Today I stopped at a convenience store — immediately after a robbery.
I’m fine. The clerk is fine. But it was very unsettling. I just wanted a Gatorade, so I parked my car and went to the door. I was in my own world and not paying attention to much, though I noticed I was the only person in the lot. When I got to the door, a guy was unlocking it while clutching a phone to his ear. I figured he was late for his shift or something. He muttered something at me, but I missed what he said.
When I got inside, I saw the empty cash drawer sitting on the counter, and the haunted look in the guy’s eyes. This snapped me out of my self-absorption and I just stared at him. He repeated, “I’ve just been robbed. I have no cash. I’m on the phone calling 911.”
I blinked, realizing that he’d come to unlock the door for me. What an odd thing to do in these circumstances–to think he should be helping a customer right now. And then I realized he was in shock, and not able to process what was happening.
My next thought was fast and instinctual. It said, “You can do nothing here. Get away in case they come back.”
Immediately my brain started to argue, “Well, that’s dumb, there really isn’t anywhere safer than a store that’s just been robbed, is there? I mean, any other store out there is perhaps about to be robbed at any given moment. This one’s already been–”
Another part of my brain kicked in: “Oh my GOD, I’m glad no one was hurt.”
The part that said “You can do nothing here” seemed very sensible, so I said, “I’m incredibly glad that you are okay and not hurt. That’s what matters. Listen–I’ll just go, and let you handle this without me in the way.”
He just kept staring at me. On hold with 911. “You can buy gas if you want,” he said, distantly.
It seemed too complicated to explain that I just wanted some Gatorade. “Okay,” I said, and left. That all took about 10 seconds.
As I drove away, I wondered if I should have given him the $4 I had on me before I left. Just in case he needed to get home somehow. But I didn’t think of that fast enough.
Keep in mind, my instincts were saying “get out of here.” Last time my instincts gave me that message, it turned out I was being followed on a dark street by a man with bad intentions for either my purse or my body. So I always listen to my instincts.
So, dear readers, here is the question: What should I have done in these circumstances? What do you think you would have done? And what would you actually have done, given that you’d have no more time to think about it than I did?