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The fire raged on as onlookers grieved.  They were all wondering how such a tragedy could happen.  The stench of charred bodies was starting to overwhelm me.  A single discarded cigarette had started this fire.  I stood there befuddled in front of the building and counted my blessings.  I was glad to have been one of the few that escaped.  I could only think of the advice that man gave me that day…

            I was walking down Tenth-Avenue on a gloomy Monday morning when I spotted a man exiting his car.  I noticed his lights were on and yelled out,

“Hey buddy, your lights are on!” 

He turned to the Lincoln, reached in the door and turned them off.  He then said,

“Hold up a minute.  I just want to thank ya for ya help.  I had planned on being here for a while and it would’ve made my day really nasty if my car didn’t start when I got back.  So in return for ya hospitality I’m going to give you some advice.” 

I stopped and turned toward the man with a curious look on my face.  The man was dressed in a seemingly expensive Italian suit with all the trimmings.  He spoke with an upstate accent, “Whas ya name pal?”           

“Steven,” I responded.  

“Well Steven,” he says placing his arm around my should and beginning to walk, “here’s some advice that’s helped me in the past and I figured it’ll do the same for you.  Always plan ahead,” he blurts finally while standing in front of me.  He was looking at me with his eyebrows arched and a certain quizzical satisfaction; assuming I understood his punch line.  I looked at him with a wondering face, and then proceeded to tell him thank you and be on my way, but he cut me off by finishing,

“Maybe you need a little more enlightenment.  Let me give ya an example of what I mean,” he went on. 

“Say ya wanted to rob a bank.  God forbid,” he says sarcastically; but we both know that he’d done it before.  He continued, “I hope you never have to do that, but let’s just say ya did.  So ya cased the joint for about a mont at least; had all the right personnel.  What do ya tink the most important ting would be?”  I hesitated at first because the subject of his explanation threw me off, I never expected him to talk about something illegal. Then I mumbled,

“I guess the most important thing is to try not to kill anyone in the process.”  “Sure” he said, but on he went. 

“That, too, is important but not most important.  The most important ting is that you always plan ahead.  This is what I mean.  Let’s say that you cased the joint for about a mont.  Ya knew when the dough came to the building and when it left.  Ya knew how many people handled the dough and at what times.  Ya knew who woyked there and what days were the most vulnerable.  You’d need blueprints of the place so that ya knew everything about their security system, entrances, and exits.  You could even go inside and get a visual of where the cameras are among other things.  The most important of all is the way out.  Any idiot with a gun can rob a bank but it takes a skilled genius to get away with it.  Let’s also say that while casing the joint you find an underground tunnel that led right under the bank.  You could easily pick any time after the money arrives and before a lot of customers get there.  Bust in wearing masks, take care of the security system and all the cameras and hold the employees hostage.  Now for this caper we want the cops to come so we move everyone, expect key money extracting individuals, toward the front door as a human shield’s against snipers.  Blindfold them and make them crouch down so they can’t see what’s going on behind them.  And just hold up in the bank collecting money until the cops come.  Before the cops come make sure you blow your tunnel hole.  This is very important.  Now doing this may sound crazy but let me explain how this will work.  You have planned ahead so you already have some ATV’s waiting further down the corridor.  No one knows who you are so while those people are facing the front exit, your crew all leaves except for one.  Thirty minutes after your crew leaves, have the hostages count out loud to fifty by ones and then they can start to exit.  That last person in your crew has taken off all their gear and acting like a hostage from that point on.  If the last person waits long enough they all can get away with a large sum.  Granted no one seen him or her change behind their backs.   By having one person inside, while the rest escaped, gave them enough time to get away with the dough.  Then the cops will be goose-chasing someone through a tunnel that have been long gone.” 

I hesitated for a moment kind of shocked by what this man just told me.  I then said, “Thanks for the advice.” 

“No problem.” he says and continues on his journey into an Italian restaurant. 

            I walked on to my destination unaware of my surroundings, thinking about what just transpired.  It was too much for me to believe, but it did happen.  I never thought about that man until now.  I never realized how much he taught me in ten minutes.  Now that I am standing outside this establishment I realize that he was right.  You should always plan ahead.  If I hadn’t planned an alternate way out of that restaurant I would surly be dead.  I had planned an alternate way out of every building I went since the day I spoke with that man.  Three years later, and his advice helped saved my life.  I never did get the man’s name, but I’m sure that he was part of the Mafia.  I could have been killed along with the other seventeen people that were trampled, burned and died tonight.  I effectively searched for another exit when I got inside the restaurant so I knew three different ways out.  Everyone else only knew of the one they came in through.  So all the people where trying to go out of one door.  I stand here today as a blessing to a man I hardly knew.  He gave me the weirdest advice, which saved my life.  Always plan ahead.