Saturday, February 11, 2012

She put her life on line, for Subway

I couldn’t help but feel an internal tremor Friday morning when I stumbled across the news accounts of a worker at a Northwest Side Subway sandwich franchise who was shot and killed during a Thursday night robbery.

According to both the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune, the woman was working a Thursday night shift in the Subway on Western Avenue in the Ukrainian Village neighborhood.

WHEN A WOULD-BE robber entered just before 9 p.m. and pulled out a pistol, the woman worker tried to run out a back door. Which is what provoked the gunman to fire a shot at her – striking her in the neck. She died early Friday at Stroger Hospital.

For the record, another employee gave the robber some money, and he left. As of Friday morning, police had no one in custody, nor do they have any suspects in mind.

I’m sure many of you are wondering why this catches my attention? After all, the one-time police reporter-type person in me knows this incident isn’t that uncommon. Not to downplay the loss of life, but such robberies happen. If the woman hadn’t died, it wouldn’t have been covered at all.

And let’s be honest. There are certain neighborhoods where, if there had been a robbery and the worker had died, it still would have been ignored.

BUT THIS ONE is a little personal for me.

For the very first job I had when I was in high school (one that had set hours and cut me a regular paycheck) was work in a Subway sandwich franchise – specifically one in south suburban Calumet City.

In fact, I recall that I worked at a Subway that purposely stayed open until 2 a.m. – and when I was hired, it was explicitly to work three or four shifts a week from 10 p.m.-2 a.m. each day.

I worked that job one summer, just before going off to Bloomington, Ill., to attend college.

WHICH MEANS THAT learning of the account of this woman (Lyn Ward, who was 57), I couldn’t help but think back to the old memories and tensions.

I used to wonder how I’d react if confronted with a gunman – which fortunately, never happened to me. Although I did find out later that two weeks after I quit to begin college, that particular Subway got robbed.

Shortly after midnight on a Friday-into-Saturday – if I recall right. Which means I could easily have been working, only to find a pistol shoved into my face.

I do recall there was a foot-activated alarm located directly under the cash register. Which means I could have triggered it while heading for the register to try to get money.

IN FACT, IT was a sensitive-enough alarm that I recall my boss once accidentally triggering it while trying to ring up an order of sandwiches and chips.

I used to wonder how subtly I could trigger that alarm, if someone agitated enough to pull a pistol on me had walked in. Could I do it undetected? Or would my foot movement catch his attention, and anger him (or her, I suppose) enough to pull the trigger of his pistol?

I could easily have been in the same position as that woman, only it could have ended for me at age 17. Not that it makes the woman’s story any less tragic – 57 is too young an age to die at, particularly for a reason so stupid.

Although, thinking about this incident and my own high school years also reminds me of the popular film from that era – Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

FOR WHILE MANY a man of my age bracket will forevermore remember Phoebe Cates’ moment of cinematic glory, there also was that scene near the end of the film when Judge Reinhold’s “Brad” character managed to avert a robbery attempt while working as a late-night cashier at a 7-Eleven-like convenience store.

I doubt I – or any other clerk – could have done anything like that. Of course, if it happened in real-life, it would have turned the robber/gunman into a victim – no matter how unworthy that person would be of such status.


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