I was treated as a potential criminal at a store today. It was the Farm to Market in San Juan Capistrano, where I go to get cheap local produce, herbs, spices and above all, organic hair dye. My hair's been fading from red to ginger over the past couple of years. Being of British origin, ginger doesn't exactly cut it, so I first resorted to henna, then Herbatint. I suspect Herbatint is made of exactly the same stuff I would buy in Vons, but it's very careful to tell me it's "herbal" and I fall for that kind of stuff.
The woman behind the cosmetic counter asked me if she could help me, and I said no. After a second I realized all the hair dye had been put behind the counter glass, so I said, "Apparently you can help me...I need a box of Herbatint and it's behind glass now."
She fished for the shade I wanted, handed it to me and then as I made to push the cart off into the uncharted waters of the Made-Up Vitamins Aisle, she stopped me. "You can't put that in the cart. I have to take it up to the front. We've had kids taking them. Are you done shopping?"
I wasn't done shopping, I said, but I didn't point out I was far from a "kid".
"Nothing personal," she said as she took the box from me. "You can collect it when you're ready to leave."
It might have been "nothing personal" but I felt like I'd been singled out as a common criminal. I fumed in humiliation all the way through the store and wanted to leave without collecting the dye - at $17, it was twice the price of everything else I was buying combined, but not exactly an X-Box or an iPhone - but I realized that if I left without it, I'd definitely be known forever as the Woman Who Tried To Lift Our Hair Dye But Was Foiled.
"Ready," I grated at her when I was set to leave. She made small talk and wished me a nice day about eleven times on the way to the cash register, but all I could think of was that she'd essentially accused me of being a thief.
I won't be going to Farm to Market in San Juan Capistrano in future. I don't need to be humiliated while shopping. The city has a farmer's market in town once a week where I can get fresh vegetables, and I can buy ordinary hair dye at Vons like a normal person. It won't be "herbal" but then again it doesn't seem to harm anyone else.
Farm to Market is one of those places that sells organic veg along with things like negatively-charged water (the extra electrons stop the water molecules clumping together, apparently), water with added oxygen, and Colloidal Silver. SJC is a pragmatic town, and I'm surprised there are enough Fans of the Woo to keep Farm to Market going. Well, it just lost me, and my steady $20 a month. A major blow, I'm sure.
I first got this treatment many years ago in East London, when I was shopping in some megastore - English equivalent of Target or Walmart - and a security guard came up and followed me around. He didn't follow at a discreet distance, but shadowed me from a foot away, looking at what I was looking at and bending when I bent down to look at something. I spent longer than I should have pretending it wasn't happening and trying to act normally, but after a while I gave up and left the store, which is what he undoubtedly wanted. I never went back there again, either, but since I can't remember where it was, I can't badmouth it on the internet.
I remember later, also in East London, going to a chemist's opposite the teaching hospital where I worked and asking for carbon tetra-chloride. The assistant called for the pharmacist who came down some wooden stairs from the attic like a wandmaker from Diagon Alley, and stared at me like I was a bug. "I don't have any carbon tetra-chloride, and even if I did, I wouldn't sell it to YOU," he said, as if I were Amy Winehouse or something. "What do you want it for?"
"I need to clean carbon deposits off the nylon spindles on my amplifier knobs," I said, trying to be reasonable in the face of frank condescension. "The build-up is making the sound crackle when I change the settings."
"Use nail polish remover. Acetone," he said, walking away from me.
I wanted to shout at him, "Nylon is soluble in acetone, you utter failure as a supposedly degreed chemist! It'd soften the spindles and wreck my entire amplifier." But I didn't. I just learned to hate East Londoners.
Although I no longer wear a leather bike jacket and a Ramones t-shirt, it appears I'm still in the drug-addict/thief class as far as store owners are concerned. Fuck 'em all.