As most of you may know (okay, maybe some of you don’t), shoplifting is a prevalent, everyday crime committed against retailers on all types. It happens in affluent areas just as it does in the poorer areas of the country. According to NASP (National Association for Shoplifting Prevention, link below) there are approximately 27 million shoplifters in our nation, currently. This breaks down to being 1 out of every 11 people. so, when you are out at the large holiday gathering for your spouse’s, employer’s, holiday dinner; you can take comfort in the fact you are probably seated with a thief (now isn’t that heart warming). Which, brings me to a humorous story from years back.
Years ago, my former spouse worked for a local church. She handled all their marketing, newsletters and event planning. The Pastors used to ask her why her husband (me) never stopped by to visit, socialize, etc. (I’m thinking they were going to try and recruit me into the flock?). She always explained, her husband has a legitimate fear, if he were to cross the threshold of a church, there was an even money chance the building would burst into flames (kind of speaks to my personality, I suppose). Well, they pestered her to at least get me to show up for their annual Christmas dinner at a local restaurant. I begrudgingly agreed, but it should be noted I DO NOT enjoy attending events where I basically know nobody, especially in a community where I had worked for years as a plainclothes shoplift agent for a retail drug chain. The drug chain no longer exists as its own entity but it rhymed with “Songs”, “Gongs”, “Wrongs”, it shouldn’t take you LONGS to figure out where I’m talking about.
The night of the dinner had arrived. I cleaned up my appearance and prepared for an evening of banal chatter. I also made the obligatory promise to my then spouse, to behave myself and not share any of my “off-color” jokes with the gathered masses (damn her, she always ruined my fun). Well, the evening begins and we are seated at a group of patched together tables with about 20 of us present. We slowed the festivities down because the Youth Pastor and his wife phoned to say they were on the way but running late. When the Youth Pastor and his wife arrived, I knew tension was in my immediate future. I rapidly turned to my spouse and advised her this was about to get very uncomfortable and she wasn’t to say a word about it. Naturally her confusion as to what I was talking about had set in. You see, I was well acquainted with the Youth Pastor’s wife. I had arrested her several years earlier for the theft of over $1K in our merchandise. We had been tracking her for quite some time, as she was a prolific thief. As fate would have it (if there is such a thing), they were seated directly across from me. Since I was the stranger at the table, the Senior Pastor made the introductions. Well, thank the aliens above, she didn’t figure out who I was. There was that confused look of recognition, but she couldn’t quite place me.
Phew, bullet dodged … or so I mistakenly thought. A kindly lady, sitting with us, decided to engage me in conversation from a position quite a distance down the table (meaning she wasn’t to discretionary on her voice volume). She politely stated, “So your wife has told me you work security for “Songs”. That sure must be interesting?” I’m pretty sure the speed of the Youth Pastor’s Wife’s head, to look at me, broke the sounds barrier. There had to have been a tiny sonic boom in the room. She locked eyes with me as all doubt about who I was escaped her. Of course, I returned the death stare with my own knowing smirk, as if to say, “What are you going to do now, little miss fancy pants”? First, I had to politely dismiss the question from the kindly lady so as to not encourage her line of inquiry any further. then I nudged my spouse under the table to alert her to the evening’s new form of entertainment. She caught the death stare from the “wife” and we both were able to observe her quickly lean into her husband to share what I can only imagine were some very interesting words. The Youth Pastor was then, quite obviously, locked in a death stare as well. By now, my grin is almost uncontrollable. You see, this lovely young lady had given consent for me to search her vehicle (big mistake). My partner and I recovered over $4K in stolen merchandise, from assorted retailers, from within the vehicle. This was during a time when Grand Theft would buy you some serious jail time. Her actions and my eventual response ended up costing her 2 years of her young life, in a custody facility. She was never going to be a member of my fan club.
So, seeing all the death stares and knowing the probability of what was going on, my spouse simply leaned in and asked, “Work”? I nodded yes and you could have probably heard her chin hit her chest as her head fell forward in that “Oh great, here we go” tradition. But, I promised to behave and that’s exactly what I did … until … someone made an inquiry as to what it was like to arrest someone in the situations I worked within. I gave some generic, colorful response, but couldn’t help myself when I included, “You’d be shocked to find out about some of the people I have arrested through the years”. I’m fairly certain, but didn’t confirm, both the Youth Pastor and his lovely bride, expelled a tiny bit of urine when I said that. Mission accomplished! Dinner continued with no significant additional happenings. The Youth Pastor and his wife, escaped as soon as was reasonably possible. As they were saying their goodbyes, I did get one tiny dig in by saying, “It was so nice to see you again”. Not so surprisingly, I didn’t get a response.
Two weeks go by and during this time, my former spouse fielded several questions about why I was clearly uncomfortable during the dinner … “Was it because we said a prayer before the meal”? … “Was it because he’s uncomfortable around church people”? Knowing she couldn’t reveal the information relating to my contact with the Youth Pastor’s wife, she would simply say there was a work related issue that had occurred earlier that I was preoccupied with. Great response until one day a mom brings her son into the church offices and engages the Youth and Senior Pastors into a conversation about how her 15 year old son (who is present) had just been arrested for shoplifting (not my doing, this time). The woman was clearly mortified and didn’t care who was present to hear of her clear distress. The Youth Pastor takes the lead and talks the woman down from her hysteria. In doing so, he explains shoplifting is not the end of the world and he too has had to come to terms with such as his own wife had previously had to deal with a “shoplifting situation”. Seems that revelation was all it took. The two Senior Pastors locked a dead on stare toward my former spouse and all she had to do was nod in the affirmative. There was no longer a doubt about why I was uncomfortable at the Christmas Dinner, mystery resolved. Of course they had follow up questions that she would only respond to via a yes or no. According to her, they also felt very stupid for thinking it had anything to do with the church.
As an aside, the Youth Pastor (who my former used to not so affectionately refer to as a … let’s say … feminine hygiene product), within weeks, was released from the church for mishandling of church funds. Appears some money went missing that only he was accountable for. What a shocker!
So, I guess one may pontificate about the moral of this story? It’s a simple one … Don’t invite Randy to dinner!
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Happy New Year to all !!!