Allen Smith
Vail, CO, Colorado

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September 27, 2012
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Vail Daily columnist Allen Smith: How hard could this bank job be?

It's almost autumn and I've managed to fritter away my entire recreation fund on useless things like rent and utilities. I've also gone completely through my savings, 401(k), inheritance and half of my frequent flier miles. Barring an unexpected windfall, I may have to start selling off body parts and fluids or resort to getting a regular job.

Or rob a bank.

I've thought about robbing a bank before, but it's not easy to do when you live in a small town. After all, if it was, everybody would be doing it.

There are a lot of unique deterrents. Just about everybody in town knows who you are and what you wear ("Oh, you mean the Smith kid ... Margaret and Lester's boy who always wears that dirty baseball cap?").

And unlike the 1930s, you can't just drive up to the front of the bank like Bonnie and Clyde . You have to use paid, public parking structures. Driving around and around in circles after you've heisted bags of cash sort of defeats the purpose of a quick getaway.

If you've never been arrested or spent any time in jail, learning how to pull a bank job can be particularly challenging. It's not like you can take classes to learn how. I found learning how to rob a bank was particularly difficult because I've never spent any time associating with known felons.

So I made an appointment with the reference librarian at our local library to find out what she had to offer. I explained to her that I was looking for an easy to read, yet comprehensive guide about how to rob banks -- sort of like "Robbing Banks for Dummies."

She was very encouraging, asked a lot of intuitive questions, but ultimately I decided to beat it after I saw her dialing 911.

There's not much on the Internet, either. The only information I could find were dumb criminal stories that tell you what not to do, so I just extrapolated from there. One guy robbed a bank with a nametag on the front of his company shirt, so I'll make sure not to do that.

After investigating other resources around town (like a couple of rough-looking cab drivers and a weekend carnival ride attendant), I decided to go home and glean as much as I could from old reruns of "Miami Vice" and "Highway Patrol."

The next thing I needed was a nondescript getaway car.

I walked into Enterprise rent-a-car and demanded the fastest Yugo they had for under $25. "And, make sure it blends in with other traffic," I demanded.

The girl behind the counter asked, "Would you like to take out insurance on your Yugo, Mr. Squatzengetzit?" I went ahead and took it because I figured there was a good chance that I'd be blowing out a couple of tires and sideswiping a police cruiser during the ensuing chase. I've never seen a chase scene of television where they didn't, and I certainly couldn't afford to pay for damage to the rental car.

I didn't have a thing to wear to the bank robbery, so I stopped by The Robbery Store and picked up some dark gabardine pants, rubber-soled shoes, a pair of cotton work gloves and a Nixon mask. The clerk told me that it was one of his best sellers. He said he sold seven of them last week alone -- a few of the robbers were still on the lamb.

I also bought one of those black SWAT jackets, the kind with a million pockets for your extra ammo, switchblade knife and flashlight, but I started getting concerned about wearing too many layers. Once you're inside the lobby, it's almost impossible to take off your jacket while holding an Uzi on the clerks. And I hate to sweat, especially if circumstances erode into a hostage crisis and they turn off the air conditioning. The cops always do that. Right after they send in the pizzas.

I can't hop up on the counters as easily as I used to, so I'll probably have to bring one of those folding step stools from Home Depot. Great. Something else to carry.

And I'm not going to forget the spray paint for the camera lenses. They almost blew that in "Ocean's 11."

Another bit of research that paid off was learning how to avoid dye packs. Dye packs are those radio-activated units tellers slip between stacks of 10s and 20s that explode onto the would-be thief once they exit the bank.

Well, I was way ahead of them. Instead of demanding the booty in paper currency, I planned on taking all of the money in loose change. Granted, it would be a little harder to lug out the door, but at least I wouldn't have to worry about ruining my new turtleneck sweater. I should still be able to wear it to my sister's wedding next month and I can always change the coins back into bills at the laundromat.

Three days before the job, my plans were dashed when some dufus beat me to the punch by getting caught robbing the same bank. Apparently, the heist was going smoothly until one of the customers pressed the panic button, thinking it was the customer service bell. The thief fled with $5 in small bills, traveler's checks and a pile of discount coupons for Costco.

He was ultimately captured when he couldn't figure out how to get out of the parking structure.

Of course, there are lots of alternatives for making money other than robbing banks. Unfortunately, I can't think of them.

I've never been successful working for other people because my dyslexia prevents me from following directions.

I can't work for myself because I just don't have the discipline. I'm not artistic and don't have a musical bone in my body.

That doesn't leave me with many options, except writing pieces like this -- which is the same as bank robbery, isn't it?

Allen Smith, of Vail, is the author of "Watching Grandma Circle the Drain" and "Ski Instructors Confidential." You can reach him at www.snowwriter.com.


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The VailDaily Updated Sep 27, 2012 09:51PM Published Sep 27, 2012 09:48PM Copyright 2012 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.