What you are about to read is the true story of a near theft, accidental theft and an alleged theft. In all three situations, I was innocent. These three incidents happened within seven days which seems odd even to me. But I’m no thief or kleptomaniac or shoplifter or anything of the sort. Never have been.
Hear me out.
Near Theft. Last week I nearly swiped two six-packs of Smart water from Target. The bottles were underneath my shopping cart, you know in that area where oversized things like dog food and bottled water ride. I became hypnotized in the checkout line because the man ahead of me was a Dallas Maverick player (I’m convinced). He emptied his cart onto the conveyor belt—one expensive item after another—electronics, small appliances and other household things one might buy when moving into an ultra cool, downtown Dallas high-rise. He wore earbuds and never spoke yet had a certain polite air about him. He was super duper tall and seemed extremely smooth like Maverick players are. Although I tried to catch a glimpse of his name on his Platinum American Express Card, I couldn’t make it out.
Right here you should know I would normally say something crazy like—you play for the Mavs, right?—but I didn’t.
And the reason I didn’t?
If we began chatting he would most certainly notice my basket filled with embarrassing, middle-aged, boring items. Cheap wine. Dog treats. Anti-itch cream. Laundry detergent. Green onions. Lactose-free milk. Two new bras. Not the sexy, push-up, demi-cup, Victoria Secret knock offs, but real-life underwear.
Hmmmm. My life.
He silently strolled on his exciting way while the checker and I discussed whether or not he was a Mavs player. Yes, we agreed. Of course.
In the thrill of this Target checkout experience, I made it across the parking lot and to my car before realizing the Smart water was still underneath my basket. Never scanned. Never purchased. I could have easily loaded it up and driven my depressing investments home. But I went back into the store, waited in the customer service line, explained how the water was overlooked and paid what I owed.
Most people wouldn’t come back and pay, the manager said.
I wouldn’t be able to sleep, I said.
Accidental Theft. Driving from Austin to Dallas I stopped at the Dr. Pepper Museum in Waco. (Doesn’t everyone?) I wanted pictures for an upcoming freelance article, plus the Dr. Pepper floats alone are worth the stop. (Blue Bell vanilla + soda fountain Dr. Pepper…)
I snapped pictures. I chatted with the lady who made my incredible Dr. Pepper float. I recommended the float to other museum patrons. I visited with the man selling tickets who went out of his way to dig up a brochure for me from the back room. After thirty minutes or so, I returned to my car aware I needed to hurry back to Dallas before rush hour.
I buzzed through Waxahachie when I realized I never paid for my float… I was horrified, yet there was no way I could return to Waco. I had dogs to pick up and rush hour to beat. I watched for blue lights in my rear view mirror certain the Texas Rangers were hot on my tail. Safe inside my home, I confessed my crime to John.
The next morning, I called the museum to turn myself in.
I accidentally forgot to pay for my Dr. Pepper float yesterday. I was there taking pictures for a blog post. I swear I’m not some scam artist. I will mail you a check. How much do I owe? Blah, blah, guilty blah. I was sure all of Waco had heard about the Dr. Pepper Museum robbery pulled off by a lunatic pretending to be a writer.
She laughed and laughed and laughed. “Oh bless your heart, don’t worry about it. No one has said a word about it.”
“Are you sure? I don’t want this in my permanent file.” (My file lives in the dusty bowels of Baylor University just across town from the museum.)
More laughing. She insisted. I said okay. It still bothers me a little.
Alleged Theft. I took the only open table. The man at the table beside me began packing up his belongings to leave. I preferred his table because there was an electrical outlet underneath. I would write at Whole Foods for several hours and eventually need to recharge my computer. He left, I scooted over, opened my journal, began writing. Five minutes later he stood over me.
I came back for my hat. I left it here.
Oh, I haven’t seen it. I looked around.
Well I left it here. You were there, now you’re here. Where is it? He stares at me with hands across his big belly.
I don’t know, maybe you dropped it? I looked underneath the table.
I can see why you’d want it. It’s cold outside. He rubbed his gloved hands together.
I promise, I don’t have your hat.
Maybe not you, but someone. Someone stole my hat.
Look, no one took your hat. I’ve been here since you left five minutes ago.
He shuffled off annoyed and convinced I was sitting on his hat.
There you have it. The whole week was a giant misunderstanding.
Grace Grits and Gardening
Johnny Cash, One Piece at a Time