Crowds of shuffling faces passed by Adilen Gutierrez as she placed an order for a tall iced coffee from the barista at Starbucks in Dolphin Mall.
She wore a dark green, buttoned-down shirt with a Bass Pro Shops patch. She was on break from an unusual, but vital, job: greeting customers entering the store and checking their weapons.
A table opened up, where she decided to chat, and a couple of Gutierrez’s co-workers joined in.
“You see a lot of things working four years in a store like that,” she said of the sporting goods and hunting supply store. “It’s definitely tough at times because it can get scary pretty fast.”
Proper firearm inspection is of the utmost importance, she said, and Gutierrez claimed to be at the top of her game. One of her coworkers, Vanessa Pasquier, agreed.
“Ady’s a big help with those inspections,” she said. “Whenever I’m having trouble inspecting a [customer’s] gun at the greeter stand, she always helps me check it correctly.”
Gutierrez recounted one shift a few months prior when a man entering the store with a handgun barely acknowledged her. He pulled out the weapon but refused to hand it over, choosing to prove it was empty by cocking the gun and pointing it directly at her.
“I thought, ‘Oh my god, I could be killed if he’s wrong and it misfires,’” she said.
On a separate occasion about a year back, another shopper purchased an airsoft gun, test firing it on the way out.
“The whole place jumped,” Gutierrez said. “No one was sure whether it was a real gun going off or not.”
Despite not turning out to be a real firearm, the fear was real.
“It was crazy because he did it in a flash,” said Leo Martinez, another one of Gutierrez’s coworkers. “And no one told him anything or stopped him from doing it.”
For Gutierrez, that firsthand experience with potential danger has helped shaped her into the person she is today.
“Working here has definitely helped me to grow and mature,” she said. “I’ve learned to be more careful with what life throws at you and to be better at reading people’s body language.”