Category Archives: Armored Truck

A Near Miss

Many years ago, when I was working for that armored truck company I told you about, I had to be to work at five in the morning.  I was an hour away from my job, so I was on the road pretty early.  On one of those early mornings–sometime in late winter or early spring–I had an interesting encounter with…..well, let me tell you about it.

I used to take a backroad to the state route that took me into the “big city” where I worked.  I was tootin’ down that backroad that morning, cruisin’ it somewhere between 55-60 mph.  It had been raining all night and was at that point a cold drizzle.  As my headlights illuminated the road in front of me, I could see some odd movement in the road ahead.  Since it was dark out and everything was wet, I wasn’t sure what I was seeing.  But something was definitely there!

As I peered through my windshield and the drizzle outside, something tall and large moving in the middle of the road began to materialize out of the dark mist and drizzle about fifty yards in front of me.  I was stunned to realize that what I was looking at was a human dressed in an olive-green rain suit running down the middle of the road in the same direction I was going!  Just as stunning was the realization that if I didn’t act swiftly, I would likely be hitting this person dead-on with the grill of my car!

I remember all of this in extreme slow motion (the usual mental reaction in a stressful situation), although it all happened within a time period of about twenty seconds.  I hit the brakes and narrowly missed hitting him as I flew passed him on the road. (I screeched passed him on his right side.  He later told me that the car was so close to him as it passed that he could feel the air movement of the rear bumper as it passed inches away from his right calf.)  When I hit the brakes, I started to fish-tail to the left (another reason he felt the bumper so close to his right calf).  It also caused me to drift left across the center line into the on-coming lane once I had passed him (by God’s protective hand, no one was in that lane at the time).  Just as I began to get the car under control and thought “this may be all there is to this little episode”, I found out why this guy was running down the center of the road.  Just as I was gaining control of the car, I saw in my headlights two head of cattle trotting down the shoulder of the oncoming lane in the same direction I was going!  And that’s when the driver’s side of my car smacked into one of them, sending me into a slow, wet one-hundred-eighty-degree spin.

As I was slowly spinning, I saw  I was heading for someone’s front yard and a telephone pole, complete with a guide-wire angling down and into the ground beside it.  (Hasn’t this been harrowing enough?  What’s going to happen next?  It’s like a movie plot unfolding or something.)  Since it had been raining so much, the dirt shoulder of the road was now a muddy mess, so I slid easily across the dirt shoulder and onto the grass of the front yard. (If it hadn’t been raining like it had and that had been a hard shoulder, I fully believe that would have caused my car to begin flipping as it hit the shoulder and the grass of the front yard.)  It is at this point that it occurred  to me that this car was an older convertible.  If I were to flip, I would have no protection whatsoever.  So as I’m literally along for the ride and am continuing to watch this all unfold, this was also the point that I decided we would never own another convertible again.

As I slid into the yard and the pole and guide-wire got closer, it began to be clearly evident that the car was going to just miss the pole and come to rest against the guide-wire just behind the passenger door.  It was just as if God had instructed my guardian angels to nestle that car right into that spot.  I sat there, staring at the telephone pole that was less than a foot in front of the passenger-side headlight.  The man I almost hit ran up to my car door to check on me.  Turns out that this was his front yard!  We were both pretty shaken up and extremely thankful that no one was hurt.  I got the impression later, however, that the cow that I hit may have been hurt pretty bad.  Never was able to find out….

God really came through that morning!  Just one more experience on this journey with Him that confirms His faithfulness to me and my family.

 

Music To His Ear

Speaking of that armored truck experience….

I have another fond memory of working there.  It involves a joker whose name was Mike.  You’ve heard the term “putting someone down”?  He had quite the knack for putting someone down without actually putting someone down.  Hmmm….follow that?  I hope so.  Between that and being a practical joker, he had quite the reputation around our branch.  You could depend on him, though, when the job got stressful, so overall he was a good guy to have around.

Needless to say, though, when I saw an opportunity to take advantage of–I took it.  Such as the following (this process at this armored truck branch  is no longer done this way since this happened, so I’m not breaching a security measure by sharing this with you):

At one time, our weapons (which were semi-automatics) were kept locked up in the break room.  They were in lockboxes on a hand cart.  Next to the gun rack was a clearing barrel.  It was a large square tube of thick metal, about waist-high,  with a wide heavy base that had sand in it on one end of the square tube and thick rubber on the other end.  The rubber was cut criss-cross so that you could put the barrel of your gun into it while you loaded or unloaded the weapon (this would protect you and those around you if your gun accidentally discharged while you were loading or unloading it).  The square tube was mounted on the base at an angle towards the user so that all you had to do was lean forward a little and the end of your gun barrel was through the rubber and inside the tube.  We each had a key to our own gun lockbox, so once we had our duty belts on, we would get our gun, put the barrel of it into the clearing barrel, put the magazine in (this is what holds the rounds) and rack a round into the chamber.  Once that was done, we holstered the weapon.

