"When faced with a problem you do not understand,
do any part of it you do understand; then look at it again."
~(Robert A. Heinlein - "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress")

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Friday, April 01, 2011

Well, THAT was interesting...

On Wednesday, 30 Mar 2011, about 09:35 AM, my soul-killing part-time job as a grocery cashier was enlivened by an armed robbery at the Wells Fargo branch within the store, about 40 feet away from me.

I heard a commotion and shouting behind me, turned to look, and saw a tall guy in a ski-mask waving what appeared to be an AK-47 clone, shouting at everyone to get their hands up while his two buddies went about collecting from the bank.

He was the only one that appeared armed and what I did was to try not to get his attention in any way while trying to note and memorize what details I could.

I suspect that some of those details weren't all that consistent, because much later on, I seemed to remember things I had denied seeing when questioned by a Houston Robbery Division detective ("Did you recall seeing any caps on anyone?" I didn't at that time. Later I thought they did have caps, but I distrust that memory; sometimes your mind fills in things that you thought you should have seen.)

Fortunately nobody (including the gunman) did anything stupid and it was over in just a few moments.

In the aftermath, they set up counseling for those who were too affected by this. I got some extra hours filling in for one of the cashiers who just had to leave.

It didn't bother me all that much. Not being macho at all; it was just the fact that the weapon was never pointed at me (and I tried my level best not to invite that attention).

I have had that experience, a long time ago.

In 1977 1975, when my car was laid up for a bit, I was walking home late one night when a car pulled up alongside me. I thought it was someone asking for directions until I saw a guy in the back seat pointing an old war-surplus rifle at me while another guy in the front passenger seat just said "Hand it over".

And, that was all there was to it; they took the wallet (with the magnificent sum of $20.00 in it) and left.

BUT, this was 1977 1975!.

In Texas, at that time, there was a moratorium on executions and standard operating procedure in a robbery was to shoot the victim (because, "What more were they going to do to you?").

You don't get over that very quickly (I can still see that old green Pontiac with the crescent-shaped tail-lights, and the guy in back with what appeared to be a Mauser rifle), and I truly feel for the bank personnel involved.

Nobody was hurt, at least physically, but some of them are going to be scarred inside for a very long time.

Correction - 01 Oct 2011 - When I first wrote about the long-ago incident, I thought it had happened in 1977.  But I've had several periods when I had to go without a car for a while.  The time span of the Texas moratorium on executions (which was in force at the time of that robbery) makes it much more likely to have occurred in mid-1975, during the time of the blown-engine episode I mentioned in $446.99.


Paul Wynn said...

Paul you should have made a move and be a hero! Of course I'm sure you're store policy is the same as mines, no matter if you're the hero and saving thousands of dollars, you will be fired if any heroic attempt was made. Glad to hear you're doing just fine after that Paul.

Paul_In_Houston said...

"Paul you should have made a move and be a hero!"

Zoe, in "Serenity"...
"You know what the definition of 'hero' is? -- Someone who gets other people killed."

I assume that you are joking (at least, I hope to God you are), but I'm going to get very serious here.

I am licensed to carry, and have spent quite bit of time on the range and consider myself to be a fairly decent shot with a pistol.

But, I did not have it on me (store policy forbids it, of course) and even if I had, it never would have appeared unless the gunman started shooting or it became very obvious that he was about to.

Taking a pistol and initiating something against someone with a rifle is not a great idea. If you do, it damned well better be effective.

Head shot seems tempting, but that's a small target, frequently moving.

Center of mass? Better chance of hitting, but suppose he's wearing a vest?

And, in either case, a failed attempt is likely to be responded to, with unfortunate results.

If it truly looked like he was going to to a repeat of the Luby's cafeteria massacre, then Hell YES!!! -- you'd want an alternative to just waiting to be killed.

But this guy appeared to be totally in control, and used to being so.

All of that above is just an intellectual exercise.

I have never been in real combat.

At 40 feet, with a pistol, I can put my shots into a group I can cover with my hand, when the target is paper!

When it's a real person, intent on killing you, adrenalin kicks in, turning muscle control into quivering jelly, and it becomes amazingly easy to completely miss a man-size target even at closer range than the forty feet I had mentioned (and, Oh by the way, those bullets you launch are going to go somewhere, quite possibly into customers).

I am totally in favor of having the option to be able to defend myself (and others), but the exercise of that option depends upon the situation and circumstances.

In this particular case, neither were were appropriate for exercising that option.

Could I have been able to act under the right circumstances?

Having never actually been there, haven't a clue.

Paul_In_Houston said...

A somewhat belated PS...

I've corresponded with Mr. Wynn before (he has his own blog, http://mostlygrocery.com/ - all about the wonders and joys of being a grocery clerk :-), and I know for a certainty that he was joking, and probably also venting a bit about policies that deny employees the means to protect themselves.

My comment was in no way a put-down of him, but was meant more as a "don't try this at home" warning to any would be 'heroes'; Zoe's piece of dialogue above just happening to be dead on.