Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A few holes in the security blanket

Note: I wrote this on July 22 and thought it had posted, but it disappeared into limbo until I finally tracked it down. Where has it been? No idea. At any rate, here it is, three days late:

Yesterday morning my son and I were chatting about the dangers of food-service jobs, and then last night he got robbed.

Well, he didn't get robbed: his store got robbed while he was out making a delivery. In fact, it's possible that the miscreant waited until the big tall strong delivery guy left the building before walking in armed with a knife and baseball bat. No one was hurt but there was a great deal of fuss and bother, in the midst of which my son sent a text-message explaining the circumstances and ending with, "I am surprisingly calm."

I am too. Odd, that. Calmness has not generally been my defining trait. I ought to be having hysterics right about now, but I'm not. Why?

When we compared notes about the dangers of food-service jobs, I talked about the hazards I faced as a (not very good) waitress more than 30 years ago: overly flirtatious customers, customers who walked out without paying, the host who would seat big tippers in your section if you'd spend some time in the back room with him (which I never did, because ick!). Sexual harassment was probably the biggest hazard, and most women my age have similar stories: complain to the manager and he'd say, "Well, if you don't like the job, find another one." I didn't so I did and that was the end of that.

No one ever robbed the restaurant where I worked, probably for the same reason that no one ever breaks into my car: one glance tells you that there couldn't possibly be anything inside worth stealing. 

My son faces different types of hazards. In a sit-down restaurant, customers are somewhat constrained because of the presence of others; people ordering pizza delivery in the heart of Appalachia, on the other hand, may be more casual in their behavior. My son's customers are sometimes stoned or wearing pajamas, and some have houses that smell like too many cats while others are roughing it in luxurious motor homes out at the campgrounds. 

I worry about bad road conditions, bad dogs, and bad tippers, but he brushes my worries away. "Most people are pretty nice," he says. He doesn't worry about getting robbed because he doesn't carry enough money to make robbery worthwhile, and the store doesn't keep much cash on hand either.

But the guy who walked in and robbed the place last night didn't know that. The police say the perpetrator sounds like the same guy who has been breaking into businesses all over town this summer, including three break-ins at the local pharmacy. He wears a hoodie and steals money or drugs, always after hours when no one is present. Until last night, when only the female manager was in the building. 

She's fine, by the way. She saw the knife and ran out the back door. My son is fine too. And calm. Remarkably calm, considering.

My son was one of thousands of people who attended the midnight premier of The Dark Knight Rises and didn't get shot, for which I am grateful while also feeling guilty for my gratitude. I'm certainly not grateful that someone else's child got shot; I'm horrified and angry and appalled at the massacre in Aurora, and I am grateful that my son is safe and that we live in a relatively safe area. But I also know that the people of Aurora thought they were safe too and that the feeling of safety is an illusion easily shattered.

And yet I am surprisingly calm. It is the relieved calm of the survivor: something horrible happened and we are still breathing. No need to get hysterical. We'll just keep calm and carry on until the next time some horror reaches through to pierce our sense of safety.  

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