To start with, I must mention that I had a bad week this week. I mean, I had a ba-a-a-d week. I’ll hoard the rarer elements of the events of the week for later retelling in a fictionalized version, but let’s just say it was: a Week. That. Sucked.
On the last night of Le Week Terrible, I had to jump in a car and drive seven hours from Los Angeles to a neighboring state. I had to do all the driving, because my husband, who got nada sleep during the previous days, was too tired to drive.
So there I was, bemoaning my suckola week, which was being compounded by a drive-from-hell through cactus country, when we pulled into one of those gas station-food store combo joints at an interstate exit.
I looked at the well-lit but deserted environs and said to my husband, “This looks like the kind of place where a guy with a gun comes in, herds the employees to the back, and shoots them to steal fifty bucks.”
My husband barely rolled his sleepy eyes at me, because he’s used to hearing these types of pronouncements from me. This is because, ever since I started writing murder mysteries, I’ve begun to look on the dire side of life’s probabilities (or maybe that's why I started writing murder mysteries).
When we walked into the store, it was empty except for a grandmotherly looking clerk. I noticed that she was talking very fast into a phone. And she looked upset.
She hung up the phone and said to us, “I just had a grab-and-run.”
A grab-and-run, it turns out, is when a patron simply grabs some merchandise and runs out the door.
I could practically see the woman’s heart beating through her uniform. I stayed with her for a while and we talked. It turned out that this lady had been robbed—sometimes at gunpoint—repeatedly, at various jobs.
“If this keeps up, I’m simply going to tell them I won’t do the nightshift,” she said.
We had a longer discussion about why she kept this eight-dollar-an-hour, highly risky job.
“It pays my bills,” she kept repeating, almost to herself. “But I can’t keep doing it. I can't live through it again.”
As I drove away later, I found myself getting enraged that a grandmother has to risk life and limb to make a lousy eight bucks an hour to keep a roof over her head. And that there is nothing there to protect her except a security camera. And as always, I am blown away by the impact that even a hint of real-life violence brings.
And I’m going to check in on her during the drive back. I'm hoping she'll have found a different job by then.