Monday, July 13, 2009

The ultimate faux pas

Long, long ago, in another life, I was a cashier. It was a terrible job. Mind numbing and repetitive and dull. It was made even worse by the fact that the store I worked in was located in Cracky McCracktown. The customers were an interesting mix of drunks, crackheads, lowlifes and 98 year old women who paid paid for everything with pennies and tried to use 43 year old coupons. It was a bad job. (Here's a tip. When you go to the grocery store make an effort to treat your cashier like a human being. You will probably be the first non-asshole to cross her path all day.)

One day when I was at work a couple came running into the store. "He's got a knife! He's after us!" the woman shouted.

"Yeah" the man added helpfully. "He's got a knife and he's coming in here!"

The other cashiers and I looked at each other, unsure what to do. We didn't see anyone coming with a knife. None of the other customers seemed to be reacting. Slowly the other cashiers and I returned to what we had been doing. If that seems like an odd reaction I should tell you that the man who had ran in shouting had gone to the pharmacy and the woman had grabbed a cart and started shopping.

A couple of minutes passed and I happened to glance towards the front door just as a large man holding a large knife walked in.

Now I don't want to get all "You think that's a knife? This is a knife!" on you but this was a knife. It was long and sharp and had a wicked curved point at the end.

"Sandy!" I frantically hissed to the cashier next to me. "There's a man with a knife!"

I think I was looking for someone to tell me what to do but Sandy was no help. She turned white and looked back at me helplessly. "What do we do?" she whispered.

Because of the way the store was laid out most of the people there had no idea what was going on. The people at the customer service desk (where the phones were located) couldn't see the man. Most of the customers didn't realize anything unusual was going on. The cashiers were the first to realize what was happening but none of us knew what to do. We all just sort of froze.

The man paced back and forth across the front of the store. It seemed clear that he was looking for the couple that had run into the store just a few minutes earlier. He walked over to the customer service area. Once he got close one of the women working behind the desk saw that he had a knife and made a face that all these years later I still think of as the ultimate WTF face.

The man walked away from the service desk and the people behind immediately picked up the phone to call the police.

By this time the customers were starting to grumble about us cashiers not ringing them up. "Yes, yes, we know there's a knife wielding maniac just feet away from you" their grumbles seemed to say "but we really have got a lot to do today and these Oreos aren't going to ring themselves up."

Even stranger than that was that some of the cashiers actually went back to ringing people up. I think we were all just hoping that if we ignored the man with knife he would just go away. Luck was not with us. The woman who had run in yelling came walking up the aisle with her shopping cart and the man spotted her.

"AHA!" she shouted to no one in particular. "I told you he was after us!" She looked oddly triumphant and it seemed to me that the time for "I told you so" was not when a man with a knife was after you. This didn't occur to her. She continued "He's mad because he says I owe him food stamps but I'm not giving him shit and he's after me with a knife!"

The large man started moving towards the woman, slowly at first but them faster and faster. She abandoned her shopping cart and backed up, still yelling how she didn't own him anything.

Now this is the point where the customers and cashiers should have done something like, perhaps, flee. We didn't. We just stood there. Well, most of us did. I found out later that one stock boy had opened up a back door and was herding customers out the back entrance to get them away from the front where the man with the knife was. The rest of us were utterly useless.

It's worth mentioning that the entire time this was going on there was a 98 year old woman at the front of my line counting out exact change to pay for her groceries. I am not kidding you, I swear that it's true. She never even noticed the commotion around her because she was too busy digging in her purse for pennies.

Things quickly got scarier as the man with the knife really started to chase the woman. She darted between customers and behind cash registers. The man kept coming after her. She stopped six inches in front of me and yelled again that she didn't owe him anything and that he wasn't getting her food stamps. The man started the come closer. The old lady in my line continued to count out change. The cashier next to me grabbed the old lady and yanked her out of the way of the man with the knife. The old lady looked confused but after the man with the knife passed us she went right back to counting change.

I don't even know how long the chase went on. I just kept thinking that any second the police would get there and this would all be over and I could go back to my stupid, crappy job and pretend that a man who looked like Grizzly Adams had never walked into the store carrying the Knife of Maiming and Blood.

Finally the man had woman cornered and her survival instincts kicked in. As the man closed in on her she threw her cigarettes and food stamps at him. As she threw them she screamed "Here they are Dave! That's all I've got! I hope you're happy Dave! This is the ultimate faux pas of friendship!"

The man scooped up the cigarettes and food stamps and walked out of the store ... right as the police pulled up. They hand cuffed him and he didn't resist at all.

All the cashiers had to give statements telling what they had seen. I went first and when I spoke my voice was shaky and quiet. The officer taking my statement had to keep asking me to speak up so that they tape would pick up what I was saying. I described everything I had seen. When I got to the part where they woman screamed "This is the ultimate faux pas of friendship!" my voice cracked.

I burst into giggles.

The officer looked surprised and then asked me to repeat what she had said. I did and then he had to stop the tape because the two of us were laughing for two straight minutes. When I walked out of the room I had tears in my eyes from laughing so hard.

My fight or flight instinct never kicked in that day but I guess I can at least be glad I didn't lose my sense of humor.

Two years ago today I talked about being pregnant as a surrogate.
Three years ago today Joseph thought I should be a nerd.
Four years ago today I couldn't hear anything but then I could but then I had to listen to whining.


susan said...

That is a crazy, crazy story. And hilarious. I'm glad no one was knifed in the process.

Karen said...

Ah, I just love your blog!

Ben said...

I would disagree that the store was in Cracky McCracktown though. I worked in both locations of that store in town and believe me the other one was far, far worse. At this particular one I was only ever threatened with violence a few times.

Ethan, Zach, and Emma's Mom said...

I was a cashier in a Cub Foods during college--WORST.JOB.EVER. Although I never encountered a knife weilding maniac--great story!

Sarah said...

The only good thing about being a cashier is the crazy stories! Yours way beats mine about the guy who kept his money in the foot of his wooden leg.

Stimey said...

Wow, that story is insane. Hilarious!

Beany said...

God, that story is a classic. I'm going to pretend it happened to me.

Jennfactor 10 said...


Anonymous said...

that's awesome

redfox said...

I love this story very much.