I guess it had to happen sometime. For the first time in my life, I was held-up at gunpoint at my job.
No shots were fired, and I'm OK. But I was a little shook up post-facto, and only now can say I'm coming back to normal after being not quite right in the head for the past two days.
7-Eleven on Gandy & MacDill, Sunday morning, July 12th, 1:41 AM. I was at the register finishing up with a customer, when a dark '98 Toyota Avalon drove up to the curb. A short, husky, older man, caucasion, got out dressed in a thick, blue sweatshirt/jacket with the hood pulled up. I remember thinking, "Wow, he's dressed awfully warmly for the middle of summer!" I was preparing to make a joke when he approached the register about the store's very powerful A/C necessitating a jacket. I never got it out.
He faced me and mumbled something that sounded like, "mmm....gun...robbery....money" as he pulled from underneath his jacket a single-barrel sawed-off shotgun. He swung it around, placed it on the edge of the counter (both hands on it), and pointed it directly at me. I remember looking directly into the barrel for what seemed like several seconds and realized he must've said, 'I have a gun, this is a robbery, give me your money,' and that this was a hold-up!
I felt weirdly detached from the scene, it was so unreal to me. I never knew how I'd react to something like this and now I knew how it felt. Just....not real. Like I'm there, but not really there. For some reason, I don't know why, rather than open the register, I offered him some money I had off to the side, forty dollars I hadn't dropped in the safe yet (note--in an earlier version of this article I omitted the amount stolen on advice from the authorities. However, The St. Pete Times has already published their story with the amount included). Apparently, this was enough to satisfy him; he gave me a curt little nod, stuffed the gun back under his sweatshirt, turned and walked out. My partner, Chris Munger (yes, he of Sports Talk), had just come out of the walk-in cooler where he'd been doing stock work. As I reached for the telephone to call 911, I told Chris we'd just been robbed at gunpoint and asked him to please go outside and see if he could get a description of the vehicle (he's good at ID'ing cars, I suck at it). It was he who identified the car as a Toyota Avalon.
The Tampa police, who are regular fixtures at my store were uncharacteristically absent this night, due to a heavy workload (and, I suspect, some understaffing, but this is speculation). Two officers responded within minutes (last year it would've been about twenty cars!). Chris had called the 7-Eleven Hotline (a requirement following a robbery), and my boss and the district manager arrived within about forty minutes. The surveillance video was played back and forth several times and it was only then that I realized the entire robbery took place within about 20 seconds. After the police and my managers established I was alright physically and emotionally, I went back to work, and I was fine with that, believe it or not (there was no coersion, I wanted to stay). The boss stayed until morning and there has been at least one squad car in the lot at all times since.
Everyone has been extremely supportive and I sincerely appreciate the well-wishing friends and customers who've been checking in on me this week.
The surveillance video has hit the local news stations over the past two days. I myself saw it on Channel 8's 6:00pm Crime-Tracker Alert segment Tuesday night. I heard from several customers who saw it on FOX 13 News. Chris Woods (Growing Up Fanboy, Bay News 9 editor) and Julianne Draper (Miami Examiner columnist) both sent me links to the Bay News 9 website story which has a good presentation of the video, complete with some zoom-ins, repeat and slo-mo (and includes where Chris Munger and I walked out to see the car).
Postscript: The robber hit another convenience store late Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, a Sunoco store on MacDill and Azeele. He ditched the blue hoodie for a baseball cap, but kept the shotgun. They got an even clearer video of his face. Although the police initially thought the suspect might be in his mid-40s (judging from the newer video), press reports have stuck with my original assesment of 50--60 years old. (This edition of my Postscript is updated from an earlier version that contained errors.)
BIRTHDAY LIST UPDATE
Apologies to Christian Dumais, aka, "Puff Chrissy" for somehow missing that his birthday was this month. It was Brandon's readers comments post from last week that alerted me to the oversight. I took the previous list from last year's early July PCR where it was missing, but I dug back further into The Archives for verification on the date (July 11th). I restored the birthday into the list (finally) for this year.
Happy Belated 35th Birthday, Puff Chrissy! You shan't go missing again, sir.
OSCAR G. MAYER DIES AT 95
Oscar G. Mayer Jr., grandson of the original meat-processing tycoon of Wisconsin that produced the famous weiner, has died at the age of 95.
His grandfather, Oscar F. Mayer, died in 1955 and his father, Oscar G. Mayer Sr., died in 1965. Mayer retired as chairman of the board in 1977 at age 62 soon after the company recorded its first $1 billion year. The company was later sold to General Foods and is now a business unit of Kraft.
Although Oscar Mayer has been in business since the late 1800's, the Oscar Mayer brand weiner is about a hundred years old.
Richard Trentlage wrote one of the most famous commerical jingles of all time, "Oh I Wish I Were An Oscar Mayer Weiner" in 1962 as part of an ad agency contest. The song has been a part of Americana ever since.
The Wienermobile has toured the United States for over 70 years. The first Wienermobile was created in 1936, and six have since been built.