Even when you aren’t guilty…


. . . it’s still sometimes hard to keep from acting guilty!

 A few years ago, at about this time of year, I was at a department store and found a long sleeve, round neckline, white knit shirt that I really liked, so I bought it.

The next Sunday I wore it to church under a jacket and decided I realllly liked it — it felt great on, the fit was perfect  and I liked the way it looked under a jacket.    And it just happened that I knew that same store was now having a sale.  So, right after we got home from church, I went to the store to see if I could get the same shirt in a couple of other colors.

Let me just insert a bit of wisdom here that I was given by a friend many years ago.  She was a very sharp dresser and she told me that one of her “secrets” to having a great business wardrobe was that whenever she found a great suit blouse, she would buy several of the same blouse, but in different colors.

So, I still apply that tip from years ago.  If I find something  I like whether it is a shirt, sweater or even socks, I tend to buy several in different colors.

Anyway, so I went back to the store to see if I could get some more of that shirt.  When I got there, I was delighted to see that they still had it in a variety of colors and I picked out three that I liked.

I went to a cash register and got in line.  Oh, by the way, did I mention that on my brief stop at home I had taken my jacket off?  So I was now just wearing my new shirt and a pair of slacks.

As I was standing in line, I felt something tickle the back of my neck.  I reached back to brush away the hair or fly, or whatever it was … and realized it was the price tag!  I had forgotten to remove the price tag from the shirt I was wearing … which I had purchased several days before in this very store, but didn’t have the receipt with me … which was exactly like the three I now had draped over my arm. Yikes! 

I quickly, but I hoped “casually”, tucked the tag into the neck of my shirt, and continued to stand in line.  But my mind was racing.  What if the store had surveillance cameras focused on this area and someone was watching me (doing it in a “guilty” way, I was sure) tucking the tag into the neck of an obviously new shirt!  Maybe a security guard was on their way right now to question me about the shirt! 

I immediately went into an instinctive don’t-look-guilty mode.  I didn’t make eye contact with anyone around me because I wanted to be as invisible as possible.  I could hear a family with chattering small children standing behind me in line.  Whenever there was a pause in their conversation, I could just picture one of those small inquisitive children looking around with their sharp little eyes, spying the tag that, I feared, was clearly visible through the fabric of my shirt, and suddenly saying in a loud, crystal-clear voice (is it just me, or do they mumble only when you ask them a question, but speak in loud, clear voices when they are saying something embarrassing?), “LOOK MOMMY, I CAN SEE THE PRICE TAG ON THAT LADY’S SHIRT!!”

But, fortunately, neither a security guard showed up nor did one of the children “rat me out”.  I arrived at the front of the line, paid for my purchases (no, I didn’t point out my silly mistake to the clerk, for fear she would take a good look at me and think, “This woman looks guilty as sin, I’d better call Security just to be safe!”), and then I hurried my guilty-looking self out of the store.  It did cross my mind that maybe there was some kind of detection device at the door that would sound an alarm, set off by the tag in the neck of the shirt I was wearing!   I know, that isn’t reasonable — but fear isn’t reasonable, even the baseless kind!

I began to feel better when I got to my car.  But, I wasn’t able to fully relax until I had driven out of the parking lot and no security guard had burst out of the doors yelling, “Stop, thief!” 

Feeling guilty feels awful — even when you aren’t!  And when you tell yourself, “Don’t look guilty!”  you probably act even more so.

Lesson learned:  Always make sure you cut the price tag off of new clothes before you wear them!

8 Responses to Even when you aren’t guilty…

  1. C says:

    Okay, this post made me break out in a nervous sweat. It is exactly the kind of thing that might happen to me, and I would look guilty as you-know-what. I could never watch “I Love Lucy” shows very often because of the predicaments she got into! C

  2. Chrissy Witt says:

    Oh my! Last night I took Larry to return shoes that I had purchased for him, I thought we were making an even exchange so I didn’t bring the receipt. I had bought all 3 of the kids new shoes, the night before along with Larry’s! The kids were all wearing their new shoes and Larry didn’t find the size he needed! The sales lady I gave the shoes to hold wasn’t around and so when I went to get the shoes, I now need to return and bring the receipt back, it was a different sales person! Wow, I did feel guilty, I know exactly where you are coming from!
    So why do we feel guilty, even when were not?

  3. Hilary says:

    Too funny, Sandra but you’ve nailed the feeling we’ve probably all experienced. I’ve felt that sort of unreasonable guilt when I’ve walked Benny and he stops to squat but doesn’t actually do anything. I wonder if people will think I’ve neglected to clean up after him. So I walk with the empty-but-ready bag fully visible to announce that I DO clean up after this dog. We’re a weird lot, we humans. 😉

  4. C. Beth says:

    Oh, that’s great! Love it!

    It’s always embarrassing when they forget to swipe something across the little magnetic thing at the register, and then it beeps when you go through the door. I know I haven’t stolen anything, but I look around feeling so awkward! It’s good we’re not real thieves; we wouldn’t be very good at it!

  5. Sandra says:

    C — Well, good. Then I described my experience adequately, if it made you break out in the same cold sweat that I had experienced! 🙂

    Chrissy — I don’t know why. Just one of those little mysteries of life, I guess! 🙂

    Hilary — There is no more awkward feeling, is there, than suddenly realizing how what you are or aren’t doing might look to someone else, so you start acting very obvious to correct the impression you assume they have! Human nature really is very funny sometimes, isn’t it. 🙂

  6. Sandra says:

    Beth — I know exactly what you mean. When that buzzer goes off, I feel like “everyone” is looking at me to see if I’m going to “make a run for it” or turn around and put my hands up! Silly us. 🙂

  7. Margo says:

    You describe this sensation so well. It is just impossible not to look guilty in such circumstances. Seems to be like saying, “Don’t think of a red elephant.” I know I immediately think of a red elephant….

  8. Sandra says:

    Margo — You are absolutely right. As soon as you think, “I need to try to not look guilty!” — you look realllly guilty!

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