sam's notes

notes on government, sports and popular culture

Monday, June 27, 2005

N&R editor Allen Johnson reflects on his father's post-professional employment at Winn-Dixie, which just announced it was closing its North Carolina stores.

While Winn-Dixie represents the twighlight of Allen Johnson Sr.'s lifetime of work, the grocery chain symbolizes the beginning of my working days. My very first job was as a bagboy at the Winn-Dixie on Capitol Boulevard in Raleigh. By the time I quit Winn-Dixie four years later, I'd just about done it all: bagging groceries and carrying them to the customer's car, checking, which I hated, and stocking shelves including produce and frozen foods. The only thing I didn't do was cut meat.

One Saturday night, I was blocking shelves with my co-worker Nate when we heard a loud blast and the sound of breaking glass. Nate went to inspect and came running back down the aisle as fast as a 300--pound man could.

"It's goddamn robbers!" he said, flying past me.

Not knowing what to do, I followed Nate. We ran upstairs and crouched down by the railing next to the men's room. Then the head cashier came over the intercom and asked everyone to come up front. My gut reaction was to do as asked in case the robbers decided to hurt people to prove they were serious. Looking back on it, we should have run straight out the emergency exit and set off the alarm. But hey, it was my first experience with criminals.

But I'd also just finished reading In Cold Blood. I walked to the front and a guy in a ski mask, guarding the door with a sawed-off shotgun, turnerd and told us to hit the floor. I saw the manager, the produce manager and another bagboy lying on the floor. I knew there were other employees elsewhere on the floor. I figured the robbers thought there were too many employees in the store to methodically shooting everyone. I like to think my survival skills would have kicked in had they rounded us up in the produce cooler.

But nothing happened. The robbers shouted something TV, like "Count to 100 or your dead!" before taking off. The cops showed up and took everyone's story. To my knowledge, the robbers were never caught.


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