Monday, May 09, 2005

So why aren't I working at the bookstore?

I worked at Murder Ink for three years, first as a clerk then as a manager. I truly loved my job. I loved the customers, I loved the cheap books (employee discounts and advance reader's copies!), I loved the whole thing.

Except the pay. And the bathroom in the basement. But you can live with low pay and strange facilities when you love what you do.

In January 1996, I was going about my routine at the store. We had recently hired a very nice man who was a mystery-lover in his mid-fifties and had a heart condition, so the job was perfect for him (not too much stress). We were working well together, putting together mail-order stuff to go out and chatting. A few customers came in, we sold them books.

One guy came in and he sort of smelled like a shop-lifter. I don't mean he actually smelled, I mean he felt wrong. He was just....wrong. So, I grabbed the feather duster and wandered about dusting the shelves, keeping him in sight. All the other customers in the store paid and left and he went up to my co-worker and said "Open the cash register."

Me (I can only see his back): "I'm sorry, sir, we can't do that"
Shop-lifter: "I have a gun"
Me: "Oh, well, in that case."

I went behind the counter. He had the gun pointed at me. It's an automatic. He's wearing glasses. They're taped with cellophane tape up on the right-hand side. He's black, maybe in his forties.

I opened the register and gave him all the money in the top of the tray. He asked me for the stuff underneath as well, so I gave him that too.

All the time, I'm looking at him. And praying in my head, "C0-worker, please don't have a heart attack. Please don't have a heart-attack."

Shop-lifter leaves. We call the cops. Detective Refridgerator Perry (seriously, he's 6'6" and as wide as I am tall) takes our statements and a description of Shop-lifter. I go with him to look through the books for a match.

Fast forward to the next day. I ask my boss to install a camera and a panic button. He says "No."

Mr. Spock, when I get home that night, asks, "Why are you risking you butt for bupkes, when you could easily learn to program computers and make big money?"

So the next day I tell my boss, "Cameras and a panic button, or I quit."
Boss: "No."
Me: "Okay. It was great working with you."

And that's why I'm a computer programmer.

Epilogue 1: Detective Refridgerator Perry called me to come in and view a line-up.

DRF: "I heard you quit your job."
Me: "Yes"
DRF: "Don't you think that's over-reacting?"
Me: "Probably, if I were built like you and licensed to
carry a gun."
DRF: "Hmmmf."
Me: "Detective Perry, you're a police man. How many
times have you had a gun pointed at you?"
DRF: "Never."
Me: "This was my third."
DRF: "..."

Shop-lifter wasn't in the line-up.

Epilogue 2: So many other employees at the store threatened to quit that the boss finally did get cameras installed.


elswhere said...

What a story. Wow. I've worked in bookstores too but never had a holdup. Somehow it makes sense that you'd have more at a mystery/crime bookstore. Or maybe it was just the location?

Angry Pregnant Lawyer said...

Three times you had a gun pointed at you? Sheesh! I don't consider leaving that type of atmosphere overreacting!

liz said...

It was partly the location, the liquor store next door had great security. But I think it was more like a car parked on a city street with neither the Club nor an alarm.

It was my third hold-up, but the first at that location. I'm the crime magnet for my family.

Phantom Scribbler said...

Omigod, Liz. The worst I ever dealt with at the bookstore (besides the men who would empty ENTIRE SHELVES of audio books into their puffy coats and break for the door) was a guy who followed women around and played with himself. The cops said they couldn't do anything, but the police officer husband of one employee looked up the guy's license plate and discovered he had a bunch of drug-related convictions.

I'm glad you quit, Liz. How can a boss justify taking chances on employee safety??

SuzanH said...

Wow. I can't believe how callous your boss was. And for you to have had to face that type of situation. Too scary.

Glad you're o.k., and I'm really glad you've found a calling. Or at least a less stressful job.

Julie said...

Wow, that's quite a story. I would have quit too. How scary.

Ellen said...

That's horrible! :O You've had a gun pointed at you THREE times?!