“Do you work alone?”
How I almost got mugged at a Christian bookstore
This is a story I told in August 2016 at a local storytelling event called Arc Stories. You can listen to the story below, or read it. The audio version is arguably much more entertaining. On with the show!
It’s a Saturday night in 1999. I’m 16 years old. Working my first job at Family Christian Stores selling Bibles, gospel music and whatever Christian knockoff of Limp Bizkit existed then. I was basically Jack Black in High Fidelity, but for contemporary Christian music.
Now, if I’m being humble, our store was one of the biggest in the South. Kind of a big deal. People came from…other cities to our store. But while we were one of the biggest stores, we weren’t exactly in the safest part of town.
Hearing gun shots wasn’t totally out of the norm. The store had been broken in to a few times and more recently we’d had someone throw a brick through the front window and steal a dozen Jesus statues…as one does.
This particular shift started out relatively normal. It’s late afternoon, I’m closing the store that night with my co-worker Lance. Our boss, Robert is on his way out the door for the day and casually says, “Hey guys, uh, just so you know, last night the Piccadilly next door got robbed at gunpoint. They didn’t catch the guy, but I wouldn’t worry about it, you guys should be fine. Call me if you need anything!”
So I’m cool with this. I was pretty intimidating. I mean what’s more intimidating that a 16-year old kid with a butt-cut wearing a short sleeve button up denim dress shirt…untucked because I’m a rebel…working in a Christian bookstore on a Saturday night. Nothing.
Also, this bookstore is basically Fort Knox: we’ve got one of those theft-detection things by the door (broken) as well as a panic button under the counter (also broken).
So the evening progresses pretty uneventfully. There was the little old lady, who was a regular, who came in presumably just to tell me to “turn off that devil music”, but other than that, not many people come in to the store on a Saturday night.
I’m stuck behind the cash registers by myself, while Lance is in the back of our, as you recall, large store, when this guy walks in. He’s doing this look-around thing, with this weird limp. The looking around thing is really throwing me off…I just couldn’t figure out what he’s looking at. He’s literally looking at all the things. So he walks up to me in this kinda hushed voice, comes in close and says to me, “Hey man…do you work alone?”
Do I…what? I make clear with facial expressions that I do not have the slightest clue what he just said to me. “Do I work a what?”
He gets a little bit more serious with his facial expression, scrunching his face in as though he couldn’t have said it more clearly, and repeats himself. “Do you work alone?”
I go straight bug eyed. Deer in headlights. I heard very clearly what he just asked me. He just asked me if I worked alone.
And I realize in that instant that my next move was a matter of life and death. Clearly I do not work alone, but what am I supposed to do? Lance is in the back alphabetizing Stephen Curtis Chapman albums and I’m up here about to die. If I tell him I work alone, then I’m dead. But if I tell him Lance is in the back, then I AND Lance die.
So, I tell him, “NOPE! LANCE IS IN THE BACK! I DO NOT WORK ALONE!”
We stood there for about 30 seconds, in silence, not moving, just staring deeply in to each other eyes. Me with the fear of God and him…thoroughly confused.
It’s at this point that he repeats himself and clarifies what he had been asking me all along: “Naw man! Do you wear cologne? I gotta trunk full of cologne outside and I just want to know if you would like buy some cologne.”
Oooooooooooooh. Hahahahah wheewwwww. WHEW! No man, I do not wear cologne.