It's 9:30 p.m., and I am running around a supermarket like a headless chicken. We're en route to a beach condo for a weekend getaway, it's way past the kids' bedtime, and I'm rushing to pick up some groceries. I pay the cashier and zoom out to the curb, where our minivan is parked.
"Ma'am, I need to speak with you."
A man has suddenly appeared beside me, just as I'm about to open the trunk. A hulk of a guy wearing an earpiece.
"Yes?" I say.
He whips out a metal badge from beneath his shirt and says he's with store security. It's dark, so I can barely see the badge. Meanwhile, he's saying stuff into the headset like "I'm talking with her now."
I am creeped out. Did I accidentally take something without paying for it? I didn't even buy that much. I scan the cart. No, I don't think so.
"I need to speak with you inside the store," he says.
My mind is reeling. But wait! On the checkout line, I accidentally gave the cashier a coupon for a carton of ice-cream I didn't end up buying. Really, accidentally! (I mean it, really!) Maybe there is a coupon task force cracking down on coupon scammers! You never know in this economy. Although if coupon scamming were a crime, moms all over America would be doing time in the slammer.
"I am not sure why you need to speak with me," I say.
"I need to talk with you about an incident that occurred in the store, can you come inside with me," he says, looking Very Serious.
Incident? Wha?! Now I am freaked and I rapidly start tossing groceries into the trunk. Because I am wondering whether he is a scammer himself or a crook who is about to grab my purse or whether a car is going to pull up and I'm going to get abducted. I've seen one too many bad late-night TV movies.
Meanwhile, the kids are sitting in the car glued to Toy Story 2 and Dave is pecking away on his iPhone, oblivious to the drama taking place outside. He may never see me again, but hey, at least he is catching up on email.
"You need to leave me alone, because I have no idea what you want from me," I blurt, toss in the last of the groceries, and literally run around to the front of the car, where Dave can see me.
Miraculously, Dave looks up from his iPhone and opens the door.
"What's going on?" he says.
"I have no idea!" I tell him. "This guy says he is from security and wants to speak with me."
"Is this your wife?" Mr. Creepy asks.
"Yes," says Dave, gallantly, and starts to step out of the car.
"I'm talking to your wife, get back in the car," Mr. Creepy says. And then, to me, "I need to speak with you inside, ma'am," in a tone usually reserved for judges in TV movies who are about to pass down death sentences.
Now I am ticked off. "I'm going inside," I tell Dave. And then I book it into the store, with Mr. Creepy trotting behind me, straight to customer service.
"Do you know this man?" I ask the woman in the booth.
She looks at him. "Yes," she says.
I turn to Mr. Creepy, who proceeds to tell me that he noticed a woman following me around the dairy aisle. And I am all, "I didn't notice anyone. Are you saying she might have been trying to pickpocket me?" and he sort of grunts and I check my purse and everything is in there.
"OK, we'll take care of it," he says. Pause. "I really scared you there, didn't I?"
No s**t, Sherlock. "Yeah, you scared the heck out of me," I agree. I tell him it's time for me to go, get out of there, and spend the rest of the evening and part of the next day deconstructing what happened with Dave. Monday, I call the grocery store and tell the regional security supervisor about Mr. Creepy. "I know this guy was doing his job, to some extent," I say, "but I assume you are not in the business of terrifying your customers."
"If that was my wife, I'd tell her never to go back to the store," he admits.
They're supposedly going to talk with Mr. Creepy about his customer relation skills.
Me, I might just be a little paranoid about using coupons for a while.
UPDATE! I got a call back from the supervisor. Security had noticed a woman in a black top shoplifting cheese in the dairy aisle. Mr. Creepy saw me at the register, in my black top, and decided it was me. !!! When I freaked out at the car, he thought I was being evasive—until I marched up to customer service and asked who the guy was. He then made up the story about someone following me because he thought he would get in trouble. "He made about 10 different mistakes," the supervisor said. "There's no excuse for what he did." They're going to "discipline him" (flog him with coupons? Suspension?). I get a $100 gift card. Which I will definitely not be spending at that store.