Some of us had containers and big heavy-duty bags that we used for carrying…stuff….and Mike was one who kept those things along the wall of the break room where the gun rack was kept.  He usually kept his stuff against  the wall between the gun rack and the clearing barrel.  Well, I walked into the break room one morning just as he was holstering his weapon.  I was heading for the gun rack for my own gun as he walked away from that area of the room.  It was then that I realized he would be going for his stuff against the wall at any time.  If I timed things right, I would find myself very amused.  So as I got my gun from the gun rack and stood in front of the clearing barrel getting ready to load my gun, I was watching him out of the corner of my eye.  He was now approaching his stuff against the wall, which happened to be immediately to my left.  As he bent down for his things that were against the wall, I had the barrel of my gun in the clearing barrel and had just finished nonchalantly inserting the magazine.  The angle of him bending down resulted in his head being about even with the clearing barrel.  So it was then that I chambered a round.

Nothing makes you freeze in your tracks faster than hearing the  “CHAchink!” of a cartridge entering the barrel of a gun that’s a foot away from your ear.  Mike froze.  Didn’t move a muscle.  For a couple of seconds that hung suspended in time, he slowly moved his eyes to his right.  When he saw what was happening and that there wasn’t actually a gun pointed at his head, I saw him visibly relax.  It was then that he began to see the humor in what had just happened.  I, on the other hand, saw it the whole time.  If you ask me, his reaction was the sign of a guilty conscience.  Regardless, it sure made for a lasting memory!  At least with me….

 

The Gun Range Incident

Do you remember me mentioning the armored truck company that I used to work for?  Something about breakdancing, as I recall….

Since we carried firearms on a daily basis, the state required us to requalify at the gun range every year.   Our permits to carry on the job were only good for a year, but that date varied for each one of us. In spite of that fact, most of us jumped through those hoops within a two-month period of time.  That meant that every year between November and January the secretary was forever trying to get everyone scheduled for requalifying before their permits to carry expired.  And under no circumstances were we to forget when our year was up!  If one of us let it slip, his or her name was moved to the top of the “black list” and he or she was grounded to the office until another “requal” class could be attended, which was sometimes weeks away.

For us, these classes were outside (which meant that if you were caught in a December or January class, you were probably one of the oh-crap-my-permit-is-about-to-expire people taking the class).  So, needless to say, I usually tried to get in on one of the earlier Fall classes.  These classes were open to more than just armored truck employees, too.  These other people who attended usually worked for local security companies.  So it was at one of these mixed classes I was attending one year that a hilariously unbelievable incident occurred.

Our HR department–Gary was his name–was also our firearms instructor and often took the role of the gun range instructor when we all had to requalify.  He was the instructor on that fateful day.  I need to tell you that some of the security company people were…um…old.  Old as in thinking, “They actually let you carry a firearm??” old.  Their guns were just plain old revolvers in even older leather holsters that seemed to hang down to their knees.  (I felt like I was just waiting for one of them to walk up to me all bow-legged, stand there and stare at me while they spit chaw out of the side of their mouth and say, “This here gun range ain’t big ‘nough fer the both of us.  DRAW!!”).  Well, one of these “youth challenged” individuals was an old lady.  I watched many a requal class come and go where the instructor worked time and again with this woman to get her to barely pass so that she could carry for another year.  This time was no different. Except for what happened next!

