Have you ever felt like you were being followed? I’ll admit that I am a bit more paranoid than the average person. Not that I’ve had that feeling often, but I frequently feel that people are looking over my shoulder. Most of the time I think I’m overreacting, but once in a while I’m dead on.
It so happens that, not only was I being followed on one occasion, but it occurred because of my OCD. I needed new clothes, so I was in a department store looking around. Being rather particular, I was having trouble finding anything that I liked. After a lengthy search through the first floor of the store, at last I found a small cotton shirt that I felt I could tolerate. I needed to go to the upper floor also, but I did not want to leave the shirt behind lest another shopper snatch it up. What would most people do in this situation? Grab the hanger and take the shirt with them upstairs, I suppose. But that presented a problem for me. Holding the shirt dangling from the hanger posed the risk of contaminating the shirt. It could swing against my pants or hit other clothes that shoppers have brushed against. It was too problematic, so I took the shirt off the hanger and wadded it up. I had to carry it in my left hand, as my right hand was holding my purse. That is how I was carrying it as I went up to the second floor.
I was aware that wadding up a shirt could look suspicious, so I intentionally held the shirt up where it was clearly visible. I rode up the escalator, and I felt conspicuous with my hand held up in the air that way, but at least it was obvious that I wasn’t hiding anything, or so I thought. I browsed around the second level for a few minutes, finding nothing, and I looked for the cash register to pay for my shirt. It turned out that the store had closed the counter on that floor, so I was going to have to ride the escalator back down to pay there. I hopped on, and a couple of seconds later I heard another person step on the escalator behind me.
Something was unusual. I had been on escalators many times and had never been suspicious of anyone riding behind me, but intuition told me that this situation was different. I felt uncomfortable the whole way down, and as I drew close to the bottom, I decided that I was going to see what happened if I veered off into the jewelry department instead of following the path to the register.
I stepped quickly behind a counter trying to see the person who had been following me without making it obvious. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see her coming my direction. It was true – I had been followed. At this point, I was angry, as I had done nothing wrong. The woman asked if she could help me with anything, and I whipped around with fire in my eyes. It was an older gray-haired lady. She started chatting and said that she hoped I was finding what I was looking for. I have to say, I wasn’t very friendly, but she wouldn’t stop talking. She must have talked on for ten minutes after I told her how I had a difficult time finding clothes that I liked or that fit properly. She seemed understanding. Just as my opinion of her was about to change – I could have misjudged her, after all – she started to strongly urge me to shop online. I can’t steal anything there, huh?
I had had enough. Although I had calmed down, I had to abruptly end the conversation (or should I say lecture) to get away from her. I fumed as I waited in line to pay. I was tempted to leave the shirt and exit the building, but I was worried that that would make me look guilty. I got out of there as fast as I could
I wish I could have left and forgotten about the incident, but it kept eating away at me. I stewed over it for two weeks until I couldn’t take it anymore. I broke down and called the store to complain. I talked to the store manager, and she asked for a description of the employee. All I had was that she was an older woman with gray hair. The manager asked if she had a limp, and I said I hadn’t noticed, but the manager spoke with a tone that told me this wasn’t the first complaint for this person. Now I felt like a heel, picking on a crippled, old lady. But it was too late; it was done. And I did feel better after getting it off my mind.
Let’s add this to the list of cons to having OCD – it could make you look like a criminal.