Sunday, May 21, 2006

Saturday Surprise

I fully intended this post to be about the launch party for The Portal Press held on Friday night. I wanted to write about the artwork in the Warehouse gallery, about the books The Portal Press is putting out and the really nice conversation I had with a gentlman from Fantagraphics on the poor state of criticism of graphic novels. But instead I have to write about something else that happened to me yesterday morning.

When I work Saturdays I often drop by my local grocery store to treat myself to a lunch that's something other than peanut butter and jelly. I looked through the aisles trying to make my choice between pumpernickel or rye bread when I heard a loud crash coming from the front of the store, followed by a lady's scream. I darted down the aisle towards the front of the store and saw an angry looking man standing at the counter of the mini-Chevy Chase bank.

Although only about 5'5", he was stocky with broad shoulders and a t-shirt with the sleeves cut off showed his thick, tree trunk arms. His face and head were covered with a wild, thick hair the color of black storm clouds. He held a large sledgehammer in his hands, carefully balancing the scuffed up iron end in his right and cupping the other end of the wooden handle with his left. He stood like a statue in front of that counter, frozen in time. It was like someone paused him a magical remote control and then suddenly pushed play. When that play button was pushed, he heaved the sledge behind him and swung, bringing it down hard on the desktop separating him from the frightened bank employeee. He struck the desktop again and again, puncuating each hit on the desk by yelling, "Gimme the G-D money!"

That was the strange part. He actually said, "G-D money"; that's not my editorial slant to prevent offending readers. The odd duplicity of this violent, angry man robbing a bank still being careful enough to not use offensive language was really odd to me. Not that the sledgehammer wasn't odd enough.

The frightened woman behind the counter finally got over the shock enough to empty out her cash drawer. She handed the paper bills to him in a big handful. The man grabbed them, shoved them into the pockets of his jeans and bolted out the front entrance. The police arrived a few moments later. While they did a pretty good job calming everyone down and interviewing all the witnesses (myself included) they were too late to catch the guy.

Although it's been a full day now, I'm still not sure what to make of it: the man, the sledgehammer, the whole event. I imagine I'll work it into a story at some point but it will probably be awhile before I figure it out. From what I heard he couldn't have stolen more than a few hundred dollars. I just wonder what drove him to it.


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