety and survival of your own family over those of people outside your family.

Which is exactly what everyone else will do when they have nothing and they realize you have everything they need.

Easy way to avoid unpleasantness in times of emergency? When you’re preparing, if you have a garage, pull your vehicle into it and shut the door when you unload your purchase of 20 cases of water and MREs. To the rest of the world, you just came home. Leave that garage door up (or worse, park in the driveway) and you announce to the world you have stuff that will be available to steal, beg, or borrow when the shit starts flying toward the fan. Knowledge like that can put your loved ones in danger.

So keep your prepping to yourself. Think of it like you’re packing to go on vacation. Security experts warn us when we’re packing the old SUV to head to the airport, to do so in our garage with the door down, so we don’t announce to the whole flippin’ world we’re loading suitcases and preparing to leave our house for an extended amount of time. Burglars case neighborhoods, folks. They keep track of when people leave for work and when they come home. They’re not stupid—in this day and age when there are so many people who own firearms, the smart criminal avoids the threat and breaks in when no one’s home—not when the homeowner and his shotgun might be waiting for him.

This could spiral into a whole ’nother post about security but I think you get the drift. Going Gray is not about losing trust or faith in your fellow man, it’s not about becoming paranoid that everyone is out to get your stuff. It’s about another method of preparing. Just train yourself to blend in, to the “silent” in the silent majority. Don’t stand out, don’t draw attention to yourself and when something happens, you’ll be able to escape to safety that much easier.

Because at the end of the day, what’s the use of being prepared if you stand there like a deer in headlights when the zombie horde* turns the corner and starts down the street toward you? If you’re like Billy, you’ll stand there in your fancy clothes, next to your fancy car and stare at your phone (or you’ll use the phone to take pictures). If you’re a gray man (or woman) you’ll quietly turn and slip away in your conservative, if utilitarian, clothes or get into your nondescript vehicle and leave the scene ASAP. Even if you decided to stay, the attention will be on Billy.

Going gray really a simple concept that you can take to whatever extremes you want. You can practice once a month or once a year or every day to the point that it’s second nature. When that happens, you can add yet another layer of preparedness to your skill set. If you go gray every day, when the zombie apocalypse strikes, you’ll simply disappear without thinking about it, which may provide you with valuable time to leave the danger area, reach loved ones, make it home or to supplies, etc.

And yes, that zombie link is the real Centers For Disease Control website. Our government spent your tax dollars on a website about surviving a zombie attack. No, I’m not mad—it’s kind of funny really—the point is they want you to think. Replace “zombie apocalypse” with “bio-weapon terror attack” and read the article again.

*–insert whatever you want here: social justice warriors, peace protesters, any protesters at all, police, National Guard, flood waters, forest fire, tornado, etc.

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