Thursday, August 29, 2013

A Haunting Past

It's been about eight years since I was met with a gun to my head as I was leaving through the delivery door of the pizza shop where I worked. It took over a year before I could even go outside at night or even go near a window where I'd see reflections and get spooked.

Remembering that night brings back a flood of emotions. I remember walking out the door like I had done hundreds of times. I didn't even realize what I was seeing at first. Then when it registered, my initial thought was that it was another employee messing around. But that changed when the gun was pressed against my chest and the barking demands came flying at me from the assailant. The gun was tapped on my chest harder and harder until I was being pushed across the room in the direction of the cash register. With the gun held firmly against my right temple the other employee fumbled to open the register. Unsuccessful at opening the drawer, I had to lean in and press the no-sale button to free the cash from the locked drawer. Doing this only caused the gun-man to jump and hit me over the head with the gun.

After he got what he wanted, he turned and left out the same door from which he entered. At which point I dialed 911 and informed the dispatch officer of what had just transpired. She almost didn't believe me because I was so calm on the phone. It was later, when I got home, that I fell apart.

Since that night, I've been very careful when exiting a building in the dark. Having worked the midnight shift at a drug store for 5 years certainly helped to get over my fear of darkness and reflections. But one thing that I haven't been able to get past is the sight of a gun. And when one is shown on television, especially pointed at the camera, I curl up and hide my eyes until it is gone. Another thing I haven't been able to get past is when someone sneaks up on me. It does something to me that I can't even explain.

Last night, I took a group of women to a concert at a well known outdoor music theater here in Michigan in the limousine. It was a good night for all involved. Everyone had a good time. Being a private limo, I was parked in an exclusive area. A well known television star was parked next to me and his driver and I hung out talking for most of the concert. We even walked over to the tour buses and talked with the drivers for the performers for the night. The ladies had a great time in the concert and hung out afterward at a dance party for VIPs.

The ride home was long. About an hour and a half. The women were all tired by the time we reached our destination. After making sure they all made it safely to their cars and proceeded home, I took the limousine back to the garage. Entry to the garage is through an alley and it's not exactly in the best of neighborhoods. So after pulling my car out, putting the limo into the garage, I closed the overhead door, shut off the lights and peered out the windows to ensure that I was alone at 2:30am. I exited the building and walked the 6 steps to my car. As I was sitting down, I noticed a man rounding the corner at a pretty good pace. I quickly closed the door and fumbled for the lock button. Because I drive multiple vehicles, I could not find the button in a panic. So I pushed the start button and put the car in drive. By this time he was right next to me. As the car engaged, the locks clicked. I looked over at the man who raised his hand to reveal the shopping bag that he was carrying and waved a friendly hello with a smile.

My heart was racing, my brow was soaked with sweat and I could barely control my hands as I nervously pulled out of the alley going the wrong way on a one way street. I was tired, stressed, hungry and couldn't bring myself to stop at a drive through to get something to eat. I just wanted to get home. It was the longest half hour of my life. As I drove through the countryside, I tried to convince myself to calm down. But the threat of deer jumping out in front of me haunted my thoughts. Why did it take so long to drive home?

I parked my car in the driveway of my quiet home. I walked up the steps to the door where my husband had left the light on for me. My faithful dog Pugsley sauntered down the hall to welcome me home with a look of "Where have you been!?" on his face. Everything was OK. All was right with the world once again.

I was never in any danger on this night. It was a night long ago that haunted me and caused me to panic. That one night, so long ago brought fear and distress to my life on a beautiful night that should be remembered for the good times that were had. It's difficult to move past these things sometimes. I know I should not worry. I know that the past is gone. I know that today is what I make of it. Still, it haunts me. It haunts me.


Jim said...

Traumatic experiences are difficult to shake Stew, as you well know. I really think they can cause PTSD much like soldiers get after coming back from war/battle.
I think you are dealing well with a mature and rational way. But the scar will always remain....just fade somewhat.
take care.

sophie...^5 said...

I don't think I could imagine the stress you were put through those may years ago. Guns are not as prevalent here in Canada but I know I can't be lax about dark alleys and opening doors w/o be aware of what could be on the other side. I used to be able to walk the streets of my city w/o fear but I am so very careful all the time now. I don't know what to say to make things any better other than be vigilant because society has changed, has become greedier and selfish. Maybe take some time for yourself meaning talk about it with a professional and do some meditation. You never know what you might learn, some technique you had never thought of before that could prepare you for the rest of your life.

Stew Adams said...

Typically, I am confident and feel safe knowing that most people are afraid of people in the mortuary business. Walking behind a funeral home can be a bit of an experience for an unsuspecting person.
I don't know why I let this man scare me.

MorningAJ said...

It can take years to get over something like that. I was mugged 10 years ago. The guy wasn't armed, but he punched me in the face hard enough to break a tooth. I still have problems sometimes if something about my surroundings reminds me of that night. You are doing really well to handle night work after something like you went through.
Be safe.

Tony said...

I agree that you may be suffering from PTSD, and work with a qualified therapist can help you to move beyond the trauma. As a therapist, I recommend this, so that you don't have to live your whole life with this fear.