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wow, reading about max and riceboy's experiences in the "five minutes" thread really got to me; and it made me wonder how many of us have had an experience in their lives that they weren't sure they were going to make it through alive, and how that affected us.

i'll tell my story, though i don't know if i really consider it a brush with death as much as a "brush with possible maiming".

in the year 2000 i was working part time in a retail clothing chain. one sunny april afternoon, i was standing at the customer service desk talking to the other woman that was on shift with me. a young man came into the store, and although it wasn't a common experience because we sold only women's clothes, it happened that sometimes men came in to look for gifts for their moms, wives, girlfriends, what have you. (actually, once we had a man come in shopping for himself, which was pretty fun...hee hee). anyway, we didn't think anything of it at the time, though i wish now that alarm bells had gone off in my head because it might have changed the outcome.

we continued to chat, and he did a sort of slow meander through the store. i finally started to move away from the counter as he approached us; it was near my break time and i didn't want to get sucked into a 30 minute "customer service experience" helping him pick out panties or nighties or whatever for his girlfriend. but he walked over really quickly and put a binder on the desk. the other woman on shift with me was still behind the counter. when he put the binder down, i thought immediately that he was some kind of salesman because we often got them in there, trying to sell us perfume or other sundry "women"'s items, so i leaned over to look at whatever product catalogue he had inside of it.

only it didn't have a catalogue in it. it took a minute for me to register what was happening, but once i did, my heart nearly stopped. he flipped open the binder and written in red marker on a blank white page it said, "do not yell for help. i am holding your store up.", and at that very moment, i felt something nudge my ribcage.

my co-worker looked at me with this glassy wide-eyed gaze and i saw her face blanch. she told me later it's because she could see what he was pressing against me, even though i didn't dare look down. it was a box cutter, otherwise known as a large X-Acto blade. he nudged me behind the counter with it sticking against my kidney and ordered us to open the tills. which we did. the whole time i was thinking he had a gun and i was sure that if i breathed he'd fire. i nearly wet myself, i was so scared.

my co-worker emptied the cash registers and he stuffed all the money in his pockets. looking back on it, i can't believe that he got away with it so cleanly. there were about a half dozen customers in the store at the time, all browsing, and not one of them noticed anything was going on until he suddenly tore away from us and bolted for the front door. i just slumped down onto the floor and put my head between my knees, but my co-worker started yelling right away, "stop him! he just robbed us! stop him!"

the store, of course, closed for a few hours that afternoon while the police conducted their investigation, but when my co-worker told everyone that i'd had a box cutter jammed up against my body the entire time, i was allowed to go home.

i never hugged my son and husband more in a 12 hour period than i did that day.

i also never came as close to wetting my knickers as an adult as i did that day.

and it was a 'wake up' call to me about how quickly things can go from normal and safe to freaky and violent; and how i should never take my days for granted.

i stayed at the job another year and a bit (until i had my daughter), but every time a man came into the store, i couldn't help it. i hid behind the racks until i was sure he was a legit customer.
 
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