Gary had shooters on the line, and she was one of them.  He gave his instructions and finished by saying, “Shooters ready?  Fire!”  Everybody shot but her.  She just stood there watching everyone else shoot.  She eventually took her gun out of the holster as everyone else finished up and pointed it down-range.  But she didn’t fire it!  Gary was behind and to the right of all the shooters on the line.  When he saw this, he asked her what she was doing.  When she eventually realized he was speaking to her, her body language said, “Huh??” as she turned towards him with her gun still pointing ahead of her!  If there was a roof to hit at an outdoor gun range, Gary would have hit it.  As she turned with her gun pointing at him, he yelled, “What are you doing?!  Holster that weapon!!”, as his arms flailed about and everyone else hit the deck.  He then proceeded to rip her a new one as he got her back in position with her gun down-range again.  He gave her his instructions again–at a much faster rate of speed with an increase in volume to match–and said, “Fire!”.  She just stood there.  He said, “Fire!” again, only louder.  She turned and looked at Gary, then turned and looked down-range again at the target.  She drew her weapon this time. Then, upon finding another roof to hit, Gary yelled, “I SAID FIRE!!!”.  She eventually got a shot off.  Then another.  She may have even hit the target.

I looked at Gary and  noticed his hair looked thinner.  But only where his hands had been gripping his head in frustration.  Then I looked at his feet.  There was hair strewn all over the ground in front of him and he still had a death grip on another small clump of it in each of his hands (I also noticed that his hair had turned several shades lighter and quite suddenly at that).  His eyes looked coal-black as he bored holes with them into the old woman’s head.  I think he was even talking to himself, but I couldn’t make out what he was saying from where I was.  Probably just as well….

She didn’t pass that day.  In fact, we never saw her again at any other requal class.  Maybe she decided to retire.

Passing Gas

I don’t recall if I have mentioned it before, but I used to work for an armored truck company.  Interesting job, to say the least.  And potentially one of the most dangerous.

I worked for them for two months shy of fifteen years.  The first question that is probably floating through your mind right now is, “Did you ever have anything happen to you?”  I had a lot of things happen to me, but thankfully none of them involved being robbed or shooting anyone.  The closest I every got to anything going down actually happened twice in the fourteen-plus years that I was with them.

My wife and I pray every morning over each other and our family, but we especially did that when I had that job!  I’ll tell you this, God certainly came through–both times.  Here’s how it happened:  I typically rode in the back of the armored truck.  As my driver pulled us up to our next stop, I distinctly felt the Holy Spirit impress upon me, do not get out of this truck.  Even though a couple of years separated these two events, that is exactly how it happened both times!  I’ll tell you what, that will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end.  The first time it happened, I told my driver that something didn’t feel right about this and that we would move ahead to our next stop and come back.  We did exactly that, came back and everything felt very normal.  The second time, I just sat there and waited.  It was a solid minute or two before that impression lifted and I knew that whatever–or whoever–it was that was “wrong” about this situation had passed.

Something else that also happened twice was our truck breaking down out in the middle of nowhere–literally.  We were out in the middle of nowhere.  Nothing but cornfields and cows.  Not a good situation to be in.  And it just so happened that both times that this occurred,  I had the same driver–in the same truck!  Hmmm…that should have told me something right there.  You know what was really cool, though?  The first time it happened–no exaggeration, it was within the first minute of being stranded on the side of the roada sheriff car pulled up behind us and stayed with us the entire time (which happened to be from around 2:30 in the afternoon to somewhere around 8:30 that night–yes, that’s how long it took to get a tow truck big enough and out far enough to where we were)!  You’re not supposed to ride in a towed vehicle, but we had too many bodies and not enough seats in the tow truck, so I got the short straw and had to ride in the front seat of the cold armored truck as it rode along hoisted up on its back wheels.  No heat in a solid metal cubicle on a cold October night equals a very cold ride back to the shop–even stopping along the way for something hot to drink.  Then the second time it happened, the local police showed up within the first five minutes of being broken down.  Talk about being “on-the-spot-Johnny”!  That time it didn’t take nearly as long and it was just outside of the town we had left.  Comparing the first break-down to that one was like comparing sleeping in a tent to sleeping in a five-star hotel.

Now I don’t know why, but I was thinking when I first started to tell you this story that we had run out of gas when we were stranded like that.  Obviously, that wasn’t the case.  But I had been with some drivers that definitely pushed the envelope in that regard–so much so that my beady little eyes would be glistening with sweat as I looked through the glass  window that separated the front of the truck from the back at the gas gauge as it dipped below the “E”.   I had already been stranded on the side of the road enough on this job–I sure didn’t want it to be for such an idiotic thing as intentionally running on vapors.  It never got to that point, but come on…..

