I haven’t written for a while. It’s not because I don’t have anything to say (I do), nor because I have writer’s block, per se (I don’t). It’s because I was trying to write this story chronologically, and while my life has, of course, unfolded chronologically, the interesting stories haven’t necessarily unfolded quite as neatly. And they tend to come to mind unbidden, when triggered by some stimulus or other, not called up neatly, one link after the other, in that chain of events known as my life.

So, rather than trying to force my writing into a chronologically ordered line, and getting nowhere, I am going to just let the stories flow as they might, and get everywhere.

Interesting that I use that term – “triggered” – as it was as I sat in a shooting range today that this particular event came rushing back to me.

Not that I make a habit of frequenting shooting ranges – I don’t. In fact, this is probably the first range I’ve been to since I left the Army, back in 1978.

I was there observing a youth safety class, and the instructor was talking about how you really don’t ever want to find yourself staring down the barrel of a gun, and how it is a very frightening experience.

It is. I know. Because I’ve been there.

As soon as the instructor said that, I was instantly transported back to that evening – in fact, tears sprang to my eyes (just a few though, not enough to spill over).

It was the winter of ’85 or ’86. It was mid-December. I worked part-time as an attendant in a Fotomat booth in Niagara Falls. (Hey, don’t knock it – Fotomat was a great job for a university student, because on quiet nights, if your work was all done, you could sit and do homework.)

I had about an hour to go on my shift before I closed the booth for the night. It was a quiet evening. I was reading, and suddenly there was a tap on the window to my right. A customer had walked up on foot.

I slid the window open and asked “May I help you?”

I’ll never forget what he said, or how he said it.

“How much,” he asked, “Is your ex ex seminy film?”

Even with how he’d pronounced it, I knew he was asking for our SX-70 film.

I looked, and we had none.

“I’m sorry, we’re all out of that,” I responded.

“Well,” he said, “in that case” – and he pointed a gun at my chest – “give me all your money.”

I have always prided myself on keeping a level head in emergencies (and then completely falling apart when they are over). I imagined I was keeping a level head at that point. I knew that I was going to empty the till and hand everything over to him. And I knew that my next step would be to call the police, and they would want a description. So I opened the drawer, and started handing the money over, all the while staring at him as much as I could, trying to memorize what he looked like, what he was wearing, even the size of the handgun he had pointed at me.

I guess I was doing too good a job, because he threatened to shoot me if I didn’t hurry it up.

As soon as he left, I called the police, my manager, and my husband at the time. I did what I thought was a pretty brilliant job of describing the man, what he was wearing and, yes, even the size and style of his gun. I was proud of myself for having the forethought to really think about trying to commit that all to memory.

Of course, they never caught him.

This wasn’t the first, nor even the second, time I’d been threatened with a weapon. Perhaps that’s why I was so determined to ‘do it right’, and kept (what I thought was) a fairly clear head during the actual event.

Would he actually have shot me? I don’t know. Who knows what his mental state was, what he may have been high on, how desperate he was?

After that, they transferred me to another location. That was not the first hold-up at that location, and I doubt it was the last.

But yes, I know, all too well, that looking down the barrel of a gun is very frightening.

4 Responses to “Staring Down the Barrel”

  1. Your post reminds me of the fact that you never know when crime is going to happen and that it is possible for it to happen to me or you. There you were minding your own business when crime walked up to your window. Your peace and tranquility was violated in the blink of an eye and you were face to face with the fear of serious bodily injury or death. I am glad you were able to keep a calm disposition and do what the man asked you. That can be a difficult thing to do when your life is flashing before your eyes.

  2. Dennis Galvan says:

    Your calm handling of this event may very well have saved your life. Making a person holding a gun on you nervous, would not be a good idea. Glad you survived, otherwise we would miss your positive perspective. :-)

    Enjoy your day.

  3. Danny Melton says:

    Hello Ann….Love the name. Was my Sisters. My younger sister Patti worked as a manager of a Convience store way back. Think 12 years ago. Anyway her husband was in the store helping her re-fill the cold area. It was around 7pm when a black younger man entered the store demanding money. Patti was terrified and screamed for her husband. The robber shot him hitting in his left arm shoulder level. He turned his gun on my sister and shot at her just barely missing her head. A customer came in at that time and the robber must of got scared and ran out the door into a waiting car. The customer got the cars license number and within hours he was apprehended. The reason I am writting this is to tell you and your readers that my sister is basically disabled mentally because of this. Anyway Ann this is all.

  4. Pete Laberge says:

    Well, I am glad you are Ok, Anne. And I hope that SKUNK chocked on every dollar.

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