I wouldn’t mind those vast electro-magnetic metal-detecting tollgates in every shop if they were used for anything other than wasting my time.
I must, somehow, set one off at least every month. Every time I do (as tonight), I stop, turn around, and cast about for a security type person. Failing to find one who is as interested in the alarm as I am, I then have to bother some already harassed shop worker who, frankly, deserves a little better.
Now I’ve made them anxious. It’s their responsibility to verify that I’m not a shoplifter, and am free to go about the rest of my life without a stain on my character.
They really, really don’t want to go through several bags of shopping to locate the one magnetic strip (probably hidden on a small pack of AA batteries) not thoroughly enough zapped by a bored cashier. They tell me not to worry about it.
Off I go, leaving a trail of minor inconvenience, and setting off the alarm again.
I used to think that it was the act of stopping and offering my shopping for inspection that guaranteed, like a badge of compliance, I would not need to be searched. It’s this frustrating logic that causes me to stop in the first place: a real thief would not stop, therefore I must stop to prove I’m not a thief.
Now I think this is wrong. I am reluctantly coming round to the idea that I simply don’t look like a freelance stock-taker. When the alarm goes off, staff glance up and make a snap decision as to whether I’m worth the bother. I never am.
I should therefore not even bother to stop.
And that, m’lud, is my defence for the alleged shoplifting incident occurring in March of 2004.