Many moons ago, I had the unique experience of working as a Loss Prevention Detective, or as I sometime affectionately called the position, a “Rent-a-cop” for a large department store.

The job was an odd mix of mundane and exhilarating tasks. Mundane duties included performing routine perimeter checks of the building, checking employee bags at the exit, and providing first aid to customers.

The more exciting aspect of my job had me patrolling the store undercover (in plain clothes) pretending to be a customer and then apprehending shoplifters. Believe it or not, I had handcuffs and the ability to detain thieves in a holding cell. Odd times for 22 year old me.

The adrenaline filled foot chases were only about 20% of the job. The other 80% was pretty boring.

One boring task management wanted us to do on a daily basis was count the fine jewelry and luxury watches behind the jewelry counter. My fellow detectives and I would take turns doing this task in no particular order.

The routine went as follows:

  • Approach the jewelry counter door next to the up escalator.
  • Wait for whomever was working behind the counter that day to buzz you in.
  • Pick a random case and count every item in it.
  • Compare your count to the master inventory list.
  • Report discrepancies to the Loss Prevention Manager.

One particularly boring day, I was sitting back in the Loss Prevention office with a few other detectives when I suddenly got the urge to go do the jewelry count. No one else had volunteered to do it yet that day so the chore was all mine.

I approached the jewelry counter door next to the up escalator as always and tried to get the attention of the two ladies behind the counter. At first, neither one noticed I was there. They were both distracted by customers. So I stood there and waited. Eventually, one of the jewelry ladies saw me and nodded letting me know she would buzz me in soon.

More waiting.

I started to get impatient. I thought, “Should I just go back to the office and come back later? This isn’t a time sensitive task.”

For some reason, I didn’t move. I stood there for a few more minutes.

As I stood there, I noticed a woman with a toddler and a baby approaching the escalator, which was positioned right next to the jewelry counter entrance.

The toddler was walking next to her as she pushed the baby in a stroller. She looked exhausted.

She stepped onto the escalator but right as she boarded the steps, her toddler got apprehensive and didn’t board the escalator with the right timing.

In a matter of moments, a panic ensued as the woman yelled out for the toddler (who tripped walking onto the escalator) to stand up, all while trying to hold onto her baby in the stroller with one hand.

The toddler sat awkwardly on the escalator stair and started to shriek in fear. Meanwhile, the woman panicked, not knowing how to keep the stroller with her baby from falling while also preventing her toddler from accidentally getting his arm or leg stuck in the stair. (A surprisingly not uncommon escalator injury.)

Without even thinking, I reached over and pressed the emergency stop button next to the railing. The escalator immediately stopped.

A hush fell over the entire store as the woman on the escalator, openly sobbing, picked up her toddler and walked back down with her baby and stroller in tow.

Except for the cries from the toddler and mom, the entire store was silent.

I saw that the young boy dropped his Ninja Turtle action figure on the escalator so I walked up a few steps to retrieve it and handed it to him.

I asked the woman if she was okay. She looked embarrassed and didn’t answer.

One of the women behind the jewelry counter, trying to break the tension, said to the woman, “Next time, please use the elevator.”

And with that, this little family turned around and left the store. Shaken up, but otherwise okay.

The other jewelry saleswoman looked at me and gasped, “God put you there for a reason. You were in the right place at the right time.”

I waved my hand at her dismissively. “No. Anyone could have done that.”

She persisted. “No! I don’t know how to stop the escalator. I didn’t even know that button was there!”

She turns to her coworker. “Did you know that was there?”

She shakes her head, no.

“See! You were meant to be there. That little boy could have gotten hurt. The baby could have gotten hurt, too. God put you there.”


Was it just a coincidence? Did I just happen to be there right when that little family needed a helping hand? Or did God/The Universe/My Higher Self/A Higher Power compel me to be there? I’m not sure I know the answer, but I’m glad I could help.


And I don’t think I ever got around to actually counting the jewelry that day.

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