As promised yesterday, this is a continuation of my hapless adventures in Atlanta. For those of you who didn't read yesterday's blog – and shame on you – I lived in Atlanta, Georgia with my dad for the summer during the 1996 summer Olympics. I lived downtown, right on Peachtree Street and wandered the city, unsupervised, to my fifteen year old heart's content. As I wrote yesterday, I had a gun pulled on me and assuming it was a joke, laughed at the guy and walked off. Turns out he really was robbing people during the night and he made the morning news. I however didn't get mugged or shot because I was too stupid to know he was serious. Ignorance is truly bliss. I met this unsavory man at a little greasy spoon I was a waitress at called the Copper Kettle. It is exactly like a Waffle House, down to the yellow square tiles with black letters on the sign. Also you can order pancakes at the Copper Kettle whereas you are limited to waffles at Waffle House.
One day, as fate would have it, I had to go to the restroom while on duty. To go to the restrooms from the dining room, one goes through a swinging brown door with a smoke stained, greasy plexiglass circle window in it and behind that is a hallway. The layout of the hallway was as follows: on the right hand side was a door immediately opening into the store office, then a bit further down the hall was the woman's restroom and then the man's restroom just past that.
Background: This Copper Kettle was owned by an enormous Holiday Inn that was next door and every day someone from the Holiday Inn came down to our restaurant, chatted with the manager, Margaret, and they would empty the safe and the Holiday Inn employee would presumably return to the hotel where the hotel management would make one large bank deposit at the end of the day. I had seen this transaction time and again and knew what was more or less happening because Margaret had taken the time to explain this procedure to me. It happened every day and I never thought much about it.
Back to having to use the bathroom: So, I opened the swinging door and stepped into the hallway and movement in the office caught my attention. There were two men kneeling on the floor in front of the open safe removing money from it. I said hello and told them to have a good day, one guy waved a little at me, then I went to the bathroom, handled my business, washed my hands and came back out. I continued doing my job, earning money for my first car. About ten minutes after I had used the restroom, Margaret came flying through the swinging door, her dark curly hair flowing out behind her, yelling “We got robbed! Oh shit! We got robbed! The safe is EMPTY! OH MY GOD, WE'VE BEEN ROBBED!”. I immediately knew the two guys I had said a cheerful hello to had been bad guys robbing us blind and not the nice hotel employees I had taken them to be. I was completely panic stricken for a few minutes. I couldn't say anything. I was fifteen and had no idea what the police would do to some airhead who said hello to thieves and then told them to have a good day. Hell, if they had asked I would have probably made them a waffle and gotten them a bag! I waited until everything cooled down out front and then pulled Margaret in the office and told her what I'd seen. It turns out I was right to be terrified because she asked me if I was F***ing stupid and I pretty much had to say that yes, in fact I was. That was one red faced, fire breathing, angry little woman! How could I have thought they were with the hotel? I had no idea. Why didn't I come get someone?! I thought they were with the hotel. How could I have possibly thought they were with the hotel?? I had no idea.
Well of course the police came and I had to give them a statement and try to recall anything I could about the two guys that I welcomed so warmly as they were robbing us clean. That was a horrible part too, because they didn't look like bad guys. They were just guys. There was nothing remarkable about them, they weren't even tattooed and pierced, they were just guys in polo shirts. I think one had brown hair. “Yes officer, they were in polo shirts. One had brown hair.” “Well thank you ma'am, that's a huge lead! That narrows it down to under four billion people! Good job!”. Somehow I didn't get fired, but probably only because there are laws against firing people with obvious mental deficiencies.
Also, just to wrap things up... One night my dad and I came back from romping all over Olympic Park and decided to pop into the Copper Kettle for a evening breakfast. When I came walking in the door, shouts and exclamations were hurled in my direction, the cook and a waitress both gave me a hug and one of the waitresses was crying as she hung around my neck. Another cook yelled at me “Where the HELL have you been?” and that was followed by similar questions from all of the restaurant staff. I was told I could have at least had the decency to call at least half a dozen times and the gay assistant cook said now that I was safe she was going to kick my ass. I just stood there a minute blinking at all of them. I looked up at dad and he looked down at me and we just looked back at them. I said “I was off tonight, I worked this morning”. Then someone smacked the counter with her hand and said “THE BOMB?”. Again I stood looking at her without the slightest comprehension of what she was talking about or why I would need a bomb. (“You da bomb” wasn't a saying yet). As it turned out what everyone was so upset about was the bomb that had gone off in Olympic Park thirty minutes prior to my dad and I arriving at the Copper Kettle. In fact, the last place we had been was the exact spot where it was set off. We didn't have a clue. I had heard no sirens or any explosion or noticed any more activity than what is usually going on in downtown Atlanta. Dad and I were completely oblivious to the whole thing, but since this was before cell phones were so commonplace, we hadn't been reachable since we weren't at home. They all knew I adored going to the park, I collected hundreds of those pins and spent all my time there. I suppose they all figured I'd been blown to smithereens. Nope. Not me. I was probably too busy wandering around seeing if I could hold a door open for a serial murderer.