I had a strange incident happen to me at my local corner store a while back. I’ve always been the type of person who covers up his debit machine PIN pad when entering my PIN number. This is something that everyone should do. If you don’t, I highly recommend that you do. Having a random person obtain your PIN number can lead to a host of financial and identity theft issues that you’ll find yourself having to deal with. Not to mention that they’ll likely drain your accounts. But anyway, on with the story.
Even before the pandemic started, I’ve always been a fan of maintaining a reasonable distance form other people. There’s a variety of reasons behind this, including my chosen profession making me somewhat paranoid. But health and hygiene issues have always been a consideration, as well as the security surrounding when one is at a cash register. I’ve often found myself asking folks to take a step back, with chosen replies including “no problem,” all the way up to “go fuck yourself.” Some people just like to watch the world burn.
On this particular day, I was at my local convenience store, checking my weekly lottery ticket in the hopes I had a winner and purchasing a few days’ worth of energy drinks. Since I hadn’t won the lottery (imagine that) I asked for the next ticket and placed my energy drinks on the cashier’s counter. While I was doing this, a tall, scruffy-haired guy saunters up next to me with a slurpee and asks for a certain type of chicken wing they had in a warming display. The cashier asked him to wait a moment as she was currently finishing my transaction.
Not only did he seemed annoyed at having to wait, but he approached the cashier’s counter as well and kind of floated into my comfort zone. The guy, I’ll call him Scruffy Bastard, was close enough that I could smell his mixture of unwashed flesh mixed with cheap aftershave. I knew I was done and on my way out, so I didn’t bother to ask him to step back while I punched in my payment on the debit machine. I did, however, cover the key pad with my hand as I entered my PIN and turned my shoulder towards him. This is the exchange that ensued:
Scruffy Bastard: You worried I’m gonna steal your number on you?
ME: Excuse me?
SB: You’re hugging that thing like you’re worried I’m gonna grab it from you. You worried about me, or something?
At this point, I thought maybe he was just joking around. It can be especially hard these days, since everyone’s face is covered up and one can’t get a read on other people’s facial expressions. In the interest of avoiding an unnecessary conflict, I kept my response polite and mild.
ME: Nope, just being safe and protecting my PIN number…
SB: Funny you should do that as I walk up. Are you trying to say I look like someone who would try to steal it?
ME: (now realizing he was actually annoyed and not joking) No, sir. I’m not suggesting anything. It’s simply a habit to ensure the safety of my PIN number. It’s something EVERYONE should do.
SB: So, you do that everywhere you shop? With everybody who stands behind you?
ME: Yes, sir.
SB: Seems rude. As you can see, some people might take it offensively, as though you’re accusing them of being dishonest.
ME: Honestly, that’s not my intention. But I’d rather someone think that I find them dishonest than have my bank accounts hacked but someone who WOULD copy my number. I’m not accusing you, but I certainly don’t know you. And my security and safety isn’t something that should offend you.
I grabbed my stuff and walked out. I was leery for the few moments it took me to load my cans into my car and hop in to drive away, as I was confident based on Scruffy Bastard’s body language that would potentially come outside to confront me further. Then I remembered he was purchasing items the cashier had to get for him and it gave me the time to make my way out of the parking lot. I abhor fighting and I’m just as glad I didn’t have to find out if he wanted a further confrontation.
When it comes to protecting one’s interests, you can never be too careful. But I’d be lying if I said it isn’t very entertaining (and just a little bit sad) seeing people’s reaction to someone taking protective steps. The worst part is people like Scruffy Bastard would be the first to raise hell if they had their identities stolen or their accounts hacked. It’s surprising how many people get frustrated and angry at certain protective steps that are taken in their interest. But the Light help those same people when something happens BECAUSE they didn’t embrace those protective steps.
Maybe Scruffy Bastard was taking in too much sugar from the slurpee he was drinking. Who knows? Like most encounters of this sort (and I’ve had more than I care to admit) it left me with a small knot in my gut, wondering why someone would choose this kind of approach with a total stranger. For all I know, maybe he HAS been accused of something in the past and this is why he reacts this way. All I DO know is that like the old saying goes, I can only control my words and actions. Not how others react to them. ☯