It was Tuesday and I held the door for a well-dressed black woman on my way into Starbucks at Mack and Woodward. She thanked me and I thought of my mother who had taught me to be a gentleman. I followed her up to the counter where four or five more people were waiting to get their badly needed morning caffeine fix. Then there was commotion behind us. April, a morning Starbucks barista, white female 5 ft one, maybe 120 lbs, was running to the back door, loudly saying “Give me back those CDs you stole!” Behind her a man was running to the same door, black male 5 ft six, maybe 150 lbs. April locked the door before the man got to it. She turned toward the man and demanded the CDs back. The thief turned away from her and started toward the front door, April on his heels screaming now “Give back the CDs you stole!” Two steps past me a man who could have been my grandfather, white male 6 ft 2 maybe 160 lbs, stepped in front of the thief blocking his way. The thief turned around again, but April was right behind him, so he turned again but had no where to go. The thief became enraged and started swinging in all directions. Just then I noticed Shawntez another morning barista, black male maybe 130 lbs, had jumped on the counter. From the counter Shawntez jumped onto the thief who was still swinging in all directions. They both landed in a display of coffee. Then from the back of the store a huge man came barreling past me, black male 6 ft two, easily 250 lbs. With one hand the mountain of a man picked Shawntez up off the ground, then proceeded to put his knee on the thief’s head, leaving the thief motionless on the floor. The mountain said “Give up them CDs.” And so the thief did. The mountain escorted the thief to the door by his shirt collar. This whole dramatic scene lasted under 10 seconds.
Within that ten seconds something had happened in that Starbucks that will last each person who witnessed the scene unfold. We will carry it with us, it might make us more friendly to our fellow Detroiters, it might make us a little giddy or even happy to live in a city that has been under constant scrutiny because of a corrupt mayor and an dismal economy. But nothing can take away the feeling that happened to us that morning. For once, in a sea of distrust and even if it was for only ten little seconds, Detroit became one, good against evil and a family of brethren united. It was a good day.
Eric C. Novack is the author of the cult classic novel Killing Molly. He has had several short stories published on various online magazines (Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood, thedetroiter.com). Eric lives in Midtown Detroit and manages Russell Industrial Center, the largest artist community in Detroit.