The year was 1977. The place, a small branch of The First Virginia Bank in a tiny strip shopping center. The teller on your far left, moi.
It was a Friday. A Payday Friday actually. Long lines of people trying to deposit checks, get spending money, or otherwise attend to their personal finances. Three tellers behind the counter trying to get everyone from the branch to their next destination. Mo (short for Maurice), some dude whose name eludes me after these 40 some years, and me. And then we had a fourth behind the lines, only he didn’t exactly work there.
I caught a glimpse of movement out of the corner of my eye, like someone had jumped over the counter. Didn’t think much of it, we were so slammed with customers. But as I was doing whatever I was doing for the person in front of me, I heard someone yell “Everybody down, this is a robbery!”. WTF? I actually didn’t see him at first because he was behind the crowd. Then, as everyone heeded his command, I saw him. Holding a bazooka. OK, maybe it was a revolver, but it looked more menacing to this teenager. And it was only then that I noticed that there was another dude RIGHT FUCKING BESIDE ME, also holding weaponry.
Now, lest you think this was to be a normal robbery, it was not. For our villains didn’t really think out every detail. For starters, there was now this … pause. No one moved or said anything. So while I was waiting for instructions, I put my hands up in the air. Seemed to be the right thing to do under the circumstances. Well Bad Guy #1 (who was their spokesperson) yelled “Yea! Everyone get their hands up!”. So the unnamed teller did so. I was already in position. But Mo? He was vapor locked. Just staring, unable to process anything. Bad Guy #1 repeated himself, telling Mo to get his effing hands up. Again, Mo was comatose. So naturally, to potentially avoid being shot by mistake, I leaned over and raised Mo’s hands for him. Fortunately, he was like a doll and his arms stayed vertical.
OK, the robbery proper was happening now. Bad Guy #2 was moving down the stations, removing money from the tills. After a bit, he was wrapping up at the last station, right next to the only door out of the teller area. Three employees, all reaching for the ceiling. One dude scooping up cash. And a watchman in the lobby, keeping everyone covered. Well, Bad Guy #1 in the lobby apparently felt like he needed to do something, so he shouted for all the tellers to walk out, hands up, and lie down on the floor with everyone else. Well, I needed no repeat, so I spun Mo 90 degrees to his left and started marching out.
Well, Bad Guy #2 apparently was really focused on his work, because our movement startled him. Of the command to exit, he didn’t hear. So naturally he put his gun in my face and screamed “Go ahead Mother Fucker, grab me!”. This got the attention of Bad Guy #1, who also trained his bazooka on me. And lo and behold, Bad Guy #3 (who I didn’t even know was there!) was now also playing firing squad by aiming at yours truly. Well, this was a pickle. So in my most whiny, please don’t kill me voice, I told BG#2 that I was just doing what I was told. I think my words were “**sob**sniff** but but but, he said to walk out! I’m just **soooob** doing what I’m told!”. So, long story short, all three BGs finally got in sync, I marched Mo out and laid him down on the tiles, and assumed my position.
Well, the robbery was just about over at this point. As they were about to walk out the door, the spokes-robber told everyone to stay on the ground for 15 minutes. They were coming back to check and if anyone was up, they would be shot! OK, didn’t need to tell me twice. So out they went, and within seconds our Manager was on her feet, heading for the button under her desk. An action which horrified me. I yelled “Don’t! They’re coming back and will shoot us all!”. Well, Mrs. Busby gave me a look that only can be given to an idiotic 16 year old, and pushed the button anyway. I knew the end was near, so I just crawled deeper under the floor.
Obviously, it was the police that came through the door next, not the robbers checking to see if we were obedient. And one would think that this would be the end of the tale. But no, one more tidbit to share. We had a 7-11 next door. While the cops were interviewing us, someone offered to go get us coffee. So naturally I gulped down a few large ones. I also smoked back then, so I was lighting one off another, probably going through a pack in the next hour. Even wonder what a nicotine and caffeine overdose, coupled with an adrenaline wash, does to ones intestines? No? Well, perhaps that’s best left to the imagination.