“Daddy, They Have Mommy’s Purse.” It didn’t sink in at first. We had gone to Target to buy a new car seat for my son and some napkins, nothing real special. For that matter we would have skipped the trip altogether but today was the last day that the seat was on sale.
“Daddy, They Have Mommy’s Purse,” said my son. It took a moment to realize what he was saying because like so many other children he had spent a good deal of time pointing at various items and explaining why he had to have it and I was not paying as much attention as I could have. But it wasn’t like I was ignoring him either.
We were on the second floor and preparing to take the elevator down to the first floor. My son and I were waiting for the girls to finish looking through the clothes that hung near the elevator doors. Bibs, dresses, onesies, a cornucopia of clothes, girls clothes I might add. And while they were sorting through the various pieces I was lost in thought about this and that.
“Daddy, They Have Mommy’s Purse.” I heard it and looked up in time to see a flash of pink in the hands of a woman entering the elevator. I grabbed my son and hustled over to his mother and asked if she had her purse. She looked in the stroller and shook her head no and I made for the escalator.
If you were one of the people I brushed by like a bowling ball through bowling pins I apologize. I was in a hurry with good reason. I moved fast enought that I arrived as the elevator doors opened. I walked up to the people I had seen with the purse and asked in a very pleasant voice if they had seen a pink purse.
They shook their heads at me and said no, but I didn’t really believe them. It had happened very quickly, but I had seen enough to know that something didn’t add up. I knew that something seemed off.
Here is the setting. A rail thin woman in sweats has a blanket draped over her and a slight bulge beneath the blanket. She is accompanied by a man pushing a shopping cart. The cart has a few items in it, the most prominent is an infant’s car seat complete with a baby in it.
In most situations I suspect that the man would have positioned himself between the stranger (me) and the baby. They didn’t. He leaned forward to try and obstruct my view and she pushed up past me, a diversion or so I think.
I watched her walk out the door and enter a car parked on the street. I tried to follow her steps carefully, without being too obtrusive because there was the chance that I was wrong. She got in the driver’s seat and I never saw the purse. So I turned around and found the man and the baby in the checkout line.
He made brief eye contact with me and looked away, his face betraying nothing. I gave him a hard look and tried to will him into giving me something that I could use to involve security. A twitch, look, a flash of pink, something, anything that would give me a real excuse to try and confront him again. I never got it. And because there was that ounce of uncertainty I didn’t want to cause a scene.
Moments later I rejoined the family and recounted what had happened. We found a security guard and began to file a report with the store and take steps to secure our identity/security as well as to try and find out if perhaps by some odd quirk of fate the purse had fallen out or been turned in.
We split responsibilities as my wife provided details about the purse (physical description of it and the contents within) and recounted the last place it has been seen. My son was irate. I was a little surprised at how upset he was. He was angry that he hadn’t ran up and grabbed the purse. He was angry that the people had been “not nice” and he told me what he wanted me to do. He wanted to find them and make an angry face and then a sad face at them.
And then he wanted me to punch them all in the nose and “kill them dead.” Such are the thoughts of a four-year-old. I listened to him and asked him to give me a few moments to take care of some telephone calls. I had to call the cellphone company to kill the phone, and I needed to contact the bank about the ATM card, and two other companies beyond to suspend those accounts too.
As I explained to the various customer service reps why I needed their assistance I looked at my watch and realized that everything had taken place in all of 10 minutes. It frustrated me to think that if I had looked up when my son first grabbed my arm I could have easily stepped into the elevator or done something to prevent this, but still there was that small ounce of doubt about whether I had really seen something. I didn’t want to make a false accusation.
“Daddy, They Have Mommy’s Purse.” I heard it in my mind and I got a little bit more irritated because I heard my son asking me for help. I heard him looking to me to fix a problem because in his eyes I am still superman and I felt a little bit like I had let him down.
At the same time part of me was relieved that I hadn’t had to deal with a full blown confrontation because if it had become physical I would have had to unleash the beast. I don’t mean that to sound dramatic, but the thing is if you are going to be in a fight you have to be prepared for a very nasty environment and serious repercussions. I haven’t been in a fist fight in years, but in my youth I had to dance a few times so I am relatively comfortable with my ability to take care of myself.
But that aside, I don’t want to show that side to my family. I don’t want them to ever see me involved in a physical confrontation. These are not the qualities, characteristics I want them to see nor try and emulate. I don’t want them to ever allow themselves to be taken advantage of or abused, but you can stand up for yourself without having to do anything more than use words.
The Target team eventually let us know that they had reviewed their surveillance footage and confirmed that these people had the purse. The tapes didn’t show when they had it, just footage of them rifling through it on the elevator ride and their use of the carseat to hide their ill-gotten gains.
I had been face to face with the thieves and they had lied to me. I am not surprised nor disappointed that people like this exist. They do. And I won’t lie and say that part of me is disappointed that I didn’t get the chance to go toe-to-toe with the people who committed this violation.
There are pictures of family and friends that are now gone. Memories and items of sentimental value. Some of them can be replaced and others cannot. And there is the possibility of identity theft. We have taken steps to prevent it, but it is still a concern.
But in many ways the most disappointing part of this knowing that today my son learned that theives and bad people are more than just stories. A little piece of his innocence was stolen and that just makes me sad.