As promised here, I bring to you, adventures with grocery store security.
This happened in early 2008. As you read, keep in mind that I didn't speak Russian, my husband was out of town, and I had just come from a particularly awful medical appointment in which a Belarusian ob/gyn and I were nearly in a shouting match over the protocol of a procedure I needed to have. She wanted to do something that was clearly against the guidelines used in the U.S. and Western Europe, so we were having a VERY heated discussion. I felt really bad for the woman translating the feud, though she told me later that she agreed with me. In the end, it was decided that the procedure would be done the way I wanted it to be, but good grief, what an afternoon, and that had been the last of three appointments that day.
and now, adventures with grocery store security...
The grocery store I did all of my shopping at was located in our neighborhood. It was rather large and there were security guards everywhere, roaming about at the front of the store, walking up and down the aisles, and standing at the end of every checkout line. This, in addition to the cameras that were everywhere.
That day, similar to any other, I was wearing my black, North Face backpack with a little netted pouch in the front. Just like any other day, the little pouch was holding a bottle of water. I did my shopping, paid for the groceries, bagged the groceries, was handed the change, and that's when the security guard said something to me in Russian. These security guards aren't the pitiful guys you are used to seeing at malls in the U.S. These guys looked and acted like they meant business. I told the man that I didn't speak Russian, and that's when he grabbed my water bottle. He handed it to the cashier to scan, I assume to see if it came from that store. Seeing that I only shopped at one place, of course the cash register recognized it. The man immediately started speaking loudly into his walkie talkie and probably said the equivalent of "swarm" in Russian because that's what happened. Within seconds there were even more security guards gathered around me, some on cell phones, some speaking into their walkie talkies. I had figured out when the first security guard pointed to the water and said something to me that he thought I had stolen it. Now, surrounded by 15 plus security guards I was getting nervous, really nervous. A young woman came over and spoke to me in German. Unfortunately when we left Berlin, I had left behind every ounce of German I had learned, so that wasn't helpful. The security guards continued to pass the water bottle around and I even pointed out that it had already been opened and half of the water was gone; they didn't care. I was about to pull out my dip card and tell them to back off, but I didn't want to make enemies or worse be banned from the only large store in the neighborhood, so I didn't. Fortunately a young guy who spoke a little English came over; he understood and explained to the security guards that I had purchased the water three weeks before. He translated back that I was not to bring my backpack into the store again. Fine with me. Just give me the groceries and I will be on my way. Had this been any other day, I would have been in tears from the beginning, but because I was already cross from the medical appointment, I was just angry. How dare they accuse me of stealing. I had just paid for a lot of groceries, I had no reason to steal a bottle of water. Oh well, another day, another adventure in Belarus.
PS- to the fashion police who believe I should be rotting in a Belarusian jail, not because of the water incident, but because I wore a backpack into a grocery store, there is an explanation. I only wore the backpack on days I had to walk to the embassy, had medical appointments, needed to stop at the grocery store, or some combination of all three. I had to carry all of the items one would normally have in a purse, plus several epi-pens, three 1 inch thick medical files, shopping bags, and the infamous bottle of water. It was easier and made more sense to wear a backpack.