The Day I Unwittingly Inspired a Bank Heist

Long ago, in a faraway land, I ran a factory.

One of the associates working in the plant — let’s call him “Mike” — filed an injury report that, if verified and approved, would have entitled him to workman’s compensation.

I knew the employee and liked him. He was funny, friendly, flamboyant, and full of shit.

And true to form, his injury report set off my bullshit sensors. He claimed that he hurt his wrist right before the shift started. It allegedly happened when someone from inside the building opened the door at the exact moment Mike reached for the doorknob. He said his hand was in an awkward position when the door slammed against his wrist.

No surprise, he couldn’t identify the mysterious person who had opened the door from the inside. But since we didn’t have a shred of evidence to refute Mike’s claim, it was his word against, well, against no one. We had to proceed as if he was telling the truth.

Thankfully for the company, Mike didn’t know how to get out of his own way. He eventually provided us all the evidence needed to prove fraud. Specifically, he made the mistake of bragging to fellow workers in the cafeteria that he had “pulled one over on the company and was about to collect a nice payout.”

Well, my first-shift supervisor was within earshot when this conversation transpired, and she reported it to HR.

After witnesses were interviewed and the investigation was complete, HR instructed me to let Mike go. We all agreed to forego legal action, a good deal for everyone involved.

It is worth noting here that Mike was a big guy, much bigger me. So to play it safe, we decided to have three people in the room just in case things got dicey, in which case, my role was to dive at Mike’s leg and bite his ankle while the others subdued him.

I’m only half joking.

Mike’s name is not real, of course, but the other people in the room with me were Lisa and Pete, and yes, that’s their real names. Generic enough, right?

Well, not only did we have to break it to Mike that his fraudulent claim was denied, we also had to let him know that he no longer had a job, a double whammy. In spite of Mike’s undeniable culpability, this was the part of my job that I hated the most, and I genuinely felt for him. This was his livelihood.

Mike did not see any of this coming. He vehemently denied wrongdoing, said he was desperate, out of money, etc. He tried appealing to our humanity by addressing each of us by name, and it bummed me out even more, although he kept calling me “Tom.” (I’ve been called much worse than “Tom,” so I played along.) But my feelings of compassion would not and could not be a factor in this decision. Mike had to go.

Then right before we shuffled him out the door, Mike said something that alarmed us: “You can’t do this to me! You’re going to make me do something desperate, something that I might regret later.”

Call it clairvoyant, call it a self-fulfilling prophecy, but it is the only thing Mike would get “right” that day.

Needless to say, alarm bells were now going off in our collective heads, and we feared for the worst. Would he come back and shoot us all? Sadly, it is not an outlandish scenario where I come from.

Being the scaredy-cats that we were, we peeked through the front blinds and watched him get into the driver’s seat of his car. He then leaned across the seat, at which time he temporarily disappeared from sight. He stayed down for what seemed like an eternity. Eventually he sat upright, started the car, drove out of the lot, and left.

We all breathed a sigh of relief but remained on high alert. (Not that it helped much since we were essentially sitting ducks with no armed security.)

And then, nothing happened, not at our company anyway.

But the next morning, I found out exactly what Mike meant about being desperate. While drinking my coffee and reading the local paper, a headline jumped out at me:

“Bond denied for accused in bank heist”.

According to the article, a man walked into the local bank, handed the bank teller a note that said he had a gun (he didn’t), and that she should hand over money “or else.”

Holy shit, that was Mike!

And that’s when it hit me that Mike must have been writing his robbery note when he momentarily disappeared in the front seat of his car.

Thankfully, no one got hurt in the incident. According to the paper, cocaine was detected in Mike’s system.

Poor Mike!

We all know the adage that crime doesn’t pay, unless of course you’re a Wall Street hedge-fund manager. But if life ever turns so desperate that you think robbery is your only option, the worst thing you could possibly do is rob a bank. It is a felony with massively harsh penalties.

Mike would have been much better off robbing a convenience store. (I am not condoning it, just sayin’!)

This all happened well over twenty years ago, so I’m guessing and hoping that Mike is alive and kicking as a free man. It’s easy to say that he made his own bed, it was his own fault, he deserved it, etc. And there is truth to that. But it lacks context.

If I were a betting man, I’d wager that Mike was born into a shitty situation, and his poor choices further compounded his problems. Some people can overcome being dealt a bad hand, but it takes an exceptional person to pull it off. Sadly, Mike wasn’t exceptional.

Some people have jokingly asked if I’m afraid Mike will hunt me down someday.

Not at all. For three reasons: He never struck me as a vindictive person, I currently live in a different hemisphere, and he thinks my name is Tom.

I hope Mike conquered his demons, found happiness, and is living a meaningful life. My gut says the odds are against it, but I hope I’m wrong.

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Timothy Sullivan

Timothy Sullivan

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