In advance, I'm sorry this story is so long, but I didn't want to leave out anything important that happened.

This happened back in late November 2019, and it is a day that I'll probably never forget.

A bit of backstory:

I work in a small souvenir shop in Southern California. The shop is set up in two parts. The first being the front of the store that has the only door, and the second being the back room. The register for the shop is towards the back of the first front room, and there is a counter where I stand and a small work area behind me that is separate that the rest of the store. It's like our own little corner where we work on different projects and keep an eye on the security cameras in the back room and any other blind spot in the store.

The owner usually can't afford to keep more than one person working, but since it was the busiest time of the year for us, she had just hired the daughter of an old family friend named Izzy, who had only just turned 18 at the time. I got along with her very well, despite the age difference being nearly a decade.

To this day, I was both grateful and terrified that I had Izzy working with me that day. I feared for her, but that fear made me think rationally, and it probably may have turned out very different if it weren't for her presence that day.

It was pouring rain that weekend, so there weren't too many people in the shop that day, minus a few couples,  tourists, or an occasional person wishing to get out of the unusual rainy day.

It was early afternoon, but it seemed later due to the storm.

I was checking out a customer at the counter while Izzy was in the work area behind me. We were casually talking, when all of a sudden, we heard someone scream out "CAN SOMEONE PLEASE CALL 911?"
The lady and I froze, and Izzy looked towards the front door, startled.
I asked Izzy to finish the sale for me as I went towards the front door to see what was going on.

No one was in sight, and I only caught a glimpse of someone entering a store across the street through the heavy rain.

I went back over and asked the woman if she would be okay going back to her car, and she smiled and said that her husband was in the backroom and waiting for her to finish her shopping.

Izzy and I bid the couple a good rest of the day before moving on with our projects.

The shop phone rang less than a minute later, and I answered. A woman, sounding almost panicked, was on the other line. The conversation went as followed:

"Hi, did a woman in a striped shirt and baggy overall pants come into your shop?"

"Um, no ma'am, I haven't seen anyone of that description. Why?"

"She came into my shop a few minutes ago. She seemed like she was high on something. I sent her away, and it looked like she went towards your shop. If she gets violent, call the cops immediately, do you understand--?"

You know that feeling you get when you are being watched? I felt that then, and I turned around and saw that very same woman that the caller had warned me about.

I told the woman that I had to go, and I hung up.

This young woman was about my age, maybe in her late twenties, with dark hair and was soaking wet and dripping on the floor. She stood at about 5'8", which is about a couple inches shorter than me.

She stared at me with large, dark, unblinking eyes that were bloodshot, and her breathing was shallow and quick.

I had been around people who were either mentally ill or had done drugs all my life, and I could tell right away that this young woman was obviously drugged out, and perhaps even suffered from a type of paranoia or schizophrenia.

My first reaction with people like that isn't usually to be aggressive, especially with schizophrenic or drug-crazed people, because of their unpredictability.

I turned to Izzy as she got up, and I held out my arm, telling her to stay behind the counter in the work area where it was safer for her.

I went around the counter to block this woman from Izzy just in case.

As I said, my first reaction isnt to be aggressive, but I'm very protective, and can stay calm in the face of potential danger.

"Can I help you, ma'am?" I asked her.
The woman looked down for a moment and muttered something low and fast before looking back up at me.

"Can you call the cops? I don't want to sleep in the rain tonight."

"Okay, ma'am. I'll do that right now. Let me get the shop phone and I'll call them. Please stand there for a minute while I call, okay?"

She didnt look at me, and only nodded. She just looked away, her rigid stance not faulting at all. I had seen similar body language with my brother before he would break something or slam his fist into a wall.

I turned to Izzy, who sat at the desk, and told her that I was going to call the cops, and for her to be ready to call the owner if things get more tense. She nodded. I could tell she was on edge too as she looked behind me at her.

As I turned back around to keep an eye on the woman, she said, "Just tell them that I'm threatening you and breaking a bunch of shit," she said, and I nodded, looking up at her and meeting her wide fiery eyes. "Because I will if they don't come here."