Well, let me finish with this true story (this didn’t happen at our branch of the company, but it supposedly happened at another one):  A  police officer was sitting in his cruiser watching traffic  go by.  He watched one of our trucks drive by and immediately noticed something very peculiar:  The driver of the truck was fanning his door back and forth!  Not knowing if this might be a signal that the truck had been hijacked (not to be laughed at–that does happen), he called for back-up.  The armored truck eventually was pulled over to the side of the road with four to five police cruisers surrounding it.  So what did they find?  No hijackers.  No immediate threat to anyone’s lives.  Well, maybe that’s slightly incorrect.  Those trucks are notorious for having very little air movement.  The guy in the back of the truck had gas so bad that the driver was fanning the door in a desperate move to get fresh air into the front cab!

 

The Breakdancer

Let’s talk some more about this.

I realize that Breakdancing has morphed into something truly spectacular with today’s dancers.  All we need to do to see that is watch the last few seasons of America’s Got Talent.  I say that it has morphed because, as amazing as it is to watch today, there’s something about it that’s different.  And then I find myself thinking back to what it was like when it really came on the scene in the early- to mid-80’s…..

I mentioned when we last caught up with each other that I was the Breakdance King of Bath Middle School.  That was 1984 in eighth grade. For me, it started a couple of years prior to that when we were up in northern Michigan at the family cabin on Paradise Lake.  We had made a trip to Cheboygan or Petoskey and on that trip I found a big instructional picture book on how to breakdance.  I absorbed that book for the next year, practicing behind closed doors and then making my talent known to my family as I got better.  (Although Mom wouldn’t let me practice any “helicopters” on the living room floor.  Of course, I really didn’t mind that, since I had no desire to get rug burns or smash into Dad’s stereo equipment.)

So I learned from a book!  Says a lot in today’s world of YouTube videos and such.  Some moves I never did–like The Helicopter–but most of them I mastered as best I could:  The Wave, The Centipede, The Crab and everything else the book had.  But oh, the music!  Remember the music?  There were a couple of songs that were just the best to breakdance to.  I have them both on my music list (for nostalgia’s sake, of course.  No other reason….)  The first one was “Jam On It” by Newcleus.  A good one, but not near as good as “Freakazoid” by Midnight Star!  What a beat this song has at the beginning!  Definitely the best by far.  In case you don’t remember it or haven’t heard it in years, here is the first 50 seconds of the song (you’ll see what I mean!):

Breakdancing came to an end for me when I entered high school as a Freshman in the Fall of ’85.  The high school had its own version of Friday night Fun Nights, but by then breakdancing’s popularity was beginning to wane.  That wouldn’t have stopped me–because breakdancing to me was a lot of fun–but the style of breakdancing the high schoolers used was aggressive and very suggestive.  It only took one visit to a high school Fun Night for me to know that this was no longer something I was going to be doing.  I could see egos on that dance floor, making it more about competition than having fun.  So when one of them repulsively taunted me to come out on the floor, I stood there with my arms crossed and refused to lower myself to that kind of breakdancing.  I figured everyone would think I was scared to dance in high school, but I didn’t care.  I knew the real reason…..

Well obviously that was years ago.  Many years ago.  But  four or five years back, my co-workers where I worked at the time got wind of my middle school fame (my telling them about it may have had something to do with it, but all that really did is just cement my fame in their eyes).  They bugged me and bugged me to dance for them.  I told them I might eventually possibly get around to doing something for them, but “we’ll see”.  I worked with quite a few other people in a fairly open room that was inside a big garage for trucks.  It was towards the end of a work day and we had a “lull in the action”, so-to-speak.  So I grabbed my phone, started the “Freakazoid” song and started playing it over the intercom.  I have to admit, it was cool!  I could hear it echoing in the garage:  “Freakazoids, robots, please report.  Freakazoids, robots, please report to the daaance flooooorrrr….” and then the drum beat and keys started:  “Bear/chick/bear-bear/chick/bear-bear-bear-bear/chick/bear….”

They came running!  And I could hear them hollering, “He’s dancing for us!  He’s gonna do it!  Hurry up!….”  And they gathered around in that inner sanctum and watched a 40-year old do something he hadn’t done since he was 14.  At one point, while doing The Centipede, I just about knocked the air out of me.  Maybe almost pulled a muscle or two.  It was all a big blur with the adrenaline coursing through my veins and all.  I was definitely rusty.  But the joints still worked sufficiently enough to warrant an autograph and a couple of pictures.  Actually, it got me on YouTube for a short while, but I never saw it (no, you can’t either.  I already looked for it.)

So my “Breakdance King of Bath Middle School” days will now live on in infamy–at least in the minds of a privileged handful of co-workers who witnessed something that will probably never happen again.