In my late teens I worked in the cash office of a grocery store that received regular bomb threats. Not for any particular reason, just that a very disturbed man had fixated on our store and a couple of other businesses for his kicks. I’d pick up the phone and he’d whisper I put a bomb in the store! and giggle and hang up.
I don’t remember his name. I used to remember his name.
So he’d call, and make his threat. I’d go through the procedure posted by the phone: call the sheriff’s department (my hometown was many years yet away from 911 service) who’d dispatch their guys and the fire department; call the manager on duty; hit the alarm and calmly announce the evacuation of the store. The first time, it made my heart pound. After that, it became sort of boring.
Yeah, so and so’s at it again. (What the hell was his name?) The guy had never gone through with any of his threats, but the tiny chance that maybe this time it was for real made us go through the motions. We’d stand outside the evacuation line on the far side of the parking lot and smoke cigarettes until the all-clear was called. The managers would make jokes. If it was cold, we’d sit in our cars and turn the heat on.
I was never scared, after the first time.
The organization I work for now, we’re not very popular, especially here in Louisiana. We don’t publish our address or our inside lines; our office suite doesn’t have a name plaque outside, just the number. We’ve got a peephole in the door. Once last summer a man tried to force his way into the office — how he got the address I still don’t know. He was very angry, but in a frustrated way; he kept shouting that he just wanted to talk.
We don’t often get outright threats, though. Most of what’s directed at us is just ignorance in its purest sense — there’s so much misinformation about what we do, how we’re funded, that people get angry for no real reason. There’s the usual blog and twitter hate. We get emails and letters and very occasionally a phone call.
Yesterday afternoon a man left a message on our general voicemail line; as the first one in the office, I was the one to pick it up. He described his hatred for my organization as “n***** loving” and described what he and his “boys” would like to do to us, to show us “what’s what.”
The matter’s been passed on to the FBI.
We’re all fine.
I’ve never heard hate in a human voice like that. I’ve been in dangerous situations, terrifying situations where I didn’t know if I was going to survive. I’ve been held at gunpoint and knifepoint, I have been raped, I have been beaten. I’ve never felt the kind of hate that was in that man’s voice.
I never thought I’d think fondly on that man who used to call the Grand Union, and giggle as he threatened our lives, but I do now. He never meant it.
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