Well, I'll Be Damned!
To recap: in December 2005, while working as a head teller, I was robbed. This robbery was nearly mistaken as a giant, idiotic prank. The doofus handed me a full piece of paper specifying he wanted every denomination of cash. He wrote, "give me all your 5s, 10s, 20s, 50s and 100s." I had assumed that was a given during a robbery, but I'm not a bank robber, so what do I know? He also had an unbelievably distinct look. I'm not in the habit of giving criminals advice, but if you don't look like any other human being on the planet and you can be picked out of a lineup in a fraction of a second maybe don't do the illegal thing. Just a thought.
Our culprit was caught roughly three weeks later: spending the cash from this robbery in the same strip mall where my branch was. Since this was the second robbery in our branch in a few months, a Robbery Prevention Specialist was brought in to speak with us. The intent was to provide us with the skill to prevent a robbery from occurring- but all it did was leave a group of bankers befuddled by the rantings of a lunatic. His approach was to be loud and uncomfortable. Hopefully, this would cause the suspicious person(s) to exit the branch. In his demonstrations, he often came across as an unhinged suitor, which would be enough to scare anyone away.
Fast forward to 2010. I'm living in Vancouver and have taken a job once again as a head teller (temporarily). The area I was working in was prone to robberies, especially take-over robberies due to gang activity. Even the note-passing robberies could become violent, which added a layer of stress I wasn't accustomed to. To clarify: take-over robberies are more in line with what you would see in the movies or tv shows. A group of people comes in and essentially "takes over" the branch- sometimes resulting in hostage situations and a lot of chaos. Note-passing robberies are just that- usually an individual who hands over a note with their instructions. It generally targets one teller, and they're often quiet- nobody knows it's happening while it's happening.
Every robbery I had experienced was a note-passer. Only one time I was the teller that was robbed, but every single time these robbers walked into the bank, I instantly knew what was about to happen. It was the most incredible hit of intuition. What I am about to describe next was no exception.
It was an ordinary day in the branch, though slightly busier than these folks were used to. I was used to an environment with a never-ending lineup and dozens of people waiting for their turn. So when I saw six people forming a queue in this branch, it was no sweat for me. My colleagues, on the other hand, would get overwhelmed and panic about the few people in line. It was fascinating to me. There had been a tremendous spike in debit card skimming in the city, so we replaced hundreds of bank cards. It was an involved procedure, so lineups became the norm briefly. Cash transactions were also becoming more commonplace as a result. Our commercial deposits were larger, which took longer to process. It was the afternoon, and my tellers had given me their extra cash. I closed my wicket to do what was needed to keep within our limits. Between doing that, I was also helping the tellers with transactions to keep things running smoothly.
As I carried on with my duties, I couldn't help but notice that someone in the line was intently focused on me. Not because they found me attractive- this was someone paying too much attention to what I was doing and where I was going. He was watching my every move. In an instant, I had that exact thought I'd had before: we're going to get robbed. Shit. I started to watch him in return. He had on a backpack, and as he progressed forward in the line, he moved it in front of him and partially unzipped it. Dread continued to set in. I was trying to gauge who would end up with him in front of them. My co-workers were older women, lovely and gentle, and I did not want them to end up with this guy. Something about him was more unsettling than the other robbers.
In an absolutely bewildering moment, my mind suddenly started to recall what that maniacal robbery prevention specialist had advised. I suddenly found myself thinking I needed to give this a try. I was also aware this was a nutty thing to do, but I had a strong urge to go for it. I wonder if this is my intrusive thoughts taking over. Doesn't matter. Let's see what happens...
I made and held eye contact with the guy. I just stared back at him. A smile slowly crossed my face, as I shouted, "Hey man! What's up? How've you been?" If memory serves, shouting was the key. Maybe if I make him think I know him, that will do something? Also, I'm naturally awkward, so hamming that up will surely make everyone uncomfortable. Maybe that will help ease the stress of my co-workers if everyone leaves. He appeared to be surprised. He wrapped his arms around his empty backpack and started to sweat profusely. He was looking around but coming back to making eye contact with me. Interesting. Is he trying to establish dominance? It's not working. He was hugging his backpack for emotional support and dripping with sweat.
"This weather, eh!" I exclaimed. (There was nothing exceptional about the weather.) From the corner of my eye, I see the other tellers staring at me, trying to figure out what was happening. I don't shout at people, and definitely not mundane conversations. One of the financial advisers leaned forward in his office, over his desk and looked at me, puzzled, as if to say, "are you alright?" I sent him a direct message that I was sure we were about to be robbed by this guy. I filled him in on what I was up to.
This cagey customer started to get antsy. I'll be honest- he gave off a weird energy, and it frightened me. I didn't know how unstable he was, but I had a tremendous urge to do what I could to get him out of there. I leaned into making him as uncomfortable as possible. I held eye contact for too long, occasionally smiling the weirdest smile I could. I'm pretty sure I winked at him at one point. He may not have been sure what it was: it could have been easily confused with an incomplete sneeze. Perhaps if he thinks I'm unwell (I was making a damn good case for that) or trying to flirt he would leave. There was one point when that financial advisor caught one of my goofy grins, and he said, "oh my God," loud enough that I could hear him. He exited his office, stood beside the suspicious guy, and said, "hey, what's up? Can I help you?" This finally proved too much for stranger danger, and he left.
The branch manager was filled in, as was my supervisor. Concerned, they asked if I was ok. I was fine. A bit shook, but the relief when that guy left was astronomical.
Some hours passed, and a police officer came into the branch. Wouldn't you know it, a robbery occurred across the street at a competing bank. The offender was the guy that had been in our branch! Fortunately, he was apprehended right away. He even fessed up that he would have robbed us, but I made him so nervous he left. The constable chuckled and shook his head as he gathered a statement from myself and the adviser. He returned days later with paperwork to collect the footage from the security cams. Boy, was he in for a treat.
I'll be damned- that shit actually worked!
As a result, our branch had a brief meeting at the end of the day. We were all surprised at how I behaved but even more surprised at how effective it was. We laughed about it for days.
With all that said, let me add this disclaimer: I don't advocate doing what I did. It could have gone sideways. All I know is that my gut feeling was strong, and I listened.