Written and Illustrated by Chris Routly, based on actual events that occurred in September, 1997. Originally posted as part of his semi-autobiographical comic strip Life of Ronnie, starting March 13, 2008.
Once upon a time, I worked alone at a tiny full-service gas station in British Columbia…
Quotes in blue are my additional notes about each comic. Read or ignore at your pleasure!
This is a story that I’ve wanted to tell in comic form for some time now, and it felt like the right time.
Also, I’m reserving the right to change a few details, mainly for humor’s sake, but this will be a very faithful retelling of what happened to me, with no real embellishment required.
Most likely this will be my longest storyline to date, so get comfy!
It occurred to me that I never really gave a very good idea of what the layout of the gas station where Ronnie works is like, and I think this knowledge will make the rest of the story make more sense.
This place was tiny. What you see above, in addition to the four fuel pumps, was basically the entire building, that sat on a small concrete slab island. If you had to go to the bathroom, you did it amongst stacks of cigarette cartons, boxes of chocolate bars, and crates of soft drinks.
I called it “The Shack”, but in hindsight that may have been generous because I have since seen some much roomier shacks.
Yeah, so, my first instinct when what I was seeing in front of me made the journey from my eyes to my brain?
I believe that in that moment of being confronted by two balaclava-clad gentlemen with some sort of large firearm — so absurdly taken right out of a movie — I concluded quickly that it MUST have been two of my friends playing a joke on me. There was no way this was really happening.
My delusion did not last long.
Other than the first panel, this is, of course, mainly conjecture. Once I was unceremoniously shoved into the back room, I couldn’t hear the muffled conversation of the Balaclava Bandits, but I’ve often wondered what one talks about while holding up a gas station.
I suppose that Ashton Kutcher and his ability lose friends via punking is as good a guess as any.
I thought my plan was perfect. Toss the big ol’ store wallet (there must have been about $200 in it) behind the huge stacks of 2L pop bottles stored in the back room at the time, and they’d be crazy to stick around long enough to dig it out and risk being caught while robbing me.
In hindsight, there were two mistakes with this plan:
- I forgot to hide my own wallet too. It was still in my pocket! They never asked for it (freakin’ AMATEURS!), but in the big picture having my own wallet taken would have cost me more in money and annoyance then the store losing money.
- It didn’t occur to me that, assuming they didn’t dig the wallet out from behind all those crates of pop, I was just making more work for myself later since someone would have to do it. D’oh!
Okay, so maybe there’s a little embellishment here.
Sometimes you would be surprised at the internal dialogue going on in my head.
Or maybe not.
I’m not kidding.
This is what I actually said to them, in a final, desperate, “oh Lord, please give me a sudden innate acting ability!” attempt to convince them that I wasn’t able to give them what they wanted.
Please don’t try this yourself. I could have easily gotten myself killed.
So, it worked. Somehow. I don’t know if I was just really convincing or if they actually couldn’t fathom why I would say such a thing, but however it happened, it worked. They shoved me in the back room again, told me to stay put, and took off mostlyempty-handed (I’m pretty sure they did grab a few packs of cigarettes for their trouble).
But, that wasn’t the end of the night for me.
This is actually how I described the gun that was wielded against me by my ersatz robbers.
To this day, I’m not sure if the gun was real or not. My feeling that it was fake certainly influenced my stupid decision to be covertly uncooperative, and by the time the police arrived I had myself quite convinced I was right. I don’t doubt that, at least in part, I unconsciously needed to be convinced it had not been a real gun if I was to ever justify my reckless actions to myself or anyone else.
Regardless, even without actually telling the police officer the FULL story of what I’d done (I left out my method of convincing the would-be bandits that I could not open either of the safes), I made a point of saying I really thought the gun was a fake, and he asked for a description. I gave the best I could come up with at the time.
It wasn’t very helpful.
I got to take the next day off, in addition to the weekend I’d already booked off.
Unpaid, of course, the station manager reminded me.
Such was the extent of my reward.
Have I mentioned what a lousy job this was?
Okay, so this didn’t happen.
I did work with a police sketch artist like this at a later date though, and it was a really odd experience. That time it was involving an attempt to describe someone who wasn’t wearing a balaclava, which you’d think would be much easier, but it was actually surprisingly difficult to recollect as much detail as they like. My description was good enough that I was later brought in to look at a “photo lineup” of suspects, but I never heard if they caught that guy.
Also, baklava is delicious and now I want to make some.
This is very true. Upon hearing of my actions, Dad suggested that I should keep some details from Mom, or else she would probably kill me herself. For quite some time, Mom was blissfully unaware of how ridiculously stupid I had been during my little ordeal. But in that time I came to terms with it enough that I started sharing the story — stressing my own stupidity, of course — and on one occasion I told the whole story without cluing in that she was there.
When I got home from a relaxing weekend at my folks’ place, there was a copy of the town newspaper waiting for me with a brief article about the robbery.
That circled part? That’s what it actually said. I can only assume it was because the police department just hands all of their reports over to the local press and the cop who interviewed me had actually written down my description verbatim. I got a huge laugh out of it, but I’ll admit I also worried about my new robber friends coming back, just to prove they had a real gun.
I returned to work, until a month or so later some random desperate looking dude pulled a knife on me late one night, demanding the store wallet (someone was paying attention, at least) and some cartons of cigarettes. I just did whatever he wanted, and focussed on getting a good description down rather than trying to be clever. As such, it doesn’t make as good a story.
But that was it for me. I was done with that job, and I quit immediately.
Interestingly, with this second robbery it seemed to me that the police took it much more seriously. They brought in dogs to sniff for his tracks (he was on foot), and it was for this robbery I was asked to go in and work with the police sketch artist and look at a photo lineup. They never caught this guy either though.
So that’s my mostly true story. And I’m stickin’ to it.