When I was about 12 years old, I lived in a small town in Iowa where there wasn’t a lot to do.
My friends and I would head “up town” to kill some time wandering through the shops that dotted the town square (this was before Wal*Mart sucked the life blood out these small businesses and turned them all into art galleries and coffee shops).
I’d walk into Harrison’s five and dime or the Hallmark store or Gobble’s Clothing, and would immediately feel the suspicious gaze of the shopkeeper begin to burn a hole in the back of my head. It would set upon me like a weight, making me feel as if my every move was being observed in case I turned out to be a kid with sticky fingers.
Fast forward three decades, and it’s been a long while since I’ve felt self-conscious in a store, with one exception – walking out of a liquor store without making a purchase.
I likely get this feeling because I think that a liquor store isn’t a place to browse – it’s a place you go to on a mission. Daddy needs his medicine. In my mind booze buyers don’t fuss over the fact that their top choice isn’t available, they pick the best of what’s available and move on with it.
But beer geeks are different. We look to see what’s new, or if anything rare and wonderful happens to be left on the shelf. We usually have beer at home already (perhaps lots of it) and we’re looking for something very specific. If it’s not there, then we make that awkward perp walk out the door without making a purchase.
In that moment I look at the height measurement bar taped beside the door and imagine the person behind the counter is taking note of my 6′ 5″ frame so they can tell the cops exactly how tall the shoplifter was.
I know it’s probably in my head - the person behind the counter is probably happy that they don’t have to ring up my order or pack it in a bag or a box – but I always feel like they’re looking me over, just like those shopkeepers in 1983 Iowa, searching for a sign that I’m walking out with more than I came in with. Of all the fabulous feelings and sensations from my youth, this has to be the one that I get to re-experience? Figures.
What about you? Have you ever felt like a criminal walking out of a liquor store without a ski mask on?