As a young girl putting myself through college, I worked as a Cashier at local Gas Station. I worked the afternoon shift Monday to Friday, from 4 pm to 12 pm. It was perfect, I organized my classes around my work schedule and was lucky enough to have a boss that would let me study in my little kiosk if we weren’t too busy.
Each day I arrived for my shift, the change over was the same. Madeline, the older woman that worked the morning shift had made a career out of this job. She was bitter, cranky, and her weathered face rarely cracked a smile. She walked around as if she owned the place; I actually believe she hated everyone, maybe it had something to do with her career choice, I don’t know.
This day was no different from any other. I arrived for my shift fifteen minutes early and chatted with my co-workers outside before heading into the small four by six-foot kiosk I would call home for the next eight hours. The smell of gasoline wafted through the air but was something I had become accustomed to. The boys that worked the gas pumps wore it like the old spice cologne my grandpa over indulged in every day of his life.
Lifting the flip top counter that sat across the back of the kiosk, I stepped in and greeted Madeline, as usual she groaned and quickly pulled her cash box out to close off her shift. The old box safe sat directly behind the cash register for all the world to see, never locked I knelt and pulled out my float and softly placed it on the register.
This particular gas station was busy; it happened to be on the only street directing traffic to the main highway. As my shift started, I quickly met my first customer with a smile. I would have a steady stream of customers until around 6 pm, and then it would die down. After six, there would be a constant flow of friends who would sit with me and have coffee, chat, and smoke. (Yes, I am old enough to have worked at a gas station that allowed smoking inside the building and on the grounds for that matter.)
Being it was winter, the friend traffic was a little slow that evening. The roads were dark, and most people were out finalizing their Christmas shopping. At around 9 pm, I was sitting alone with only the sound of an old grey and wood panelled radio to keep me company, I opened one of my books to study. The rest of the staff had left hours ago, and only having a few hours left in my shift, I knew this would be the perfect opportunity to get in some much-needed reading.
Just as I had gotten a few pages in, the headlights from a car flashed directly in my face. Annoyed that I had to break from my reading, I didn’t turn to greet the man that had come through the door right away. But could feel his presence as I stood up from the rickety stool and made my way to the cash register. When I looked up to see a young, nice looking man, I smiled coyly at first. He didn’t smile back. Instead he reached into his jacket pocket, as all men did, to grab what I assumed was his wallet.
Instead, a shiny metal gun was now pointed directly at my face.
Time slowed, as my body numbed and shock took over. I am not certain, but I believe I let out a gasp as all the air seemed to leave my lungs. I stepped back, as the man said something in relation to, give me the money. I heard him, but fear had frozen me, I didn’t move. His body language changed from calm and calculated to panicked, very quickly. I clearly remember stepping towards the register as he lifted his other arm up and cocked the gun. Pulling back on the top of the nine mill, it made a clicking sound that echoed throughout my head. Annoyed with my lack of speed, he pushed his gun-wielding hand so close to my face; I could almost smell its metal. As my hands shook vigorously, I reached into the till and grabbed the entire cash drawer, pushing it across the counter. I think he took the thing, but this is where things get fuzzy.
As the man ran out the door, I fell to the floor. The few minutes he spent holding that gun to my face had felt like an eternity. Sitting on the ground, I noticed the red alarm button. The one we were supposed to push if anything like this ever happened. I can’t tell you if I pushed it or not, or when I did, but at some point the police did show up, so I must have. A minute after my robber left a friend walked through the door, the sound of the door opening caused an anxiety in me that had my entire body shaking. I don’t remember a word he said; I barely remember the police showing up to take my statement.
What I do remember is going home to an empty apartment and sitting in a dark corner holding a knife, scared shitless. I remember not being able to walk to my car on a dimly lit night out of fear. I remember returning to that job and losing my breath every time a man reached into his jacket pocket to grab his wallet, expecting it to be a gun. I remember feeling helpless and grateful all at the same time because that gun didn’t fire at me. I remember feeling lucky to be alive. But most of all, I remember breathless moments that felt as though death was upon me.
In the five years, I worked at that job, two more times I would be held up. Three times in five years, I had a gun held to my head, one time it was a sawed off shotgun being waved around by a lunatic screaming for me to lay in the corner.
My stance on guns may be different from yours, and I am not here to tell any one they don’t have the right to bear arms. I am a Canadian girl who has felt as though I would die three times in my life. Because a gun was held so close to my face, I could see the reflection of my innocent blue eye’s in its shiny metal. I haven’t been shot or spent anytime dropping to the floor at the sound of a gun being fired. But I do know, the fear of having a gun held to my head, it is one I don’t wish on any body.