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That Time, This Summer, When I Got into Trouble (2/2)

(The story makes a lot of more sense if you read part one first!)

Ottawa, October 2020
Ottawa, October 2020

“YOU STAY IN THERE! WE CALLED THE POLICE!” one of the guys shouted.

“Be my guest. In fact, I’m going to call the police as well,” I retorted. “What the fuck is wrong with you guys?”

“We checked! You didn’t pay for ANYTHING! Shoplifting, eh?”

I frowned. “That doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. First, I did pay. I clearly remember inserting two ten-euro bills plus all my cents and pennies, and I got one euro back in change. Second, ask the supervisor. She helped me because the terminal kept on freezing on me. Third, you were standing right there—if I had scanned all my items and left without paying, wouldn’t it show as an incomplete transaction or something?”

“We checked the central computer. You didn’t pay. NOW YOU GET IN THERE AND WAIT FOR THE POLICE!”

“No fucking way.”

I took my phone out of my bag. My finger hovered over the keypad. This is when I realize that not only I didn’t know the non-emergency number but I didn’t have any ID with me—I don’t carry my passport around. Would it be a problem? Although technically not illegal, not having ID wasn’t going to help my case.

I knew I didn’t do anything wrong. Yet, arguably, it was my fault for not making sure I had a receipt and it was my fault for not having ID.

I called my little brother. Probably not the most logical move considering he isn’t a cop nor a lawyer but I needed to let someone know what was going on—I’ll deal with it myself but not before telling where I was and why.

“This is crazy!” my brother said when I explained the situation briefly. “Do you want me to come?”

“No, I’ve got this.”

“Can you leave?”

“I’m not handcuffed to a wall but there’s one of the guys blocking the door,” I replied, looking at said guy straight in the eyes. “And they have my bag.”

“I don’t know what to say, this is just completely—”

“Boss, boss, we checked the wrong terminal!” I heard behind me. “Let her go, she paid. It’s right there, we checked terminal one instead of two!”

I turned around.

My shopping bag was handed out to me.

“Wait a sec,” I told my brother who was still on the line. “Are you fucking serious guys?”

“You should have taken your receipt,” he shrugged. “Leave.”

“They checked the wrong terminal,” I explained my brother. “They’re telling me to leave. What should I do? Make a scene…?”

“I… I really don’t know.”

But you need a manager or the public to make a scene and I was still in this weird hallway, behind the door opening onto the supermarket. I stepped out and the door closed behind me. The “loss prevention team” stayed in there.

I blinked and kept on walking, still talking to my brother.

“I’m actually a bit shaken up,” I admitted. “I need some fresh air.”

“Just leave, then. Come home, we’ll figure it out once you get there.”

And once I was home and after the story was shared with my mom, I still wasn’t sure what to do. “Write to the manager! Hell, let’s go to the police!” my mom advised. “They can’t do that! And Carrefour is infamous for these kinds of practices—plenty of my students get into trouble, usually for no reason like you.”

I spare you the long conversation we had—I didn’t go to the police, I just avoided the store.

But the experience stayed with me. This is how easily you can be accused of something you didn’t do. This is how easily you can end up making decisions uncharacteristic of you—come on, I’m 37, I can speak up and stand up for myself!

I’m still not sure what I should have done.

But yeah, I can see how innocent people can end up in trouble and how routine situations can get out of hand very quickly—probably even more so if you’re a visible minority.

So, how would you have reacted? Have you ever been accused of something you didn’t do?

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