Well, I certainly had a memorable experience today. My family was held hostage in a KFC in Shiprock, NM.
After an emotional morning of saying goodbye to our extended family, we loaded up the kids and set out on day 1 of our drive to Austin.
We stopped for dinner an hour outside of Farmington, NM (where we were going to be staying for the night). After a quick vote we decided to eat at KFC. It was getting dark and the baby had been screaming throughout the entire last leg of the journey, so I was anxious to feed her as soon as we stopped. I sent Blaine, my parents and the kids inside to order and get started while I fed Tess in the car. My car was facing away from the building. I got cozy feeding Tess and catching up on e-mail and Facebook. I got a text from Aunt Liz (who we were to spend the night with in Farmington). She thought it was funny that we would stop in Shiprock, made it sound like it was a pretty shady place. Ten or fifteen minutes quickly passed and I was ready to head inside to join the family.
I glanced quickly in the rearview mirror and was puzzled to see that all of the lights were out in the KFC. A power outage? That's weird. I noticed there were two flashlights on in the building and people were walking around with them. All of the lights were on at the stores across the street. Something felt very wrong. Why was no one coming out of the building? Certainly if it were dark and the power went out while I was standing in line I would leave. No one was going in or out.
I started to feel a little panicky. I called Blaine but he didn't answer. I could see two or three people in black pants, shirts and hats walking around the restaurant with flashlights. It started to make sense why Blaine didn't answer, and why no one was going in or out. They were being robbed, they were locked in! For all I knew someone had a gun to their heads and they were down on the ground. My heart was racing. Was this really happening? I hopped out of the car. Just then one of the people with flashlights started coming out of the building. I ducked behind my car. It seemed like he was looking around for people who were still in their cars or outside the building. Or in short, he was looking for someone like me. Someone who could see what was going on and alert authorities. I thought my heart would explode as I hid behind the car, it was beating so fast! The guy looked around for a minute and then went back in. It was then that I noticed the giant unmarked white van near the entrance to the store.
I have never been more horrified. This really was happening. What should I do? Speed off in my car with Tess and call police? Charge inside? Hide? Think! Think Kristi Think!
I got in my car and locked the door. Just then I noticed the flashlight guy was coming out of the building again, with someone else this time. My Dad! Oh no! He had my dad. He was standing right behind my dad and shining the flashlight over his shoulder (was he holding my dad at gunpoint? I couldn't tell!) What was going to happen? My Dad came and rapped on the window, "come out. . .you need to come inside now". What? I was certain I was going to die from heart failure. I had been caught. The guy must have seen me when he came out of the building earlier, and demanded someone in the restaurant who knew who was hiding in the van come out and get them with him. I glanced very nervously between my dad and the punk robber who was escorting him out to get me. "They want everyone inside so they can lock the doors" my dad said calmly. What to do! What should I do? Kick the guy? Punch him? Beg him to let me leave the baby outside? Visions of being shot and laying on the floor of the KFC with my kids raced through my head. It took everything I had to not lose control of myself.
The guy told me to lock my car. He shone his flashlight around, as I fumbled for my keys to lock the door. He was likely checking out what goods we had in the car, or looking for my phone (which was stashed in my pocket) to make sure I wouldn't call for help. "Take it all!" I thought "Give me my family and you can have it all!". I didn't say anything. When the guy turned to escort us to the building I quickly pulled my phone from my pocket and dialed 911. As he turned around to check on me I slid my phone in my back pocket before he could see. Dang it! Maybe the operator would be able to track my phone and know someone needed help at that address. That would have to do. At least it was something.
Tears welled in my eyes as we got closer to the building. The man went to open the doors for us but they were locked. One of his partners must have locked the doors again to keep everyone else inside. He ran around to the other side to get someone to unlock the door.
This was my chance!
Should I scream for help? Run? Should I call 911 and risk him seeing me and shooting me? I didn't know how many precious seconds I had until he would turn around and see me. I whispered quickly to my Dad, "are we being robbed?! What is happening?"
"I don't …. think so…" he replied, calmly. He always could keep his cool in times of crisis. I was like, "Dad, it's okay, just tell me what is going on?" my voice trembling. "I don't think anything is going on" he replied, "they just want us to come in so they can lock the doors". Could my dad really be that naive? At least they hadn't hurt him… yet. Bah!
Cautiously glancing around, I shakily dialed 911 again. Hoping I could eeek out some information before the guy came back. They answered, "I think we are being robbed!" I wailed. "They cut the power at the KFC and they are locking everyone inside!" The operator quickly said, "well the power is out on a big block in Shiprock". Oh great, they like… blew up a whole transformer or something! My mind was racing. "They came out to get me from my parked car to bring me in and lock me inside!" I insisted.
And it was then that Blaine came out the front door. Annnnnd…. only when he told me that no, everything was fine. . . the power was just out, that I burst in to tears and collapsed in his arms. He was very, very perplexed. As you would be if you had been inside the KFC and had the whole thing happen from that perspective.
I still can't even process it. The whole situation was SO WEIRD. There was never any danger. Apparently the power had gone off right after my family got their food, and it was off on the whole block, but still on across the street (what I had used for comparison). My Dad overheard the employees (whose uniforms were black pants, black shirts and black hats) talking about how it was protocol to lock all the doors if the power goes out to make sure they don't get robbed, so he got an employee to come with him out to get me before he locked the doors. The employee was trying to be nice and shining his flashlight around my van so I could find my keys and get what I needed. Who knows who was driving the giant white unmarked van. The kids were being crazy which is why Blaine never picked up his phone.
Talk about a series of unfortunate events.
I seriously lost about ten years of my life.
And I am pretty glad that I didn't try to bargain with the robber/KFC employee to spare the life of my family in exchange for my van and all of it's contents. That would have been a real win for him, seeing as he had no interest in taking the lives of my family. And also glad I didn't bust out my kickboxing moves on him.
Sheesh. Why do these things happen to me? And on the bright side, nothing makes a day brighter than the beautiful realization that you and your family are actually NOT being held hostage at a KFC in Shiprock, NM.