My Doorbell Cosmetics shop is in a small exurban town, 25 miles south of my hometown, an eastern US city which is known for its urban violence. In 2015, Newsweek called it “Murder Town USA”, and we downtown residents immediately made commemorative t-shirts bearing the names of the 70+ people who were shot dead during 2014. I’ve always lived in the center city area. We’re accustomed to finding bullet holes in our car windows, hearing sirens all night, and seeing our neighbors being hauled away in the police wagon.
So it’s a weird experience to immerse myself in small-town life for several days per week. Everyone knows each other. A quick Facebook post can inform everyone of a problem or incident. The big police event of 2016 was the day when an ostrich got loose from a local egg farm and petting zoo.
I’m a different person when I’m at my shop. I am goofier and more relaxed. My hard-edged Murder Town accent softens, and I laugh more heartily. It’s been a great experience to spend time in the country.
But when something goes wrong in the market, I turn right back into YoAuntie from the ‘hood.
The marketplace has many Amish food stalls, and each one has a plastic tip jar on the counter. Our most common problem is people trying to steal the tip jars, which happens a couple times per year. To prevent further thefts, we have bolted down the jars. It’s always entertaining to watch the nasty-ass thieves fail to wrest the jar from the counter and run away frustrated, with our emergency incident team in hot pursuit: me (a retired emergency responder), Mark the maintenance man (a retired cop), and Sonny the jeweler (a retired military police officer).
Last Saturday, I noticed that the day’s first customer had stolen my last pair of breast cancer awareness sunglasses. I immediately locked my shop and began stalking the aisles of the market, looking for the perp. I picked up Sonny during my rounds, and told him that we were looking for a very short, very fat woman
in a pink hoodie.
As we walked up to the Amish pretzel stand, I saw a familiar-looking woman make a grab for the tip jar. Sonny and I had her up against the wall before she knew what hit her. She’d pulled a ski cap down low on her head, pulled up her hood and scarf…
...and was wearing my sunglasses to hide her face! Oh HELLZ no! I filled her ears with continuous profanity and rude remarks about stealing from women with breast cancer, until a police officer arrived from the donut stand (there are always police officers at the donut stand) and took her into custody.
To which the police officer simply replied: "GOOD."
Our store policy is to never press charges against a thief who is not carrying a weapon. I was heartily disappointed that the pat-down didn’t reveal anything more dangerous than a pack of gum (probably stolen from our candy shop).
But there was good news after all. When the police ran the thief’s driver’s license, it turned out that she had a pending warrant... for skipping her parole visits from a robbery in 2016 at a corner store only three blocks from my home. So off she went -- a dangerous escaped fugitive from Murder Town -- in the township’s only police car, to the tiny police station just a few yards outside of our marketplace, where she was locked into a 6x6-foot one-seat holding cell (after someone removed all the excess police equipment from it, because they’d been using it as a closet for several years.)
She was picked up eventually in the Murder Town police wagon and arraigned for parole violation. (I heard all this later in the day, when the cops returned to the donut shop, like the swallows to Capistrano.)
I have to give her credit for style, though. The attempted robbery occurred while she was wearing a pink hoodie, a pink ski cap with the local football team’s logo, a pink scarf... and pink breast cancer awareness sunglasses.