"Another point he made is he picks out a lot of CCW people by their attention to their surroundings and having one hand free at all times. He said paying attention will, many times 'cue' him to that person, and he goes down his mental checklist, then goes back to scanning for the perps. He said the perps tend to be much more furtive, and once he sees one, he starts looking for others (as most gangbangers tend to run in groups of at least three or more)... "
I am hyper aware of my surroundings when I'm out and about, and I didn't get that way because I get a kick out of it. I learned to instinctively, and this is a total recall of a non-incident that I feel would have gone differently had I not been paying attention to my personal space that led me to be this way:
It was approximately five or six years ago, because I recall only being out with my wife -- no kids. I was armed to the teeth, as per the usual, and my wife and I had stopped at a McDonald's for some grease induced sickness before heading out to who knows where. This particular McDonald's is the oldest one in town; really, Adam and Eve used to get McFish sandwiches and apple pies from this place, it's that old, and the local vagrants that live in the nearby woods come out to panhandle in this area now as it's in the center of town.
I'm paranoid of McDonald's anyways because when I was in High School I worked at a little McDonalds for about two months, and my old manager was shot in the back by two scumbags who held up another McDonalds across town the same week I quit. She was in the process of emptying the cash drawers when they shot her, and fortunately she survived.
Anyhow, we're waiting for the food to cook as we have already paid, and there's only about half a dozen people in the restaurant at the moment, when this thuggish looking teenager comes in the door on the East side of the building. He doesn't look at the menu or even enter the store at all; he walks just inside the door and steps one step to the side and with a poker face watches the two or three people ordering at the register for a couple of minutes. I noticed him immediately and didn't like the look of him, and I thought I had seen him with two other teens walking around outside when we first got there. Well, as soon as I thought it one of the other teens walks in from the West door, a female, and she quickly makes her way to the restrooms. A minute or two later the third teen -- also thuggish looking -- comes in the West door and steps off to the side like the first kid and is watching the people in line.
The alarm bells are so loud in my head I wondered if anyone else could hear them. Both teens stood there like statues at the doorway for about three minutes, the whole time closely watching the people at the registers, and I was trying my hardest to burn holes through their skulls with lazer beams from my eyes. I had been sitting down when they first came in but then stood up, and they both noticed that I was gazing right at them the whole time, back and forth like a dog watching a tennis match. I didn't stop looking at them until they remembered that playstation tourney at their friend's house that they were late to, and they turned right around and went out the doors they had came in from, almost at the exact same moment. About thirty seconds later the chickeedee finished whatever she was doing in the bathroom (loading her frickin' Uzi, I'm convinced), and joined her buddies and left. My firm belief is that they were going to rob the place, and noticed that I wasn't one of the grass eaters like in all the other places they had robbed.
I can't say whether I would have been able to save the day or not, but the very second one of those kids pulled a weapon it would have been the Matrix lobby scene all over again. Since then I make it a point to watch what's going on whenever I'm outside of my house. LEOs like in Old NFO's post are perceptive because they have to be, but there's no reason at all why anyone else can't pay attention. That isn't an excuse to be a vigilante, but it does mean that you should know what's happening in the public space where you're at.