Who knows what to expect when you pull into a 7-11 at 11 p.m.? I didn't. But I needed milk. I missed having my cereral in the morning, and that just throws the whole day off.
So after a shift on the desk Wednesday night, I was willing to take my chances. Plus it was on the way home.
I pulled in to a parking space right in front - this particular 7-11 is a non-descript building among towering apartment complexes - and saw some people congregated out front. They went their separate ways by the time I got out of my car, and as they walked by, they didn't appear very threatening anyway, so no big deal.
Had I been more concerned, my fear would have been alleviated in a few minutes.
As I was walking to the checkout line, in walks a guy in the Army, presumably on his way to or from work at the Pentagon (or perhaps Fort Belvoir). Fatigues, a cap, the whole thing - and he was a big, big guy. Six-foot-four at least and well-built; enough to make a flabby 6-2 guy feel shamed.
But it didn't stop there. Another Army guy followed him. And another. Another. And some more. A group of about five came in at once, and three more or so trickled in behind them. And at least one more of them was as large as the first guy. All with the same fatigues, though some without the caps.
Suddenly I wasn't so concerned about safety.
Since the 7-11 wasn't busy, a couple of them happened in line behind me. I bought my milk and walked out - but not before I encountered one final serviceman. He and I played a game of who's going to hold the door for who; finally, I insisted he walk in while I held the door for him.
It's the least I could do for all that they do for us.
Or was it?
I drove off, hoping their days would continue to be safe ones, days with late night Red Bull runs to 7-11. Then, an angry feeling fell over me.
I should have done more. I should have had the awareness to have the cashier put $30 on my card and pay for a few snacks for our guys. It might not have taken care of all of them - they didn't seem to be shopping for the week - but I'm guessing it would have been a few of them.
I'm still kicking myself that I didn't; honestly, I'm really, really pissed about that.
I guess I'll just have to stop for milk there again soon.