Tuesday, July 19, 2011

the gun - the alarm - the cops - the retired marine

The story I retell most about my days at the liquor store has nothing to do with partying. For effect, in the last post, I made it seem like I was ‘wasted’ all the time at the store. In truth that kind of fun mostly happened after work. It was really a job with lots of free time. My ADHD and OCD had me busy with different hobbies or watching the 9” B&W TV most of the time. Too much cleaning would have ruined the patina of character the place had.

Under the cash register was a gray metal box with a handle about the size of a portable typewriter. (If you were born after 1975 picture 1 foot by 1 foot and 6 inches high). This was our silent alarm. It also had an antenna that was less than a foot long and on it’s side was a kind of dead man switch. A little piece of wire on a spring was held in place by a piece of clear plastic about the size of a dime. Tied to the piece of plastic was a thread that was tied to the next display case over. The way it was supposed to work was that if you got robbed you could nervously drop anything between the cases and the alarm would trip. 
One quiet afternoon after I had been there about 3 years or so I was watching the troop of kids that came through for candy on their way from school to home. If I looked way for a minute candy would go missing. This day, in the midst of all these kids, an exasperated policeman came to the counter.  “Are you being robbed?” “Why no officer, why do you ask?”. It seems I thoughtlessly tripped the alarm while dusting the display case or something. When the police started getting a message on the radio that we were being robbed they had no idea what was going on. As it turned out the silent alarm was lent to the store after a robbery years before. It had been so long since that system had been used that no one on duty that day at the police headquarters knew what to make of the message coming over their radio. All of that kind of thing is managed by private companies now. That way false alarms are filtered out so as to not bother the police unnecessarily. 
They took away our alarm and the false sense of security security such things usually provide. Except in our case the false sense of security security was even more false. 
We weren’t totally defenseless there was a pistol under the counter too. Not a big one. The squarinsh kind with the bullets in a clip in the handle. I’m not a fan of guns. I had shot them before as a kid. My uncle was the president of a trap shooting club and range. Trap is done with shot guns but there were pistols used on the range too. The thing is that, statistically in the U.S. the majority of gun shot wounds are inflicted by a friend or family member. I am also very much a pacifist. Except for this one time.
It was Christmas day and the store owners kept the place open. We were one of the only places open on Christmas so it was busy and many people wanted things we had no reason to stock. One time they did get a case of canned cranberry. I think it took 3 years to sell all the cans. At around 5 it got real slow. By 7 the customers were just dribbling in. 
A guy came in who was obviously on PCP. If you have had to deal with these people you know any exchange is difficult. The usual tactic with drunk or stoned people is to remain as serious as possible without showing hot or cold emotions. Either will give an excuse for them to respond in kind. Also by acting as if they are sober too they are quietly pressured to conform and pretend to be sober. It works most of the time. This guy was having none of it and could only see what was on his addled mind. He had been in once earlier and I had asked him to leave. This time I just wanted to sell him whatever and for him to leave. He was really pissing me off. I had two 5ths of Cuervo Gold on the counter and when I turned to get another he grabbed the bottles and was trotting for the door. 
I grabbed the gun and was going to shoot over his head. The place had high ceilings. It would have been fine; but the gun jammed. Still pissed I called the cops. After 45 minutes and no customers I closed the store and wanted to go home. I continued to wait for the police. Finally they called me back and asked if it was okay if they came in to see me the next day. Fine.
After I got to work the next afternoon an officer came in to take my report. It seems they were busy the night before with a shooting at the low rent apartment complex up the street. From my description the officer told me it was likely that my thief was also the dead guy and that he wouldn’t be back to bother me. I had to assume that someone else reacted similarly to his attitude. In that case it wasn’t a warning shot and the gun didn’t jam.
That night I was making the most of the event by going on and on about what had happened to anyone who would listen. A man rode up on a motorcycle he and his lady friend came in to store. He was not real tall but in good shape and had a calm clear eyed gaze that made me trust him. I was talking about how the gun wouldn’t fire and handed it to him. (I know, not smart) In about half a second he had the thing in pieces on the counter. “Here’s your trouble” It seems guns are little precision machines you have to clean and lubricate from time to time. It belonged to the store, so if I did ever think about it, I assumed the owner did all that. The man who knew so much about guns was a retired Marine captain. 
There were many strange happening at the liquor store during my time there. If I can remember more details I’ll make them into more stories.  

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