Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Why I fear shopping ... editorial from a colleague

No, it’s not what you think. This isn’t about terrorism; this is about situational awareness.  A surprise incident can happen to any of us, even when we are being diligent about our surroundings.  For me, as I wait for that wonderful call saying, “Tobin, we’d like to hire you to help our program,” I spend little time out and about (I didn’t use the Canadian spelling), except for things like grocery shopping.  So, the morning after Christmas I hit the local grocer for provisions. 

They have a large parking area and it was active with those trying to refill their larders from seasonal gluttony. I selected a distant parking spot (a choice I made years ago so I didn’t have to fight crazy ‘my spot’ drivers or truckers who don’t care if they take out your side panel as they drive away…and besides, it forces me to walk).  Just as I turn I notice a black object on the ground and immediately suspect the worst—a box cutter the night stocking crew must have dropped, fully open, and dangerous to kids, people’s pets and the occasional balding tire.  So, in my typical socially responsible way, I rush over to pick it up before anyone gets sliced. I’m looking for traffic as I retrieve it (they will run you over for a nice spot) and don’t notice what it is until it’s half way off the ground.  Expletive deleted…several…for now I am holding a long-blade, spring-loaded stiletto knife.  What to do?  What are my options?

1. Put it back down and back away.  Bad idea.  Still a threat and I can’t shut the blade without risking cutting off a finger.  I’ve seen what happens when you mishandle one of these (please don’t ask how I know…I grew up on the wrong side of the tracks). And, if I’m seen putting it back, or even moving it to the side, I can be reported as the owner who dumped it.  I can’t see blood on the blade, but what if it had been used in a violent crime? My prints are now on it.

 2.  Call the police and tell them who I am and what I found.  On the day after Christmas?  Not good. They’re still working case files for the drunks from the night before…and the speeders rushing back from granny’s place or their mistress’s house before the hubby’s plane gets back that was stuck in the snowstorm in Denver.  No, they won’t have time to deal with my silly problem. Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention I forgot to take my cell phone with me.  I hear you laughing. Stop that!

 3. Walk right into the store, with the blade open, and go to the help desk.  Way bad. People are on high alert already from terrorist attacks.  I’m wearing a hoodie because it is cold and rainy…and I look…well…somewhat Middle Eastern (oh, the curse of the Black Irish complexion and nose).  You go into a store like that in Texas and you might wake up in the local ER with buckshot being pulled out of your chest.  So what to do?

My answer was to call out to the nearest store employee gathering up loose carts and tell him to get the store manager. I told him what I had found in HIS parking lot, and that the store had responsibility to handle it.  I also carried the knife away from me, at arm’s length, blade down, with two fingers.  He got the message and told me to meet the manager in the front of the store.  That was good, because I had no intention of actually entering a Texas place of business filled with shoppers upset about their cheesy gifts for Christmas.  Believe me, a dozen or more people getting carts to go in and coming out scanned me as I waited patiently off to the side.  It was fascinating which kind of shoppers consistently ignored a potential threat and those who noticed it immediately and walked far away.  Then a manager came, after fifteen minutes of waiting.  I was getting that awful feeling they had called the local LEO and now I was going to be in a tough situation.

The manager saw the knife and immediately accepted it from me when I told him where I found it and why I had brought it to him. He was surprised, but did inform me I wouldn’t believe the things they found in the parking lots.  I’ve seen plenty, also, but not weapons.  I was relieved as I entered and started to shop.  Later, in the store, I bumped into him and the overall store manager, who knew me from a nearby health club.  The first manager informed him I was the one.  He laughed and said, “I should have known it would be Tobin.” I hope that was meant as a compliment.  We joked about both having our prints on it now, but he thought the owner might ask for it back. I told him no, as ownership of that knife in most states is illegal (I though a felony…but found out, a misdemeanor).  But who needs a misdemeanor at Christmas? 

Yeah, I fear shopping…stuff just happens to me like this.  So if you see me standing in a line at McDonald’s, don’t expect me to yell back at you that your order is ready.  Not after what happened this last weekend.

Moral of story Never let your grasp exceed your reach.

Editor's note:  He left out the Oklahoma solution:  "Put the item in the car, secure it, go on about the daily routine".   

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