It's been almost 6 years since an incident occurred that would alter my life. I've told this story countless times to people, so much so that it's become folklore within my own head. I've never put the story down in words but thought that the time has come to write the story that ultimately shaped my life to what it is now. You never wish harm on the people you care about but having a near death experience can provide the ultimate enlightenment to ones being. The experience teaches you, however cliched it may be, that our time on earth is fragile. People often take it for granted but once you find yourself moments away from death you never want to waste another second of your life.
In December of 1999, I drove across the country in blinding snow, through windswept prairies and icy mountain roads, reaching my destination in the rain soaked metropolis of Vancouver. I decided a few months earlier that at age twenty five, I needed to retire. I had spent time working in the financial sector and found it incredibly unfulfilled. I decided to venture out west, take some time to collect my thoughts, figure out my future and attempt to write a novel. I was in need of a job and the Money Mart in the plaza below my apartment just happened to be hiring. The hours were flexible and I couldn't beat the proximity to my abode. After a month of training and shadowing, I was able to begin opening and closing the store on my own.
It was a February morning in Vancouver, raining as per usual. I threw on the same clothes I had worn the night before and stumbled downstairs for my second day of flying solo at Money Mart. Store procedure was to call another location prior to entering the store and remaining on the phone with them till you were safely inside and secure. I was making small talk with the girl at another location all the while describing my actions "I'm opening the front door". As I entered into the foyer of the store, I lost the connection. I opened the steel re-enforced door and entered into the secure back area where I disabled the alarm. I went over to the land line and called the girl to let her know that all was fine and I would call her in a half hour when I was ready to open the store. As soon as I said good-bye, the bathroom door flung open and two men stormed out wearing panty hose on their head and brandishing a large silver revolver. They were screaming at me and one of them came over, knocked the phone receiver out of my hand and in the process breaking my watch. AS I watched my watch fall to the floor I thought for a moment that I could take these guys. Sure, I've never really been in a fight before nor did I really know what I was doing. Before that insane thought was fully processed, I was shoved to the ground. One of the assailants grabbed a garbage bag that was had been in use all week, emptied half the contents and then proceeded to place the bag over my head. If it wasn't humiliating enough having a garbage bag filled with coffee grinds and banana peels covering my face and blocking my view, they decided to hog tie me with duct tape.
As adrenaline and fear rushed through me, I was taken aback when they removed my belt. Was this a robbery or a chance to get a feel of Newman? Thankfully (I guess), they used the belt to reinforce their hog tie. So, there I lie, hog tied with my own belt, my face covered in a dirty garbage bag, thinking that my life was about to end. They had demanded to know the combination for the safe. I was more then willing to give it them. What they didn't know was that inside the main safe was a smaller time lock safe that housed the cash. The compartments of the main safe housed only foreign currency, bus tickets and money order forms. Once they realized that there was another safe to go through, they became angry. One of the men came over, pulled me up by my hair through the bag and stuck the gun in the back of my head, execution style "This safe better fucking open or you're dead" he screamed at me. My fate was sealed, opening of the time lock safe involved doing three things at once and I had only managed to successfully open it once during my training after about a hundred attempts. Not only that, but being time lock, it would take 15 minutes for the safe to open. I attempted to explain the procedure to them, even offered my assistance in opening it myself. After some arguing they set the timer to the safe thinking that within fifteen minutes they would be able to open it themselves. I knew they wouldn't be able to open it and hence, I had 15 minutes to live.
A thousand and one thoughts went through my head as I had a gun pointed towards my brain. Everything from childhood to the wish that if these guys were to kill me that they would at least make it a clean blow so my loved ones would be able to see my face one more time. After what seemed to be an eternity, I was pushed back to the ground as the gun holder went over to his accomplice to wait for the safe to open. The beeper went off indicating the time lock safe was ready to be opened, I winced for a moment, expecting to be shot. After a few moments, I realized that I may be alone. The phone began to ring, it had to have been the other store wondering why I hadn't called. I sat there, hog tied with vision obscured by the garbage bag not knowing if it was safe. I chewed through the coffee grinds and banana peels and eventually through the garbage bag, I was able to peer out into the empty room. Realizing that the gunmen had left I began to wrestle myself free from my confines. With one arm loose and the garbage bag mostly chewed off, I crawled towards the phone and called 911, the line was busy. The phone rang a second later, it was the dispatcher, he told me to go out front and let the cops in who would be there within minutes. I was wary at first, paranoid that this may have been the assailants coming back for more. I got myself together emotionally and managed to crawl out of the backroom and into the foyer where I greeted the cops. Unfortunately, I was evidence and had to remain partially shackled for the better part of the day. I was safe.
I took a settlement from Money Mart rather then ever working there again. I thought about legal action but the process would've been exhausting with the possible reward not big enough to cover the legal costs. The settlement provided me the opportunity to do some things that still haunt me today, I viewed this time as healing or therapeutic. However, that time was an attempt at conquering fear. The actual robbery was my therapy, a way of shifting my entire existence onto the right path.
There's no real epilogue to this story, it is what it is. Just something I wanted to put onto a visual canvas rather then having it engraved in my mind.