Crimes, Misdemeanors and Stories for Cute Boys by Deb Tish

I did some idiotic, not-quite legal things when I was younger–things I’m not sure I want bobbing about on the Internet forevermore. So I’m going to deflect by telling you about bank robberies I’ve been involved in. As a spectator, not as a robber.

The first robbery was during the Montreal Olympics when I was ten. My grandfather was visiting from California and he took me, my 22-month-old brother Michael, and my cousin Scott to the bank. This was mid-day, mid-town, mid-summer. Scott and I were leaning on a check-writing table, Michael was wandering around, Grandpa was next in line at a teller window.

In a flash, four or five men stormed the place. One moment they weren’t there, the next, they were deep inside the bank. All wore dark clothes. All had nylons over their faces. All had guns that I can only describe as big machine guns. Two or three jumped the counters and aimed their guns at the tellers, screaming their demands for money. Another two charged the customers, waving their guns and shouting at us to get down on the floor.

My cousin and I froze. All around us, people were lying face down and sobbing but neither of us could move. Someone later told us that one of the gunmen came at me and Scott, screamed at us to get down. But I have no memory of this. What I do remember is that someone under the table pulled my feet out from under me and I fell to the tile floor. They did the same to Scott.

I lay there certain the robbers would do one of two things: lock us all in the vault and kill us, or take us all hostage in their van. Either way, we were all dead. And it was the day my dad–who had separated from my mother and moved to Toronto–was coming back to visit. All I knew was I’d never see him again. I hid my face in the curtains so the robbers would see I wasn’t staring. So they wouldn’t kill me just yet.

Then I heard a small voice say, “Boogie man.” It was Michael. I peeked up to see him wandering around the bank, way on the other side, pointing at the gunmen in wonder. He was wearing footsie pajamas. A few people lying on the floor tried to get hold of him, pull him down, but he stayed just out of reach. I’d like to say I crawled over to him, risked my life, but I didn’t. I was a little girl with a gunman standing over her. As scared as I was for Michael–unbelievably vulnerable and innocent at that moment–I could see the robbers weren’t bothered by his accusations. I remember thinking they seemed slightly amused.

As quick as it came on, the whole thing was over. The bank flooded with police and reporters, my brother was in my grandfather’s arms, and Scott and I climbed out from under the table. The robbery turned out to be one of the biggest in Montreal’s history.

My next bank robbery wasn’t nearly as frightening. First of all, I was about 20 and had just moved to Toronto from LA, where I’d survived veritable herds of flashers, freak-boys and D-list actors. Second, I’d just had my purse stolen from my car in Hollywood–twice. And had to stand in countless lineups to replace all my i.d.–twice. Third, by this time I’d learned the value of having a cute story to pull out of my pocket while chatting with boys.

I was working for my dad’s company that summer and had gone to the bank on my lunch break to deposit my paycheck. This bank was tiny and I was one of maybe three customers. Standing at the teller, I set my wallet on the counter to my side and signed the back of my check. As I scribbled, a man approached the teller on my right. I looked up to see a black gun pointed at the teller. Just like in the movies, he passed her a paper bag and told her to fill it up. I couldn’t stop myself from staring at the gun. It was way too real and way too close.

Then I noticed my wallet. Midway between the robber and me, just next to his gun. Filled with my spanking fresh, twice-replaced driver’s license, birth certificate, social security card. The gun ceased to exist. My only thought was, “If Asshole here takes my wallet, he’s going to have to fight me.” (I didn’t say I was bright at 20.) Very slowly, very carefully, I reached my hand out and began sliding my wallet toward me. Once it was close enough I placed my body between the wallet and the gun. Like a shield made of stupid.

Robber Man grabbed his sack, spun around and–also just like in the movies–dropped the cash all over the floor. He scooped up what he could, jumped in a waiting car and sped away.

My lunch hour was over. I headed back to work with rescued wallet and buoyed confidence. Oh, and a really cute story for the boys back at the office.



15 Replies to “Crimes, Misdemeanors and Stories for Cute Boys by Deb Tish”

  1. Wow! Two bank robberies. What are the odds? It seems like this must mean something in the grand universal scheme of things.

    The image of Michael tottering around in his footsie pajamas had me holding my breath. Scary.

    But great stories — I’m sure you impressed many boys!

  2. I am going to tell everyone I talk to today to head on over to the Debs and read this post. One of the most compelling pieces of writing I’ve had the bone-chilling pleasure of reading in a long time. Michael toddling around, babbling “boogie man” is straight out of a Stephen King novel. Gosh.

  3. Great stories, Tish! Very exciting. Thank goodness all ended well.

    …Once it was close enough I placed my body between the wallet and the gun. Like a shield made of stupid.

    This made me laugh out loud. Never underestimate the guts of a woman who’s been made to stand in line one time too many. He’s lucky you didn’t take him out.


  4. Heading over here to The Ball, I thought: “Today is Tish day, what clever crime will she share?” Yikes, two bank roberries and you made it past 30 without being in another one? 😉 Great truthful storytelling!

  5. Jennifer – hmm, maybe I’ll buy lottery tickets.

    Amy – you just made me cry!

    Robin – how do you think he dropped the money? 😉 I love when you stop by.

    Katie – The funny thing is, that yellow velcro wallet got stolen the next summer. Something to do with my overly trusting nature and the refusal to lock my office door in a public area. But I had my i.d. in my pocket, so hah.

    Larramie – My bank robbery days are done. But here’s a coincidence – my husband worked in a bank during law school and witnessed a man chasing his girlfriend into the bank and hacking her with a machete. Steve and another teller knocked the guy over with a velvet rope stand and sat on him until police arrived. So, you know, then I had to marry him.

  6. Whoa. The robbery when you were a child was chilling, just chilling. As a father, imagining your brother walk across the floor like that is almost to vivid and terrifying.

    Great stories, both. And glad you’re around to tell them.

  7. The robbery when you were young sounded terrifying.
    As for the other?
    I am reminded of the bank robber here in Hawaii who, after he got the money, took a cab straight home and hid in his closet.
    The best part? He had robbed his own bank branch and they knew him!
    Thanks for stopping by my blog Tish!

  8. Dear lord, Tish!!! Fabulous stories, and more fabulous writing 😀 When we finally get together I want to hear this story again over a glass of red wine. I expect compliance.

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