As my left foot crossed the exit of Annie Sez it sounded as if I had hit the jackpot on every slot machine in the Tropicana. So startled was I by the incessant “beepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeep” of the security bar that I couldn’t move. Once again I had lost track of time and now I was running to pick up the kids from school. An older sales woman gently guided me back so that the noise would cease. Like a patient Brownie Scout Leader spending extra time with that child who just can’t quite grasp the craft of the day (that would be me), she checked my bag that contained a lone pair of $1.99 earrings purchased from the 75%-off sale rack. I had only gone in to browse for five minutes--an hour before.
“Let’s see if there’s a security sticker on the earrings that we forgot to remove,” she kindly sang.
As she and my new dangling faux diamond earrings walked past the security bars, all was silent. “Hmm, nothing seems to be wrong with the earrings,” she commented.
I took the bag and walked through the security bars,
“Oh for goodness sake!” I yelled. “I have five minutes to get my kids from school!”
“Maybe it’s your keys or your cell phone. Don’t worry, go ahead.”
“Maybe it’s my artificial brain,” I quipped as we both giggled. I dashed across the parking lot fumbling for my keys only to have my cell phone smash to the ground.
“Terrific!” I cursed. This phone has to make it to May 1st. That’s when my contract is up and I absolutely refuse to cave to that smug Verizon sales guy who informed me when I brought him my fractured phone, “Well, the cheapest replacement phone we have will cost you $300 since technically when you broke your phone you broke your contract.”
I leaned in close to him and seethed, “Can you hear me now? I don’t care if I have to use Campbell Soup cans to make phone calls! Hell will freeze over before I give Verizon one extra penny before my contract expires!”
“Make sure you get the Campbell’s Alphabet Soup if you want to text then,” he said as he went back to his Smart *** phone.
As I drove up Route 5 to Leonia with my left hand on the wheel, my right hand reached over and into the glove compartment, grabbed the duct tape, ripped a piece off, and wound it around the broken back of my Blackberry.
With seconds to spare, I made it to the school in time. As I gathered my kids from the front door, I told my son we were going to Modell’s to get him his baseball cleats and run a few errands.
I beeped both going into and out of Modell’s. I told the security guard “Oh, this has been happening to me all day! I feel like I’m going to be on America’s Most Wanted!” We both laughed.
I beeped my way out of Mandee’s, Bed Bath and Beyond, Burlington Coat Factory and the library, each time laughing with Security as I joked, “Oops, you caught me!”
When we finally got home I kicked off my shoes and as I removed my jacket to place it over the banister something hard fell to the floor. Then something else. And something else. I looked down and oh the horror! THE HORROR!
Lying on my floor were two $29.99 August Silk tee-shirts and a $24.99 Calvin Klein bra. All with those rectangular plastic security tags hanging from them, I have since learned are called “hard maxi’s” in the security trade.
“What the hell?” I screamed out loud to no one in particular.
That’s when I saw another plastic security tag hanging from the lining of my jacket. Inside the detachable lining of my L.L.Bean barn jacket hung yet another Calvin Klein bra.
“Who stuffed these down my back? How did I not feel someone do this? Am I a somnambulant kleptomaniac? Did I sleepwalk through shoplifting?” my mind raced.
That’s when I remembered the Annie Sez dressing room. When I went to try on jeans someone had left clothes hanging on the room’s lone hook. None of those clothes were on hangars and I remembered thinking that was odd. I had hung my coat on top of that pile of orphaned clothes and when I left I must have grabbed the clothes along with my coat. They must have somehow fallen between the gap in my coat’s removable lining where I’m missing three buttons.
Panic set in. Dear God! Here I am running around Bergen County all afternoon, a mule carrying hot clothes, setting off alarms in store after store, and no one even asks me to remove my coat? It made me realize just how much a white woman with bad hair, no make-up, and a minivan can get away with! Seriously.
As I drove back to the scene of the crime I imagined a thousand scenarios to explain what had happened because the truth was just too unbelievable. But the truth was all I had left to give. That and the unintentionally pilfered clothes.
As I beeped my way back into Annie Sez to return the swag I explained to the perfectly coiffed, well-heeled twenty-something childless manager what had happened. She looked at me as if I were insane. Truth be told she wasn’t all that wrong.