I still got it. I walked up to our local IGA to get some groceries today, which is always fun. (I worked in an American IGA all through high school and the very sight of the checkout girls’ smocks gives me Nam-style flashbacks.) I was grabbing some cheese when I smelled cigarette smoke. I looked over to see this crazy lady I’d seen outside the store. She was wearing a big coat and looking around shiftily while she puffed on her cancer stick. (I don’t think she was homeless, more like just poor and mean.) She set down her empty shopping basket and then ducked down one of the aisles. On a hunch, I followed and peeked down in time to see her stuffing items into her coat pockets. I also noticed that the IGA girls were on to her and had already posted a sentry to keep watch. Satisfied, I went to pick up some conditioner. The crazy lady ended up coming down my aisle, and (this is the creepy part) she walked by me really close and really slow. I think she was hoping to pinch my wallet, which I had safely stashed away. I sauntered away and picked up the rest of my stuff, then headed for the checkouts. As I was paying I saw her trying to duck out the entrance. The head checkout girl headed her off though and asked her about the items in her pockets. I listened as this woman exclaimed, “Oh! How could I have forgotten? I can’t believe it!” She handed the stuff over and skulked off. Personally, I can’t believe they let her go. You’d never get away with something like that in Wolcottville, Indiana.
I wasn’t very good at spotting shoplifters when I started at the store. In fact, I was an easy mark because I was so trusting. We were the only store in a small town, so I got to know just about all the customers. One day a local lady came in and ended up at my register. She was poor and mostly bought alcohol, but she was friendly and I knew one of her grown-up kids. I’d even given her a lift home to her house once when it was raining out since she didn’t have a car. Anyway, she came through my aisle with a cart and bought a couple items. She had a brown grocery bag with some stuff in it already, but she told me she’d already bought it. I trusted her completely. She paid for her stuff and headed out the door. As soon as she hit the parking lot, the manager swooped down. She’d watched her take a 12-pack of beer off the shelf and put it in the bag on the security cameras. Then she killed time until she could be sure I’d be at the register, knowing I wouldn’t question her. They brought her in and called the cops. She was really upset and pleading that she wouldn’t do it again, but they busted her anyway. I felt horrible and stupid that I’d allowed myself to be duped. There are only so many nice people in the world, and every time an asshole takes advantage of one there’s one less. I was a lot more wary after that.