When Frank Zappa worked at Zale's as a salesman and potential management trainee, he was surrounded by many thousands of dollars of diamonds, gold, and other rare gems and valuable metals. (I really should have said many countless hundreds of dollars of diamonds, gold, and other rare gems and valuable metals.) For some reason, I remembered his story of his run in with some young men he was convinced were going to rob the store. He was at the counter in his suit and tie when some rough looking Asians came in ... Rough looking customers were a common sight in certain areas of the Pomona Valley, but Asians much less gangster looking Asians were rare in the vicinity ... or so I had thought as a child. This was the early sixties and this trio of young men dressed like pachucos, complete with low rider khakis, t-shirts, gold crosses, nylon windbreakers, and greased up waterfalls and duckass haircuts. They sauntered in and made a quick stroll up and down the counters peering into the displays, while one arched to stare blatantly down a hallway beyond the counters to see if any others were in the store. Then they soon huddled in front of Frank, talking to one another about an item behind the glass. Frank said he was certain and resigned himself to the fact he was going to be robbed.
They did not speak much English but Frank understood the leader of the trio, a heavy set fellow with a few deep pocked acne scars and a wide malevolent appearing grin, wanted to see a large heavy ornate ring adorned with a huge oversized jewel. An item which Frank did pull out from the case, and removed from its slot in the blue velvet tray.
The man looked at the ring as it lay on the counter, picked it up and tried it on and stared admiringly at it, soon waving his hand at his friends, speaking in another tongue loudly and laughingly ... Frank was sure he would bolt with it ... then he pulled and twisted the ring trying to remove it from his finger, but it seemed his knuckle was too large to remove the ring easily. He did pull it off, then cupped one hand around it and he held onto the edge of the display case with both hands, as if he were playing a shell game .... he stared Frank directly in the eyes for a long time and talked to his friends as he did so, becoming expansive and loud in his remarks, when suddenly he began tossing the ring back and forth quickly between his hands, then cupped it in both hands and shook the ring back and forth between his hands like it was a pair of dice, suddenly let go and threw it up into the air, and watched it land on the counter with a clink! Then he laughed and without a word, they all simultaneously turned and left the store. Frank just stared after them as they went out the front door to the street. He picked up the ring to see if there had been a switch, but it was the same ring with the same price tag. So he put it away. And then waited for another customer to come in.
For some reason I do not understand, I remembered his anecdote today of his time working at a jewelry store in the Pomona Valley. Maybe you'd like to know about the day when Frank said he felt vulnerable.