I had just looked at my bank account and felt a momentary sense of peace and calm come upon me. At this time of the year my thoughts begin to turn to the holidays that are coming and added spending that I will do. I was contemplating how much money to put into my savings when my phone chimed with this text from one of my daughters:
“Not sure if you know this, but I just took a shower and the water was cold. I had the thing all the way turned over to hot because I was freezing and it was just warm not hot. I turned on the bathroom faucet all the way to hot and it was the same thing as the shower. Kitchen sink too. Saying this just to tell you not to worry you.”
This began a chain of events including finding the number to the utility company to see if someone could come and check on my water heater. This was Thursday, and I was told no one could help me until Sunday. I was prepared to tough it out for three days, but by evening I discovered a puddle of water around the tank that indicated it was leaking, so I called again and was told someone would be out by morning. Amazing how when something leaks it gets quick attention.
A friendly and knowledgeable man showed up promptly the next day and informed me that a new water heater was in order. Not really surprised, I spoke with a man in the service and parts department and was told the amount that I would have to come up with to cover the replacement. Because hot water is a necessary commodity, I gulped down my astonishment and gave the go ahead for the new item to be placed in my home.
By afternoon, two men had arrived armed with tools, a garden hose and other equipment that would suffice for the dismantling of the iron monster that had decided to spring a leak. In less than an hour, I was signing papers and was being shown how to locate the pilot light.
While running errands later with my two girls, I found myself silently muttering over the cost that I had just been charged. I was not really fretting or all out worrying but just not comfortable with the idea of that much money flying the coup at once. I didn’t dwell too long on this inward conversation with myself but made the conscious decision to forget it and move on.
The girls and I decided to go into a gas station for a fountain drink. When I spied the cookies in the display case I said,
“Who wants a cookie to celebrate my new water heater?”
As the three of us were standing in front of the well stocked shelves someone coming in the door to my left caught my attention. I thought he was standing behind us but found that he had gone into the aisle directly behind me. When I turned to look at him, I saw his hand reach out to the candy bars and move toward his coat pocket. He saw me looking at him and quickly put it back. He moved on, and I turned my attention back to the cookies.
For some reason, I turned around again and noticed him reaching for the same item, and when he saw me looking, he threw it back again. I noticed that his hands were jumpy and his movements were quick and nervous. It dawned on me that I was witnessing a potential shoplifter. I turned away again and felt I was to remain quiet and not confront him. We have had a series of robberies occurring in gas stations where guns have been drawn. With my two daughters beside me, I felt a calm knowing that I was not to cause any kind of disturbance. I felt like I was being given a command to sit and stay.
As we picked out our selections, I heard a cellophane wrapper behind me. I glanced back to see him making quite the show of getting a rice krispy bar. I was still uncertain if he had put anything in his pockets, however. He walked past me and our eyes met. He shifted his away quickly as I watched him go up to the cashier.
I was conflicted as I stood in the next line over. Had he really been stealing? Why would a shoplifter be purchasing something if he had intended on not paying in the first place? I took out my wallet and stood with it close to my face but peered over it so I could see what he was doing. The cashier slumped across her register as he began patting himself down for loose change. He emptied out his pants pockets but not his jacket. I could have sworn I saw a king sized Reese’s candy bar go into his left coat pocket earlier. I wondered when that would come out to show his thievery.
He glanced at me sideways. He knew I was watching! I began examining my bank card closer. In normal situations I would have offered to help him pay for whatever item he had, but I knew he was stealing and he knew that I knew! He threw his change on the counter and when the girl thanked him for it, he dashed for the door. I stood in my line still wondering what he had taken that didn’t belong to him.
“I can help you over here,” she said.
I walked over to where he had been. On the counter were his eye glasses, a screwdriver, a bag of fruit snacks and other items he had set down in his haste to find money in his pockets. She looked down and said,
“Oh, no. I should go get him.”
“No you shouldn’t,” I said. “Was he having trouble paying for what he got?”
“I believe he was stealing. Let him come back himself.”
I went on to tell her what I had witnessed.
“Please don’t accuse him of it until you have proof though, ” I said. “I didn’t want to say anything to him until I knew for sure. I couldn’t tell.”
“I will review the video and see if he stole anything, and if he did, he will have to give all the items back if he wants his stuff back.”
Another lady wandered over who was an employee of the gas station. She had overheard our conversation.
“I thought he was stealing earlier. I saw him put an ice cream cup into his pocket, and I asked if I could help him. He said no and put it back.”
When she said that, I knew that my observations were not wrong. He had left in such a frantic hurry not to get caught that he left what little he owned spread all over the counter. I paid for my items and decided not to wait around to see the outcome.
When I got home, and before moving on to my next task, I took a moment to soap up my hands with an antibacterial that promises the smell of fresh ocean breezes. I turned the hot water on and made a huge lather between both hands. I began sending up my praises for the use again of both faucets in my house. No matter the cost, I am not to fear how I will pay. A way is always made for me when I ask for help. I wish the man in the gas station was aware of this power that is available to all. It doesn’t have to be taken under cover, but it is given freely out in the open for anyone who asks.
If he only knew that circumstances could be different so he wouldn’t be in a gas station doing illegal acts that could eventually get him thrown into jail. What pressure to exist under knowing that at any moment he could be caught red handed. I only feel sorrow for such a man who is living life in such hot water.