I don't know what I'm warning you about, exactly, since I haven't written this yet, but consider yourselves warned, anyway.
A temporary employee at my new company asked me the usual lunchtime questions (you know, who are you and what's your life like) and got some unexpected answers. Her reactions and the questions my answers brought her to ask made me do some thinking of my own.
I finally quit my night job in July of 1996. It was a difficult decision to make (ranks right up there with the birds in difficulty level), since I'd been there almost eleven years. I was giving up more than a paycheck; I was vested for retirement, I had friends among the crew, I had friends among the clientele (including the man who finally asked me to sleep with him), and I had what I considered a 'dream' job -- hours I liked (even if the rest of the family didn't), the ability to bring the birds if I needed to (and the dogs, even, a time or two), I almost never saw the managers, and I could spend two or more hours a night getting paid to cross stitch. Not to mention that once I quit I no longer had medical coverage. But, I finally decided that the guns outweighed the benefits and I didn't need to be shown another to come to that conclusion.
So, onward to the beginning...
I joined the hotel team in July of 1985; not a newcomer to the hotel business, but this firm then was a ... family. The corporation didn't feel like a corporation, and the staff invited me to join them at a dinner get-together the day after I was hired and several days before I actually started working there. I'd never before had a job that I enjoyed quite so much -- except the kennel helper I'd been in 1981 or so.
The managers I had then moved out and a new set moved in and I liked these even better. (That they were constantly trying to move me into the night slot notwithstanding.) At that time I was working the 3-11 shift.
In May of '88 I was robbed the first time. It was just after 10 pm and the security guard was not yet there. Funny how the image is now overlaid by the more recent robbery; remembering details is hard to do. My guard then was... we'll call him Michael. Personable; just doing security until something better came along. I can't remember the 'bad guy' at all. All I see in my mind's eye is the one I faced in a courtroom more recently. Ah, well. Maybe this is a good thing.
The bad guy hit us again a day short of two weeks later -- I was then on nights (when the doors are locked) so he got different clerks. Got more money, too. The managers were fired over it (negligence with company funds) and we got a new set of managers which I liked. They eventually got fired (can't recall why) and I got another set of managers which I didn't like. (I would make a 'number of managers fired' comment, but, litigation, you know.)
In March of '96 I was robbed the second time. This one was at 3am and my guard was on the second floor. He saw the truck leave, but nothing else. This guard was... we'll call him Roger, sweet guy, girl shy, from the old school even though he's not that old. Reminds me of a big puppy. Have I detailed this robbery before? Seems like I have. Guy with a hat, buzz him in, give him the money, buzz him out, watch the truck go by the front doors, then a blurred image of cops and the videotape and the manager and Robert saying "Are you going to be all right?". A trip to look at the guy they caught and cleaning that black powder off the desk. The manager asking if I could finish my shift out. And anger. Lots and lots and lots of anger. I still have some of it.
The only real difference between the two robberies were the managers I had, and I have to wonder if I'd liked the managers the second time, would I still be there anyway?
My coworker asks me at lunch, "Weren't you scared?"
No, not particularly. Maybe I'm abnormal or something, but the fear didn't hit until the guy was gone. Before the gun, you think maybe something's fishy here (ah! the first robber had a western scarf bandit style over the lower half of his face -- knew immediately I had a whole fish market in the lobby for that one), but maybe he's got a hot date in the car or he's on something. Then after the gun, you think of nothing. Nothing. Blank. Zero. Your entire attention is on the one with the gun's words and obeying them. Listen. Do. Keep your eyes down.
Then he's gone and you shake. The trembling begins slowly as you're trying to dial the phone -- the cops, the manager, the other hotels on the strip. By the time someone else is in the lobby, you're shaking like an earthquake's going on. My memory went fruity on me. I can normally dial a phone number and be able to recite it back to you an hour or so later (it's a curse but the numbers fade after a bit). A gun seems to create a short in the synapses -- with the first robbery I checked someone in immediately after it and the cops wanted to know what room I'd put them in. Hell, I didn't know. I should've. Normally, I would've. For about an hour, maybe two.
That night, you don't sleep well. Noises mean more; things you took for granted as secure no longer are.
For about a week, you're jumpy.
And you have a remarkable appreciation for life. Breathing is enjoyable and waking up each morning a miracle meant to be savored. Trees are greener, grass more lush, and the welcome in your dog's eyes when you come home is the most important thing in the world. (I spent several days with a friend after the first robbery; the second I didn't -- and I think if it had been an in-house crime, I'd want to move. I can't imagine living where a criminal knows you are.)
For awhile, you doubt your life's goals and where you are at this point in time. And you consider quitting.
You make peace with enemies and you put your affairs in order. (Not that they stay that way.)
And you watch television with a new perspective.
Violent crime is a lot like a wheelchair; people are curious, but they won't ever, ever ask.
Copyright 2013 Michelle Hakala