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So I stopped by the bank this morning, because my wallet was totally cash-free. Both ATM's are "Out of Service" so I go into the branch to get some money. It occurs to me that I haven't actually been inside a bank in many months, maybe in a couple years. But here I am in the single rope-line that traverses back and forth in front of the tellers. The line is fairly long -- probably because the ATMs are down. Within a minute or so, there are a few people behind me and about a half-dozen in front of me.
The next customer achieves her teller, and I turn the corner so that I'm now facing the entrance to the bank. My eyes are wandering about, bored mostly, when I notice a tall man enter the bank wearing a trenchcoat. Now, it's July in Los Angeles, so this is odd. And maybe I'm kidding myself -- I am a cartoon writer, after all -- but the security guard who's standing by the door, seems to think this is odd too. He takes a few steps forward to keep an eye on this guy.
Trenchcoat marches right up to the end of the line, and says -- not loudly, not muttering: "The A.T.M.s are out of order." The guy at the end of the line turns at this and nods curtly to Trenchcoat. Then Trenchcoat says: "Get out of my way." End-of-the-line gives him an incredulous look. If he says anything at all, it's too quiet for me to hear (and I'm about two yards away).
Then shouting "GET OUT OF MY F***ING WAY!", Trenchcoat pulls -- I kid you not -- a goddamn MACHETE from out of his coat and swings it down at End-of-the-line over and over. But -- and it's a huge but - he's not hacking at him. He's WHACKING him with the FLAT of the blade. End-of-the-line is holding up his arms defensively and screaming. I don't think he even realizes he's not being chopped into horror-movie bits. All he sees is this maniac swinging a machete down at him.
Meanwhile, nearly EVERYONE in the bank -- myself included -- does absolutely nothing. We all stand, rooted to our spots. Maybe we're too shocked to react, maybe too afraid. I remember noticing that Trenchcoat is hitting him with the machete instead of cutting him, but still I don't move. I don't even run away, let alone help. I just stand there.
The only person who does react is the Security Guard, who is standing behind Trenchcoat. There can't be anyway for him to know that End-of-the-line is not being horribly murdered. Security Guard pulls his gun. He says something like "Drop the knife!" (He said "knife", but it really was a machete.) Trenchcoat turns to face Security Guard, holding the machete high. He does not drop it, but takes a step toward Security Guard, who promptly shoots him twice. The gunshots are very loud, and I can almost still hear them echoing in my eardrums. Trenchcoat goes down. The machete clatters to the (probably faux) marble floor. The Security Guard advances quickly and kicks the machete out of Trenchcoat's reach. It goes skittering across the (probably faux) marble floor until it hits the carpeted area where the loan officers have their desks.
Security Guard then kneels beside Trenchcoat, who is lying on the (probably faux) marble floor, breathing heavily with his eyes open. Security Guard, keeping his gun aimed the whole time, pulls open Trenchcoat's coat. I lean forward and see that Trenchcoat is wearing what appears to me to be a bullet proof vest of some kind. In any case, there's no blood that I can see.
The police arrive almost immediately, which suggests that at least one of the tellers was not quite as paralyzed by events as I was and hit a silent alarm. End-of-the-line is freaked out but basically fine. He has some nasty welts and a few extremely superficial scratches on his arms, I suppose from where the edge of the blade dug into his skin a bit. The cops insist on him going to the hospital. An ambulance arrives to take Trenchcoat away. One cop actually suggests that End-of-the-line get in too. Unsurprisingly, End balks at riding with the guy, and then makes it clear he's not even willing to go to the same hospital as "that F***ER". He eventually gets in a squad car and is driven away.
They keep all of us there for about two and a half hours. I talk to a uniformed officer and then to two plainclothes detectives. I tell them what I saw, but I have more questions than answers. I get no answers. And since I knew I wouldn't get any, I make very little effort to ask the questions. Finally, they take my information and let me go. I leave, passing the useless ATMs as I go.
It's all like some really bizarre performance art, and now that it's over I can't help wondering if that's exactly what it was. But if so, it was incredibly elaborate and damned irresponsible.
But in any case, that's why I'm broke and late for work.