The Midnight War Zone ATM Run
Everything was going fine driving NYE 2022. It was busy, but the revelry was seriously dampened. Dinner parties, house affairs, and my only call downtown was the final ride of the night. Too much COVID, too many bars and clubs didn’t even open. It was an uneventful New Years Eve.
Until 1:30 in the morning. There did come a moment of excitement. I got a call for a pickup in the War Zone. For those unfamiliar with Albuquerque territory, this is a poor district with the lion’s share of homicides (Abq broke its homicide record by early November in ’21), gang activity, and crime. Even so, I do pickups and drop-offs there often, night and day, and I’ve never experienced any trouble at all. And here’s a lesson for white folks middle-class and richer that I’d learned a long time ago traveling to third world countries: Just because people are poorer than you, and maybe also browner than you, that doesn’t mean they want to murder you.
The pickup: Two fellas got into the car. An older gent with a white beard up front and a twenty-something in the back. The young guy had a black medical mask and the beard had a bandanna over his face. They needed to run to the ATM. This first thing that hit my brainpan was the story of a local Uber driver that was doing his own ATM run when someone came up with a gun behind his car and he gunned it out of Dodge. This was a different situation. If these guys were going to pull a gun on me and drain my debit card at the ATM, well, they were already sitting beside and behind me.
So, the above italics mantra ran through my head second, but with “murder” replaced with “rob.” So, off we drove. They were polite and talkative. They may have looked a touch sketchy, but they didn’t act like it. At first. The old dude regaled me with a tale of when he was robbed at the very ATM were headed to. How he chased down the guy in a Mercedes who took his cash and he managed to T-bone him with his pickup. The robber still managed to get away from him, though. Was he using the literary device of foreshadowing?
“Still want to go to this ATM?” I asked.
“Yeah. Let’s keep eyes all over, though.”
Okay. We pull into the dark gas station parking lot. The CU Anytime ATM stood at the edge, by the sidewalk running along Central. It wasn’t a drive-up. I parked next to it. This was the moment I’d find out if this was a robbery or not. Both got out of the car, looked around, closed their doors and went up to the ATM. The beard went about a transaction, the young guy stood with his back to him, eyes all over.
So, I kept my eyes all over, too. A homeless woman shuffled up from behind with a shopping cart overladen with all she owned. She took shelter from the light drizzle under the gas pump canopy. Lights shown in my rear-view mirror. A large SUV pulled up behind. Looked like a woman was at the wheel and I couldn’t get any description of the shadowed passenger. The young guy on guard gave them the eye. I looked about the perimeter but nothing else aroused my suspicion. The SUV backed up and drove off.
My passengers came back.
The beard said, “Man, those people in the SUV were sure giving us the eye.”
That’s not how I saw it, but I didn’t debate the issue.
And I drove them back to the apartment building I’d picked them up from.
So, in conclusion, Just because people are poorer than you, and maybe also browner than you, that doesn’t mean they want to murder you. Or rob you.
And for the record, I think these were white guys. I wrote that maxim that way because I’ve met innumerable white folks that have a little extra fear of the poor when they notice their skin is a different shade. Quit being afraid of the poor. And quit being racist.