The Dirty South, Hotlanta, ATL, A-Town, the A.... Atlanta, Georgia. A big city full of all manner of things, from old money to new money to no money, from the World of Coke to the World's Largest Indoor Body of Water - The Georgia Aquarium to the Clermont Lounge with its pregnant and aged strippers. You will find it all in Atlanta. Listed as one of National Geographic's "Places of a Lifetime", it is definitely one of the places of importance in my lifetime. It was my home for three years and a place that I loved and that still holds a huge part of my heart... Despite some happenings that aren't exactly the best memories I have hiding in my subconscious.
It was August of my first year in Atlanta. I had moved to Atlanta from Jacksonville in December and was pursuing my second degree, this time in Advertising. I was attending a very, very small school and learning a lot. I had transferred from my job with a large DVD rental company (not naming names) in Jacksonville to a location near my apartment in Atlanta and was promoted quickly to Assistant Manager.
I was enjoying working for the company, especially at my current location. I was the only female working at my location. And I loved it. Working with men is always so much easier and so much less drama. And growing up with an amazing brother and father helped too. I could take teasing and jokes (most of the time anyway) and was pretty darn good at throwing them back. Life was good.
Things were about to change.
Unbeknownst to me, there had been a rash of robberies at other company locations throughout Atlanta. Maybe no one thought to tell our store because they figured we were in the nice Buckhead district of Atlanta with huge mansions just footsteps away. Perhaps they should have thought to tell us because, in the simplest of logic, mansions = people of means = more sales = more attraction for those wanting to steal money... But I suppose this logic escaped them. Well, it is neither here nor there because they didn't tell us and there is nothing I can do about that now, is there?
About five minutes prior to our midnight closing time one Thursday night, a guy walked in and one of my associates politely told him that we'd be closing in five minutes. I continued my closing procedures, as per usual. Not two minutes later I see out of the corner of my eye, my associate coming toward me. I was annoyed and thought to myself that he should be finishing blocking the DVD wall so that we can get out of here at a reasonable hour as I still had a lot of ads to work on when I got home.
I then looked over at him to tell him this when I realized the customer who had just walked in was standing behind him in the employee area. I could feel at that moment, without words being spoken, that something was off. The air felt different.
I started to speak, "Wha..." And was interrupted... "I have a gun. Take this bag and give me the money from the safe. Don't do anything stupid and you won't get hurt. Don't even think about it. I will kill you."
I looked him right in the eyes...
And then took the bag and began to fill it. He held the gun to the back of my head as I filled. I tried to think while I was filling. I was significantly taller than this man, so in theory I could overpower him. Was it worth risking my life or that of my coworker? I quickly decided that it wasn't. Money is just money.
I put everything in that bag... Cash, coins, coin rolls... Well, almost everything. I pushed one of the tills toward the back of the safe while I filled and the man with the gun, well, he was never the wiser.
When I finished filling his bag I handed it to him and he told my associate and I to lay on the floor and count to 50. I remember thinking, what a random number... Why not 100? If I was him I would have said 100 to be on the safe side. Maybe I just prefer nicely rounded numbers. Ah, well, who was I to judge?
After waiting on the floor for a bit, I don't think I actually counted at all, but it seemed like enough time for the man with the gun to be gone, I stood up and called the police. Then I called my Store Manager. Then I called one of the other Assistant Managers who reminded me of my brother. Then I called my Dad.
I don't recall at all what I said to any of them. I think the shock had set in.
I do recall that I didn't cry.
In the aftermath of the robbery I went through a time when I was a little scarred from all that had happened. I wanted to go home. So I did. I went home for a week. During that week Hurricane Charley hit home. Literally. I learned that you can't run from anything. I had tried to run from the robbery and came full contact with a hurricane.
I decided if I could survive being robbed at gunpoint and a hurricane attack following that, then I could survive anything. I headed back to Atlanta... To live what would be two and half years full of amazing memories in a place that I still love.