Sometimes in life, you find yourself trying to make sense of something and yet the mystery defies your attempts to explain it. I’m always putting together theories to explain such things, and sometimes those theories are spectacularly wrong. Or very incomplete.
I was in a situation like that a few years ago. The unusual thing that had been happening, that had defied all my attempts at explanation was that almost every time I entered — or left — a store, I would set off the security alarm.
It didn’t happen every time, but it happened a lot. It kind of humored me that it was just as likely to happen while entering as while exiting; in fact, that gave me an opening to try to inject some humor into this mysterious and mildly-stressful occurrence.
“There I go again–trying to smuggle merchandise into a store!” I would quip. But the not-so-funny thing of it was that I still wanted to figure out why it happened and the solution had been eluding me for a good long while.
Then one day while entering a store, the alarm kicked in, fulfilling its purpose by signaling that the gentleman entering the store and sporting a sheepish grin was up to no good.
As it happened, there was a clerk just a step or two away from the entrance. He gave a smile as I launched into my usual explanation about how that had been happening to me a lot and that I had no earthly idea why.
A light seemed to come on for this helpful crew member. He looked at me, a glint of hope shining in his eyes, and he said, “take off your right shoe and give it to me”.
I did as he requested. He took it with him behind the sales counter. Reaching into a drawer, he grabbed some kind of a tool I had never seen. It somehow looked like a pair of pliers and a small pry bar had had a baby.
Well, there on the sole of my right shoe–just forward of the heel–was a peanut-sized gizmo I had never seen.
With my inverted shoe in his left hand, and the plier-thingy in his right, the clerk deftly removed the gizmo from my now-relieved shoe and looked at me with a smile.
I can best describe my mood at that moment as a strange mixture of confusion and relief. The relief part was simply that I knew I had triggered a store alarm for the last time. The confusion part was that it was quite clear that my feeble theories about what had been happening were now all shot-to-hell.
I loved those shoes, I had bought them in my favorite thrift store about two years before this strange scenario played itself out. I love brown shoes as they matched a couple of leather jackets I wore a lot in cooler weather. They were genuine leather, incredibly comfy and had given me two years of hard use in spite of the fact that they were used when I found them in that second-hand store.
As I strode happily out of the store — with two beloved shoes on my feet and without the sound of a shrieking alarm in my ears — the gears in my over-worked brain were turning…
Although I had plainly never put together successfully a theory that explained the robust ringing of alarms, a new question popped up, seemingly begging to be answered. A question that was wrapped around the first question, which had been the focus of prodigious amounts of my time and mental energy.
That foundational question concerned how such a fabulous and functional pair of shoes had come to sit, forlornly, on a dusty shelf in a second-hand store. And in that moment, my top-shelf, methodical mind framed a theory to address that burning question, to solve the larger mystery!
To this day, years later, I’m totally convinced that the reason I was able to steal those gorgeous, hand-crafted, Italian leather shoes in a thrift store for $6.95 was that… that the first owner got sick and tired of setting off alarms every time he entered a retail establishment!
The proud possessor of a beautiful mind, I am,
“Bulldog Ben” Basile
© 2020 Ben Lawrence Basile
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