I’m at Zellers when I spot a paunched middle-aged man crouching on the floor with an L-shaped periscope. He appears to be using a spy device to look up over and into the next isle. I follow him.
He slides, slowly inching along the floor with his peeping pipe, while I nonchalantly fondle scarves and panty hose. I am watching the watcher.
At the end of row ‘J’, I see a young girl. She has blonde and bright purple streaks of hair, heavy black made-up eyes, and a cherub face that is no more than 14 or 15. She is oblivious to her situation.
Later, lined up at one of several busy cashiers... lo and behold; cherub is in the line next to mine. She appears even younger close up. She is pouty with an “I’m pretending I don’t know you” attitude. She’s with her mother.
And of course.... just beyond the purchase area, waits Mr. Periscope. He has that smug face people with small power get. He is swaggering, one hand on his hip and the other rubbing his neck.
I hear a whisper, “Go and warn her!” The voice is telling me what I already feel. My gut says to step into their lives, and save this baby and mom from the pain and anguish of what is about to happen.
But I don’t.
My heart sinks as the store cop pounces. His face is filled with intensity, but behind the strain there is also pride and a hint of delight at capturing his prey. Cherub cries out and I can’t stop my eyes from welling up with tears as she sobs and is forcibly shoved back into the store. Her mom follows behind in shock.
When retelling this story to friends, almost 100% agree... I probably saved the wee one from a life of kleptomania and nipped her criminal activity in the bud. They are of mother Alice’s persuasion – “You made your bed, now lie in it.”
But if I had to do it over again, I would have heeded ‘the voice’ and altered reality with the whisper: “Sweetie, empty your pockets before that security dude jumps all over you!”
What would you do?