Back pocket.

I stared at all the jewelry the local discount department store offered on racks.  So many pretty things.  So little money with which to splurge, even with price tags of $19.99 and lower.

No, if I bought anything today, it would be a nice blouse for Thanksgiving dinner.  Or perhaps even a dress.   Something I could wear again and again, maybe even lasting until after college graduation as part of an interview outfit.

The one bracelet, the one with emerald wannabes, still called out to me.  I took the disposable contacts out of my back pocket, and looked at how much money I spent this time around for being spectacle-free.   Nope, I just couldn’t splurge.  I sighed and put the contacts back in the pocket.

If I spent any more money today, it would be on that blouse.  Or a dress.

Grudgingly, I headed to the trendy fashion store, without any luck.  None of the blouses screamed out “Thanksgiving dinner!” or “future interview!”.   Next stop – J.C. Penney – surely they would have a blouse that fit the occasion(s).

Once again, I quickly found myself distracted.  This time by lingerie, of all things, with the new boyfriend in mind.   Mind started wandering for a moment or two to thoughts of him, until I felt a tap on my shoulder.

Two angry-looking women, around the age of forty, stood in front of me.  One tall and thin, one short and stocky.

“I am with security and she is with mall security.  You must have seen us following you ever since you took that jewelry from my store,”  the tall and thin one explained with anger and accusation.

“I…I…I don’t know what you’re talking about, I’ve just been window shopping,” I explained with fear and with a racing heartbeat.

“I saw you place jewelry in your back pockets at my store.  Empty your back pockets.  Now.”

Scrambling, I showed that the left back pocket held nothing.  And that the right pocket, oh NO, oh NO, it held those contacts.  Those contacts whose price I perused while looking at the jewelry in her store, just to make sure I could not afford the sparkly emerald wannabe bracelet.   Suddenly, I felt quite warm and anxious.

The tall and thin woman took one look at the contacts and asked me to open my purse.  As she searched, disappointment crossed her face as she realized this young woman she pursued through the mall was no shoplifter.

The short and stocky woman spoke for the first time.

“Sorry to have bothered you, it’s just our jobs to watch out for stolen goods.”

And then they walked away, no other words spoken.

And I hurried out of the mall into the cool November air, hoping for relief against the panic attack I thought for sure would occur.   (It didn’t.)

I did go back to the discount department store a few more times to pick up contacts.  But I refused to do anything else there, out of fear I might trigger those women to follow me again.

The thing is, even now, something like fourteen years later, I cannot walk into stores without being extra cautious.  Extra cautious so that nobody thinks I am stealing from “their store”, enough to do most of my shopping online.  Even at the grocery store, I feel the security cameras watching me everywhere I go, making me restless and panicky if a shop goes too long.

(Inspired by Schmutzie‘s “25 Things I Fear“, #23.)

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3 Responses to Back pocket.

  1. schmutzie says:

    This is one of my worst fears. I’m sorry you actually had to go through it.
    I often take the extra precaution and ask if the clerks can hold my purse and bags behind the counter just so they won’t even bother watching me.

  2. Denise says:

    Wow! That’s a crazy story and I can see how it would affect future shopping behavior. I on the other hand have left stores a handful of times with items I didn’t purchase when my girls were of grabby/stroller age. Every time as we just load up, I’d have to traipse back into the store, hi my 2 year old lifted this! LOL.

  3. Cinnamon says:

    I had this happen to me shortly after moving to Chicago. Only I’d taken lip balm out of my pocket, applied it, browsed and went to leave before being grabbed by the security guard and yelled at by the store owner. It was a fairly small shop, packed before Christmas, and the owner yelled at me and called me a thief while the security guard patted me down and dumped my bag out on the floor. When I suggested, quite bashfully at this point, that they’d probably seen me put on lip balm the owner yelled at me for “acting suspicously” in her store and told me to get my stuff together, get out, and never come back. The security guard glared at me while I repacked my bag and I ran out of the store. Never went back in and admittedly smiled a year or so later when they closed. Horrible experience. I have only come close to having a panic attack a few times in my life, and this was one of them. So sorry you had to go through this. I understand their need to be protective, but also think there is a better way to deal with making a false accusation.


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