San Diego Stories by Salvatore Filippone

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March 06, 2003

Dog Day Afternoon?

It took less than thirty seconds. Twenty, forty, sixty…the twenties went from my hand to the marble counter, while the customer watched, meticulously counting along. I concentrated on the counting, going into a zone where I couldn’t hear anything. Nothing mattered…eighty, one hundred…not the bank, not the customer, nor the guy with the ski mask who was brandishing a huge shiny gun.

I hadn’t noticed the screams from the women, the guy telling everybody to shut the fuck up and get on the floor. What busted my concentration were Kim’s eyes. She had these gorgeous blue eyes, eyes that changed in that instant. They’d gone sharp and shiny with panic. I just happened to look over in her direction, seeing her face twist, then focusing on her lips mouthing the words, “Oh my God…” My expression probably was one of confusion, until I turned to back to look at my customer. Nobody there, except a guy holding a gun and shouting. My customer had long since dropped to the floor, with the rest of the folks in the lobby. Understanding took the place of confusion, and my heart suddenly felt like it was going to explode out of my chest.

All that hero bullshit that male tellers imagine during teller training goes out the window when the real thing goes down. If the robber does this, then I’ll tackle him. I’ll punch him. Drop kick him. Huh-uh. Not even. During training, they tell you to cooperate, and while the robbery is in progress, also stay calm and make a note of the robber’s features, so we can describe them later. Not me, I couldn’t even look at the dude. I was scared shitless, and didn’t even know it until later, when the shock would finally hit me.

The robber had instructed us to throw the cash up on the counter. I hadn’t heard him say this, but I knew we had to because I saw everybody else doing it. Then, the guy went window to window, sweeping the cash off the counter into a bag and then he went, just as fast as he had come in. The door hadn’t even shut when the bank began moving again.

The doors were locked, yellow tape went up, and the authorities were called. It was amazing. It happened almost as fast as the robbery. Someone could have timed it with a stopwatch. The police arrived within minutes and started questioning witnesses. I couldn’t believe there were folks who remembered minute details. I couldn’t remember what he looked like, because I couldn’t focus on anything in particular, except the gun, which had been shiny. Didn’t hear him, didn’t see him. He might as well have been a ghost. That guy had a quick exit, being that Washington St. runs perpendicular to two freeways. He could have sped off down the hill and disappeared into the traffic. In any case, he probably ended up being caught. Eventually, they do.

I had nightmares afterwards, for a week or so. It was rough, and I just wasn’t interested in the job anymore, so I quit. I figured that $8.25 an hour wasn’t worth the possibility of being hurt by some lunatic. Customers didn’t seem to give a crap. I remember that after the doors were locked, a customer started banging and pulling on them, shouting angrily, “I have a deposit to make!” He hadn’t looked at the large sign in the door, which read “Bank Closed Due to Robbery”. Then the questions came, like, “Did they get my money?”, "Where you scared?". It was frustrating. Some customers however, had been very nice and understanding (thank you, folks).

I ended up getting a job as a bartender, and focusing on my studies. I had just taken my first HTML class at UCSD, and heard that this Internet thing was getting big...

Posted by sfilippone at 09:55 PM