I remember feeling like I was going to be sick as I called 911. They answered on the third ring.

"9-1-1, what is your location?" I told them the address, told how there was a woman in the store threatening violence--

And that's all I got out before the operator said, "I'm sorry, I'll call you back in a few minutes, ma'am."

And then she hung up on me.

The police operator hung up on me.

I stood frozen for a few moments in complete disbelief and unyielding anger.

"Did you call them?" The woman demanded.

I, in complete shock, unthinkingly said, "... They hung up on me."

The woman's eyes somehow grew wider with rage and she slammed her hand on one of our metal shelves.

"Do I need to break everything in this fucking store for them to come here?!"

Both Izzy and I said "No!" very sternly, and she jerked her head towards Izzy, who now stood behind the counter.
I held out my hands in a calming manor towards the woman, trying my best to keep her as docile as I could, reproaching her like an angry and aggressive wounded dog.

I reassured her that that was not necessary, and that I would just call downtown security instead, since they were still technically police officers, and told her that they would figure it out and take her someplace to sleep out of the rain for the night.
She nodded again, and I reached for my phone as well as a cracker pack from my bag.

I offered her the snack, reaching out to place it on a shelf. She began to eat the food, shaking, and looking around at everything with a frightened expression, like a small child who woke from a nightmare and was on the verge of tears.

It was then that the police called me back. I told them my address, and everything that was going on, including threats of violence, etc.
The officer asked me to ask the woman her name, and I asked her.

"Caroline," she said, eatting the crackers with wide teary eyes.

I told the officer, and she asked me to ask the woman her last name.

When I did, the woman, who had been standing there in a cowering and shaky stance suddenly stopped completely.

Her body had frozen like a statue, unnervingly so, before turning her head slowly up to look at me with the most hate-filled serial-killer-like eyes I had ever seen on a person in my life.
My breath froze, and I held out my hand in a calming and defensive way. "It's okay," I said lowly, trying to sound as reassuring as I could. "It's okay. You dont need to tell me."

I told the officer on the phone that she didn't want to answer the question, and what she told me over the phone infuriates me to this day:

"We are very busy right now, and short-staffed. We can't do anything  until she actually does something violent. Call us back if she does."

And then she hung up.

I was so enraged as I then called the downtown security. I told them my address, the whole situation, her threats of violence, the cops refusing to help and their excuses, everything. I told them how I feared for not only myself, but the few costumers and my young coworker as well.

They finally told me that there was a guard that was only a minute or two away, and they would signal him to go by and pick her up.

I told them thank you, and hung up.

As if to top it off, an older and smaller man came up to the counter from the back room and asked if he could see something in one of our cases. I told him in a forced kind voice that I would be happy to help him in a few minutes, but he would have to wait.

He must have read my expression, because he stopped, looked over at the crazed woman, whose eyes did not leave me this whole time, and he stepped back into the other room while saying "Take all the time you need."

The security officer came in a minute later, and I felt relief wash over me as he talked to the woman, and lead her away outside.

It was only then did I begin trembling as the adrenaline began to wear off.

Izzy stepped towards me and pat my back, and the older man came back into the front room with his young granddaughter.
He and Izzy told me that I handled it very well, and the man even commented saying that he had no idea that anything was wrong bscause I had been so calm.

The police called me back about 20 minutes later, asking if the woman was still there, and angrily, I told the officer that she wasn't, no thanks to them, and that it was good to know that I could relay on security guards more than the police.

I remember telling them that, next time, they shouldn't hang up on a 911 call if the person is being threatened, or say they wont do anything unless someone is already hurt. I told them that should take their jobs more seriously, because if some had been seriously hurt, then that it would have been all their fault.

I relayed the information where they could find the security guard that took the woman away, and I hung up on them.

I heard the next day from the owner that the woman had arrested for drug use, and for having a concealed firearm on her, and she thanked me for being so level-headed during it all.

I don't know if this woman would have used the gun if things had gone differently, but I'm glad that I didn't find out.

So, if you are a police officer, please take calls seriously.

And as for that woman, Caroline... Well, I pray that you get the help that you need, and I hope we never meet again.
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