I wanted to start by saying that I'm not a thief. But I acknowledge that would be stretching the truth, as I recall the utensils, mugs, menus, etc I took from Denny's when I was in high school. Oh, and construction signs from the road. And, um, orange barrells. (BTW, we put them back.)
That was all high school high jinks, though. It seemed trivial compared to peers' pilfering merchanise from stores. Pants, shoes, sporting equipment...kids took it all. One year my brother gifted a Yankee candle he'd stolen to my mom for Christmas. (And she worried he'd spent too much money on it!)
I can honestly say the only thing I've swiped from a store is a piece of candy from one of the self-serve bins. And I don't know what I tasted more--the Sunkist fruit gem I stole or the fear. The fear that an underpaid yet self-important Giant Eagle employee would condemn my action (and thus my youthful insouciance—and, by god, take anything from me but my youthful insouciance!)
I feared the consequences of a stolen fruit gem. Clearly, there's some paranoia operating here. I won't deny it.
At least I had a reason to fear. I performed a potentially reprehensible action. Explain then the paranoia that oft accompanies me when I'm shopping: The fear that the employees will think I stole something—even though I have not.
I mean, how do they know my thighs aren't clinging to a canteloupe or I haven't slipped Monistat 7 up my sleeve? It is their job to be suspcious. So it's my job to relieve them of their suspicion.
That's why I linger after trying something on in the dressing room that doesn't work. (Because if I left quickly, it might suggest I'd pulled five pairs of Spanx on under my skirt. And why have employees bother to consider that? Why?)
Also why I might concentrate on nonchalance—like I didn't do anything wrong. (Um, because I didn't.) I'll swing my arms, unzip my jacket and empty the contents of my purse onto the dirty lineoleum floor.
And then I look the salespeople straight in the eye and say (all with my highly emotive pupils and irises):
Kind sir (or ma'am), I am not a thief. I did not take any of this merchandise, which you probably pilfer yourself. And I know your manager probably told you only to be suspicious of loud, black people, but, just in case your manager isn't a racist, and you are skeptical of all types, know that I didn't steal. Because I'm good. I'm good. I'm good. And only a wee neurotic.