When I was in the Fred Meyer supermarket today, a big supermarket like Safeway, I saw a lady shoplifting. She was a middle aged black lady, and she had a shopping cart, a purse, and a big cloth bag of the sort people use when they don’t want to use the plastic or paper bags. But she was filling it up in the aisle with groceries,like instant noodles with cheese, and when she saw me turn the corner to enter the aisle she was in, she looked at me in something close to terror. The look on her face told me she was stealing.
I kept going, past her, and around the corner, but kept an eye on the area. I saw that she’d picked an aisle that was relatively near the exit. There was a path there that didn’t go through the cashier area, that skirted the customer service area. Only a couple people in the store *might* have seen her leaving–but they’d have seen the sort of bag that people use, for environmental reasons, as an alternative, and if they hadn’t watched her closely they’d have assumed she’d come from a cashier. I watched and saw her slip out the exit with the goods.
Of course I did not snitch on her. She might have children or grandchildren, or a sick husband, or, for that matter, herself, to feed. She didn’t seem like a shoplifter who was cheaping out, avoiding responsibility, who did it a lot–it was her look of near-terror, when I glanced at her, stuffing her bag, that told me that this was unusual, unpracticed, thus probably necessary.
I was interested mostly in her planning, her thoughtful logistics, her determination despite her fear. She may turn up in a short story sometime.