"GIVE ME ALL THE MONEY IN THE REGISTER NOW!"
That’s what I heard behind me as I perused the chocolate bar section in the BP gas station on Houston Street today.
I froze, felt a sizeable level of barely controllable panic rise up within me, then slowly looked over my shoulder, expecting the worst.
What I saw was a guy with a hat obscuring his face, arms outstretched into the cashier desk’ security window, holding (presumably) a gun in the cashier’s face.
I didn’t really have time to think; at this point I still had my back to the events that were unfolding in the tiny gas station store and was aware the guy didnt seem to have any interest in me.
The only thought I remember running through my head was ‘if I stay calm, don’t move and do what he says, I should be okay’
The cashier, obscured from my angle behind his window, had yet to make his move.
"HAHA, OH MAN, YOU GOT ME" the cashier erupted with relieved laughter.
I felt my shoulders drop with relief. The guy pulled his arms back out of the window to reveal hands, holding an imaginary gun. It was a joke. The most inappropriate, authentic joke I’ve ever been a part of, but at joke at least.
"Fucking hell!" I muttered, turning to face the would-be assailant.
At this point, he burst out laughing and starting laughing at the additional unintended victim to his prank. “This kid jus’ came to play soccer and was like ‘damn I’m gonna get shot’”
I joked that I hadn’t didn’t even want to play yet, and he fist-bumped me on the way out of the store, but I can honestly say that for about 15 seconds, I truly believed that I was a part of an armed robbery.
It was probably one of the scariest moments of my life, up there with aqua-planing on a motorway at 80mph and driving my car into the side of another car who pulled out in front of me whole I had right of way and was driving at 40mph.
At least I know what I would do in an armed robbery now. Calmly freeze.