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Some years ago I was innocently attempting to leave a department store when something went oddly and annoyingly wrong. I set off the shoplifting alarm at the door. I stopped in my tracks in considerable confusion, particularly since I hadn't even bought anything and I couldn't imagine why the stupid thing went all crazy when I walked through it. I went back into the store and waited for a salesperson or mall cop or someone to show up, which I assumed they would, so we could swiftly establish that I was an honest citizen and I could leave. No one showed up. This struck me as ironic since the whole point of having the stupid alarm things was to prevent anyone from walking out of the store with merchandise that hadn't been paid for. I wasn't, of course, but how did they know that? Finally, I decided to just walk out and go home since no one seemed particularly interested in accosting me for a crime, so I went through it again. It went off again. This time, a young man wearing a white shirt and tie and looking extremely irritated came trotting down the aisle to confront me.
“For some reason, I set off the alarm,” I needlessly stated.
“Could you please step over here, mam?” he asked, trying hard to sound official and intimidating despite looking like a 12 year old dressed for a middle school band concert. It didn't work.
He asked me if I bought anything. No. He asked me if I had recently bought any article I was wearing or my handbag. No. He asked me if I were wearing any jewelry that contained a magnet. No. He asked me to empty my handbag. I had no problem with that. There wasn't anything in there I was embarrassed to be carrying around so I wasn't likely to be embarrassed, although he might be. We emptied my handbag and found nothing. He asked me to remove any credit cards or anything else that might contain a magnetic strip and then ran my bag and everything in it through the demagnetizing thingy they use on store tags. Satisfied that he had done everything required of him by his employer to ensure store security, he told me I could go. I walked through the doorway. The alarm went off. I looked back at the young man and raised my eyebrows. He just shook his head and waved goodbye so I waved back and left. This strange experience happened only once so I chalked it up to just one of those bizarre anomalies, never really gave it any thought, and moved on with my life. Since that time I have walked through hundreds of those things without incident as well as airport and federal building security and never had a problem. Unfortunately however, like poltergeists and alien abductors, its back.
It began several weeks ago when I walked into a store from the street and set off the stupid alarm. I had a powerful flashback of the irritating kind and ignored it. When I left the store it was completely silent. Wouldn't happen again, right? Wrong. Several days later I walked through one again with a friend and it went nuts. We decided to run a little experiment; I gave my handbag to her and she walked through the door. The alarm went off. Ok, it was the handbag, although the last time this kind of thing happened I was not carrying that handbag or anything in it. I then walked through the doorway to retrieve my bag. The alarm went off. That was unnerving. The handbag set off the alarm when my friend was carrying it but I set it off even when I'm not? I was, to say the least, bemused. I told my friend about my experience years before and she gave me one of those looks that you see in movies when a character realizes that a person they have known for a long time is actually a crazy person. You know the look. A nice saleslady came up to us and asked the usual questions, are you wearing anything newly purchased, etc., etc. She demagnetized everything I possessed and we walked out. The alarm was silent. Oh happy day. My friend had some more shopping to do so we walked into another store. The alarm went crazy. This was too much. I walked back through the doorway and the alarm was silent. I walked back into the store and it went nuts. A security guard person came up to us and we discussed the problem...again.
I suggested that it was the metal plate in my head. (I don't have one, but it sounded good). He shook his head and told me that even if I had one it wouldn't set off the alarm. I suggested that perhaps the government had put a microchip in my brain that I didn't know about.
“Nope,” he said. “Microchips aren't magnetized.”
“Right then,” I said. “It must be my animal magnetism.”
He just smirked. Whatever it is, it doesn't happen every time I walk in or out of a store and has nothing to do with what I am carrying or wearing, so it must be me, right? I'm going with animal magnetism because it sounds much better than the alternative explanations my friend and teenage son suggested, some of which were, frankly, a little disturbing. Hopefully, it will go away as it did the last time and I can forget about it...or not.
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