"The wise screen writer is he who wears his second-best suit, artistically speaking, and doesn’t take things too much to heart."

- Raymond Chandler
My "absolute moral authority." True story

It was a late summer afternoon in Minneapolis. The year was 1980. Business had been quiet at the Hiawatha Motel (not its real name). I was working the afternoon shift. Motel clerking was a good job for a student. The money wasn’t great, but it was only a short distance from my apartment, and I could sit at the desk and just read a book with a clear conscience. I’d have to do my end-of-shift report in a few minutes.

The door buzzer went off and a young man came in. He wore jeans and a tee-shirt, and a short jacket. I couldn’t see his eyes well because he was wearing a blue bucket hat pulled down, but the rest of his face was long. Kind of horsey.

He stepped up to the counter, pulled a semi-automatic pistol (about a .38, I thought), and said, “Open the door.”

This was where I nearly got myself killed. I thought he said, “Open the drawer,” meaning the cash drawer under the counter. I realized later, when it was all over, that he could have easily thought I was going for a gun, and plugged me right there. But when I pulled the drawer open, he repeated himself. “Open the door!” Then I heard his friend rattling the knob of the office door to my left.

I opened the door for him and stepped back, my hands up. Both young men came in, and the guy with the gun said, “We want money and drugs. Give us all you got.”

“There’s no drugs here,” I said. “The money’s there.” I pointed to the open cash drawer.

The sidekick went for the money, while the gunman repeated, “Where’s the drugs?”

“There’s no drugs here.”

At that point someone else stepped into the office. It was my relief, the guy on the next shift. Another student, somewhat younger than me. He raised his hands too, and the gunman gestured us back into the unoccupied manager’s apartment behind the office.

“Get down on your faces,” he said. We did, side by side on the carpet. The gunman told his sidekick to find something to tie us up with.

While waiting, the gunman said, “We just want money and drugs. Nobody needs to get hurt.”

I told him there weren’t any drugs, but otherwise didn’t argue.

His friend came back after a minute with a couple power cords from electrical devices. They tied our hands, and the guy with the gun held it to each of our heads in turn, asking one last time for drugs. I said once again that there weren’t any drugs there. “Let’s kill ‘em,” said the sidekick.

“Nah,” said the gunman. “They’ll be good. You guys’ll be good, won’t you?”

We said we’d be good.

They twisted my high school class ring off my finger, and took my relief guy’s watch. “You stay here for half an hour,” the gunman said. “We’ll be watching. If you get up before half an hour we’ll kill you.”

Then they left.

We lay there not saying much for a few minutes.

“I think we can get up now,” I said. “Can you help me get untied?”

“I’ve got some friends coming in a few minutes,” the relief guy said. “They’ll untie us.”

I got up and looked around in the office. The relief guy stayed where he was. I struggled with my bonds, but couldn’t get loose. Shortly the relief guy’s friends did show up, and they untied us and I called the police. And the owner.

After that, cops, and telling the story. Finally I went home. Didn’t sleep well. I was pretty shaken for a few weeks. Felt like a target. I loaded up my replica Civil War Navy Colt and wore it under a sport coat for a couple weeks when I went to work. I’m pretty sure that was illegal, but the wisdom of the saying, “Better to be judged by twelve than carried by six” had taken on new meaning for me.

And never – never – for one split second did I waver in my support for the right of the people to keep and bear arms.


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Comments on "My "absolute moral authority." True story":
1. Phil - 01/18/2013 9:47 pm EST

Mercy, what a story. On a related note, a casual friend who has moved to south Georgia told us a story of being mugged on the street at 7:00 p.m. Two gunmen jumped him and his friend while they were almost home from a walk. They took their smart phones and ran. The scariest part was that the pistols they carried, which they hit them both in the head, must have been loaded, because when my friend was struck, the gun fired. He made have permanent hearing lose, but thank God they weren't hurt more. If they had resisted for a moment, maybe those crazy criminals would have shot them. I gather it happened so quickly they didn't have time to think of resisting.

2. Stitch - 01/19/2013 9:43 am EST

I'm sorry you were frightened. I wonder what you would have thought if you had been the father of a beautiful 6 year old, whose head was pulped by a crazy man shooting an AR-15. When you looked at her destroyed body, would you have thought, "And never – never – for one split second did I waver in my support for the right of the people to keep and bear arms."
By the way. .38 semi autos are very rare and very expensive. Not the tool of a punk robbing a motel.
By the time you would have cleared leather with your black powder revolver, cocked the loud single action, hoped you had hot caps installed, you would have had three rounds in you from that semi auto.

3. Lars Walker - 01/19/2013 9:54 am EST

Yes, of course. Victim's experiences only count when they serve the left.

4. Lars Walker - 01/19/2013 10:14 am EST

If I had lost a beautiful 6 year old child to a bomb set by an Islamic terrorist, liberals would tell me that they were sorry for my loss, but I mustn't let my sorrow lead me to jump to sweeping conclusions about the religion of Islam, or to demand that any action must be taken against such terrorists.

5. Roy Jacobsen - 01/19/2013 4:08 pm EST

So, Stitch would have us believe that trying to defend yourself from armed criminals never works.

Except for when it does. For example:

And so what if a .38 semi-auto is expensive? Who's to say the gun wasn't stolen?

Finally, don't give the fact that they didn't resist too much credit for saving Lars' and his co-worker's lives; remember that one of the perps was ready to kill them after tying them up.

6. Grim - 01/19/2013 6:52 pm EST

There's nothing even slightly rare or expensive about a semi-automatic pistol in .380 ACP. It's a common caliber in mass production, with semi-automatic platforms from several different manufacturers that use it.

Tragedies engender strong emotions, but we wisely judge through reason instead. However, if one is the kind of person for whom emotion is more compelling, let's remember there are strong voices on the gun-rights side as well.

7. Grim - 01/20/2013 11:00 am EST

Another semi-automatic pistol that would be "about a .38" in bore is any sort of 9mm. Those are also highly common in circulation.

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