The company has rules against riders and drivers carrying guns, but the fast action of one anonymous man with a carry permit stopped a robbery that could have resulted in injury or death for his fare and himself. Reading about the Florida incident on Sunday brings back a painful memory, from way back when I was an armed robbery victim while working for a firm that also didn’t allow firearms, regardless of training or situation.
When I was in college, I worked in a grocery store and, as is the case with most students, night shifts in places open 24 hours a day on the bad side of town were the only option. Shoplifting, fights and robberies weren’t anything out of the norm. Saturday nights—when drunks spill out of bars at closing time like clowns from a circus Volkswagen bug only to stumble into the nearest well-lit place for munchies—were particularly raucous.
Most of our incidents weren’t dangerous, or at least they didn’t feel so when I was young and unbreakable. My boss at the time was understanding, although after a stabbing victim fell into the store at 5:30 a.m., he did insist that blood was cleaned by 7 a.m. It didn’t matter if police have this thing about mops and unphotographed crime scenes—the store needed to be spotless when the morning little-old ladies arrived.
An annual armed robbery or two in a grocery store was not unusual, probably because we handled more cash than anything else and surveillance consisted of a spare cashier taking a break behind the office’s bulletproof mirrored glass. We were trained to politely hand over the money, call the police, lock the doors and inventory registers and safes so we could provide an accurate figure to detectives and insurance carriers. The routine was droned into us, along with the fact that most gun-toting criminals don’t want to shoot.
There are exceptions to that rule, though, and a week after a cashier in the store’s chain was killed even after handing over the money, I was staring down the business end of a loaded revolver. The criminal was so short I thought he was crouching to avoid detection. For a stupid moment, I considered grabbing him by the neck and using him to clean the blood we never reached behind the liquor cooler.
His finger was on the trigger and either the trembling was uncontrollable or the weight was unbearable on his slight frame. One of those spasms was going to plant one in my face, stomach, heart, or crotch—depending on where it was pointing at the time—I theorized. I hurried, grabbed rolls of nickels, dimes, pennies, food stamps, an IOU from little Joey and about the time my hands were full, robotically inquired, “Did you bring a bag or do you want one of ours?” I’m sure I heard my guardian angel shriek.
I lived, and when he got caught his slight stature made me a grocery store laughing stock—I prefer legend, thank you. I probably never had a good chance to present a gun, but if he turned to take a shot during the escape or targeted an innocent customer, there’s nothing funny about leaving someone with the training and extra background checks required to get a carry permit totally defenseless.