5/08/2011 11:13:00 pm

Armed Robbery

Posted by Tom French |

I was up at Maccas after church tonight with the young adults. There were 12 of us. I was eating a salad because I was still full of sake and Japan food from Mother's Day (Happy Mother's Day Mum!). It was Seared Chicken Caesar in case you're wondering.

About two thirds of the way through my salad, there was some shouting at the back door of Maccas. I thought "Oh a fight, I hate fights, they make me nervous." Then I saw the manager and thought "Oh good the manager is going to break it up." I moved my head so I could see better and saw that there wasn't a fight instead two guys with balaclavas had come in the back door. One was holding a large kitchen knife and the other a small axe, a hatchet if you will, with a shiny red bit on it. It looked new. They were both wearing black and one of them was holding a small bag.

I thought "Oh good, it's not a fight. Must be a practical joke. Halloween isn't for a while. It's not a very funny joke. Whoever they're friends with on the Maccas staff is gonna be pissed."

They kept shouting. It occurred to me when they shoved the manager behind the counter and the people nearest the back door got up and ran out that it wasn't actually a joke but this was a real armed robbery.

We were seated at the other end of maccas, far from the counter and far from the doors. I had a view of all the doors and the counter. I was pretty pleased to be in such a good spot. The guy with the hatchet ran behind the counter to deal with the staff, who kinda stood there looking stunned, while the guy with the knife hung around to deal with the customers. He waved the knife and swore at all of us telling us to stay where we were. It wasn't that helpful. Every time he turned his back another group of customers would run out the nearest door.

The group of Christians behind us, closer to the action looked scared and one started praying loudly to Jesus. It's to be expected if you rob a maccas on a Sunday night that someone is gonna start praying. I didn't pray. I'm guess I'm not even a Sunday Christian.

As one group of people ran out the door the guy with the knife chased them out shouting about how they should stay where they were. At that point the Christians hopped up and ran out too. They had a small girl with them. It was probably the best thing to do.

The poor robber, on the other hand, couldn't keep control of his charges. I knew how he'd be feeling, it's the same feeling I used to get every week teaching scripture. You think you're big and scary and then everyone just ignores your threats and runs away. He was hemorrhaging potential hostages like an amateur. Should have watched Heat. Had he promised us all chocolate to stay and watch his robbery I'm sure we would have been more obliging, they don't do that in Heat, but it's probably a good tactic.

Anyway, my group, we stayed. Probably within 30 seconds of the guys coming in we were the only customers left in Maccas. It felt a little special having the restaurant to ourselves. Kinda romantic perhaps, like the empty ice rink in Rocky. If it wasn't for the guys with weapons, I might have proposed to someone.

As we sat there we looked around at each other and the general consensus seemed to be that we should stay where were. We were too far from any doors to get out quickly. It never really occurred to me to leave. I saw other people leaving and I thought "That's brave. They might get stabbed." I figured sitting still and doing what you're told was probably the safest option. Plus if we left I wasn't going to get to see what happened and how often in your life do you get to witness an armed robbery?

I also felt kinda like leaving was the wrong thing to do. Like if we ran away we were abandoning the Maccas staff to their fate alone. Of course I'm sure they didn't feel like they needed us there for support, but we were all in this together. I think perhaps the same reason that I often stay behind at events and help pack up is the same reason that I felt like I should stay behind in Maccas. Bailing early isn't right.

That said, I've never considered the ethics of being a bystander (or bysitter in our case) in an armed robbery. And probably escaping is just as valid option as staying.

Anyway, once it was clear to knife dude that he'd lost control of everyone except us, he headed over to the counter to help hatchet dude. They shouted a lot about giving them money and nothing else seemed to be happening.

I found the whole thing fascinating. I didn't really freak out or even get nervous. I was hoping no one got stabbed but only because I felt like that would complicate things more than I wanted them too. I also spent time wondering what was going on behind the counter, but a lot of my thoughts were just something like "Oh yes, so this is what an armed robbery feels like." I worried a little for my fellow church friends. Some of them were freaking out a small bit. I hoped no one did anything stupid. I also spent a while trying to figure out if the robbers would get angry if I kept eating my salad. I'm not sure what I decided. I think I might have snuck in a few bits while their backs were turned.

After a bit more kerfuffle behind the counter the two guys ran out the back door they had come through. The whole thing would have taken less than two minutes. There was a momentary lull in action as everyone tried figure out if it was over. Then a bunch of us jumped up and went to the counter to see what happened, people pulled out phones to write a Facebook status update and a bunch of the patrons who escaped came back in the door, presumably to pick up the food they'd left behind, no one wants to lose those last two nuggets. I pulled out my phone and thought about doing a Facebook status update but couldn't think of anything witty to write so I put it back in my pocket and went back to eating my salad.

I think there was a little bit of discussion about calling the cops, I'm not sure if anyone did. We were all too busy on Facebook.

Suddenly there was a whole bunch of debriefing going on. We found out that no one was hurt and the guys had only gotten $200 because the safe was on a time lock.

The next 15 minutes was spent debriefing, talking about what we saw, how we felt, making jokes. The adrenaline meant that everyone laughed louder. It was prime time to tell jokes cause it made you feel like you're really funny. It was just the chemicals in the brain laughing, but who cares, you gotta take what you can get.

Eventually the cops turned up, none of them had their sirens on which was disappointing. They took our details, told us to wait for the detectives, and then when they found out all we saw were two guys in masks, told us we could go.

I stayed a little bit longer, finished my salad, thanked everyone for sharing the bonding experience with me, then went home.

The salad was pretty good, in case you're wondering.

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