Last Wednesday the doorbell went at about 2:10pm. There was a man at the gate, neatly dressed in red long shorts, a white t-shirt and flip-flops. He told me that he had been sent by the neighbour and politely asked if he could have access to the back garden to trim overgrowing vegetation. Like a fool I took him at his word, and let him through to the back garden, and provided him with an extension cord. I went downstairs to my workshop. Very soon I heard footsteps in the house, and straight away went up to investigate. He was in the sitting room, where the spiral stairs come up, and when he saw me he took out a can of pepper spray and sprayed it in my face. He seemed surprised when I didn’t drop but instead attacked, and fled towards the door. I chased him and punched and kicked him, all the while being sprayed. Eventually he managed to flee. I hit the panic button, which was quite hard to find since by then I couldn’t see so well.
The Mountain Men, our security company, arrived after about 5 minutes. They recognised the guy from the description of him, and then were able to show me photos of him taken by security cameras in Constantia. The driver’s license (issued in in the Kingdom of Lesotho) had been got when he squirmed out of his jacket in a previous scuffle. It was the same man, and I regret to say that I’m pleased to have punched his face with what must have been a very peppery fist.
That evening I realised that he’d pocketed my wallet, which had about R200 and some cards in it. It can hardly have covered the cost of the pepper spray he wasted on me, and he got punched, kicked and probably inhaled quite some of his nasty spray in the confined space too.
The Pepper Spray
I didn’t see whole of the spray-can he used but it was fist-sized, and the part of it that was exposed was red and black, with, as I recall, red lettering and flames. It may have been the type above, or it may have been another brand. It turns out that red and black are the colors of choice for pepper spray packaging, and flames, too, are pretty common. The spray that came out of it consisted of a mist with small orange-red blobs of liquid in it. It smelled of Indian pepper as well as chili. It burned like hell and hurt like hell. But.
But I enjoy hot chili in food so my brain is somewhat used to dealing with the sensation.
But he pissed me off by abusing my hospitality. I remember thinking something along the lines of “What the fuck!!??”
But as I approached him he retreated, so I did not feel threatened by further violence.
But I am trained in karate and though I’m in my sixties, the stuff, if programmed in by repetition, really does work.
But I knew that although it hurt, I was not really being injured.
So here are my thoughts on pepper spray:
Don’t rely on pepper spray. Don’t rely on it to incapacitate an angry man. Don’t rely on it to incapacitate anyone with military or martial training. Don’t rely on it not getting to you in an enclosed or windy space. When the advertising says that the pepper spray “will turn the biggest, meanest, most violent criminal into helpless molten wax at your feet” (quoted from the makers of the pictured product, but they all say pretty much the same thing) don’t necessarily believe it. I am not big or mean, but I do have some capacity for defensive violence. I took the spray for in excess of 10 seconds, while attacking.
Don’t rely on pepper spray
Get some martial arts training instead. With a good teacher, the benefits go way beyond self defense – fitness, attention, alertness, confidence and co-ordination being just some.