Monday, July 16, 2007

The Good, the Bad, and the Silent

Written by Megan from Velveteen Mind

Lagniappe is a Creole word, pronounced lan-yap, meaning a small gift or unexpected bonus. The tradition of receiving a bit of lagniappe with purchases from locally-owned stores has become one of my favorite things about living in the South. As such, when I began working in retail, I made a habit of throwing in lagniappe for some of my own favorite customers as a thank you and a subtle request for them to return again. A habit that got a bit out of hand the day I found myself offering a bit of lagniappe to a robber.

That day has always been difficult for me to put to rest because there is more to the story that I still do not know. Another side to the story that was rather stubbornly never to reveal itself, despite how hard I pushed.

Allow me to tell you my side of the story.

While living in the French Quarter of New Orleans, I managed a little boutique. It was a small store, but a magnet for the well-read as well as celebrities passing through town. I adored it, for the most part.

The only part of the job that I truly detested was the fact that one particular task required that I work occasionally in the back end corner of the store, which was shaped like an upside down "L," and therefore restricted my view of the front door and entering customers. Electronic chimes that would detect an entrance through the always-open door were frowned upon and repeatedly turned down for purchase. I had been taken off-guard by a wandering homeless person more than once, and just knew that I was leaving myself open for trouble someday. Particularly because I worked alone.

Naturally, that day finally arrived and I had my back turned.

While working in the back corner of the shop with a customer, I thought I heard a rustling in the front of the shop. I excused myself to go greet what I expected to be a new customer and was shocked to discover a man in our private workspace behind the cash register. I assure you, this man was neither a celebrity nor a scholar. He was one nasty mo-fo, and he was rifling through my purse.

My first reaction? Oh, it was classic. I smiled and said, "Welcome to ______. Can I help you?"

I kid you not.

I have no idea what I was thinking. I wanted to get his attention without startling him, because for all I know he had a weapon. I offered my greeting with as much quiet malice as I could muster, hoping to simultaneously convey my awareness of the situation as well as attempting to not alarm my customer in the back. And would you believe, it worked.

My friendly neighborhood robber smiled back at me, through gnarly teeth, twitchy eyes, and what could only be described as a crack-addled stupor. He mumbled something along the lines of "Oh, no thank you. Uh, what kind of shop is this?" as he put my purse down and hobbled around the counter on a broken leg in a cast.

Okay, this was my moment. I had to decide immediately what to do, as he was clearly heading out the door, albeit slowly.

Here were my options as I saw them, my mind racing, my heart pounding, my original customer smiling quizzically from the corner: I could scream for help and hope that someone else stopped him for me while I called the police. I could jump ahead of him and lock him in along with whatever weapon he might be carrying, then call for help. I could just let him go, run back inside and call the cops, and hope that they caught him. Or, my favorite, I could wait until he got to the street, then give him a swift hi-ya! kick to the back of the broken leg, then trap his neck under my boot heel while someone else called the cops

Here's what I actually did: I let him walk outside to the sidewalk, at which point I seriously considered the hi-ya! kick from behind (high on adrenaline, I was SuperSalesClerk!), but instead let him get about ten feet away from me, at which point I yelled out, "Hey, come back! I have something for you!"

I'm laughing as I write this. I am still embarrassed of my clever ploy to trick the escaping robber into returning to the scene of the in-process crime so that I could give him a little bit o' lagniappe.

You'll be shocked to learn that he did not fall for it. He did, however, wave at me over his hobbling-along shoulder and shout, "No thanks. I'm good!"

No kidding.

Cut to the aftermath and the part of this story that still unnerves me. It is not the feeling of violation resulting from having been personally robbed in the place in which I worked. Insignificantly, when all was assessed, he only had time to steal my wallet, nothing from the store. While waiting for the police to arrive, I cancelled my credit cards, leaving him only enough time to buy one daiquiri on me. Classic, right? My
New Orleans thief immediately hits Bourbon Street with his loot.

No, what still unnerves me is the fact that the owners of the store never acknowledged that the robbery ever happened.

Other than the initial phone call to let them know of the robbery, they never once asked about it and I equally stubbornly rarely brought it up. Eventually, I quit over the silence and refusal to address either the events of that day or my subsequent requests for added security measures. The day I actually quit, I was like a quiet storm of discontent, presenting in that same maliciously polite tone offered to my criminal buddy all of my disappointments in their lack of reaction. Their response was... silence. They smiled and said that they preferred not to focus on just one day, though they would certainly miss me.

There are two sides to this story, yet I will only ever know the one I lived.

Oh, and my last little bit of lagniappe from my mum owners? They handed me a severance check on my way out the door. I wish I'd had the presence of mind to say, "No thanks. I'm good!." while I knocked them all out with one last hi-ya! to the chin for good measure.

Megan is a mother of two boys under three, writing about living with perspective, serious doses of humor, and a grateful heart. Join her at as she relishes the velveteen and revels in the threadbare of her articulate life.


Annie said...

I think I would have screamed at the sight of him rifling in my purse - you were very controlled!

And the store owners? Bleugh!

Sensible One said...

Wow! How lucky you are - that could have gone down SO many different ways. Sounds like you were much more aware of the possibilities than I would be in such a situation. Your former employers are also pretty fortunate that you preferred quitting over suing them! Very well written and entertaining!

Omega Mum said...

Brilliant. What a good read. Particularly impressed by your cool head in a crisis - I'd like to think I'd have reacted the same way, but somehow I doubt it.

AuthorMomWith Dogs said...

Yikes! On so many levels!

Gotta laugh at the "No, I'm good" line. That's priceless.

melody is slurping life said...

You've written the story well. I have no idea how I would have reacted, but I admired your calm manner through it all...including the dealings with the owners.

Mama Zen said...

Great story. Your employer's reaction is just weird. How could they not ask about it?

Maureen said...

Great story...I would not have been so controlled or brave.... and you were right to leave; it could have been much worse. Good for you!

brow of calm said...

This story made me laugh, it's well written which makes you want to read on.
It's a pity you didn't use your high-ya kick while in supersalesclerk modus. it would probably have done the job. haha.
Lagniappe sounds like a really nice gesture.

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