Vacation Horror Stories: Accidental Thief

As part of our series "Vacation Horror Stories," listener Deborah Forrester of Malibu, Calif., shares how she picked up the wrong watch at airport security, resulting in being handcuffed, charged with grand larceny, missing the flight and being chastised by a judge.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

In the 14th century, Geoffrey Chaucer wrote the "Canterbury Tales." It takes places on a pilgrimage to Canterbury Cathedral in England, much like a listener's story we're going to share with you now. It's part of a little summer series we call...

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Vacation...

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SIEGEL: ...Horror Stories.

DEBORAH FORRESTER: My name is Deborah Forrester. My husband, John Brown, is English. We are in our middle to late 70s. We've been physicians taking care of the poor in East L.A. for over 40 years. Our vacation horror story occurred a couple of years ago. I had wanted to walk part of the Pilgrim's Way and then arrive in Canterbury and look at the Canterbury Cathedral the way the pilgrims did from Chaucer's time.

So we packed our bags. We went to LAX. We got there the required two hours early to get through security. And it always takes my husband a long time to get through security. He has to take off his belt, and he has to take off his bracelet and his watch and his necklace and his shoes. So I get through and dressed before he's halfway done. And his watch was in my shoe tray, so I handed him his watch. He put that on, got his belt on. And we went off to the Admiral's Club to have a beer for him and a glass of wine for me.

We had been there about an hour. These four airport police came up to the bar, pointed to my husband and said, is that your watch? And he said, well, if it's got the Swiss Army logo on it, it's mine. So he looked at it, and it didn't have the Swiss Army logo. It wasn't his. So he took it off, and he said, I don't know where this came from. And I said, well, it was in the tray with my shoes. I assumed it was yours. It looks like yours. The armband is exactly that same accordion armband. The color's the same. So he gave it back to the police. And they said, come with me.

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FORRESTER: We were handcuffed, shoved into the back of two different patrol cars and zoomed out of the airport to a local, very small jail. By the time I got there, I entered the building, and my husband was shackled with leg irons. And they shoved me into this cement solitary. And after an hour, they unlocked me, took me out of solitary. And as I left, the sergeant at the desk was sitting there, so I said to the sergeant, what are they booking us for? He says, grand theft for you and receiving stolen property for your husband.

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FORRESTER: Bail was 40,000 and then we had to have an attorney, so we went to the judge. And the judge, I thought, would say, you know, this was ridiculous. Instead, the judge said, well, I hope you learned your lesson and next time, when you go through, you will be more careful.

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CORNISH: Listener Deborah Forrester of Malibu, California. By the way, she had forgotten that she'd put her husband's real watch into her own carry-on just before they went through security. The couple flew to England three days later.

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