My mother once told me that “your dad has a little bit of larceny in him.” Larceny is more precise defined than theft. Larceny involves the unlawful taking of personal property with the intent of permanently depriving the owner. Theft is a broader term for taking shit that ain’t yours. I believe blaming a crime on genetics is BS, but it still makes me think about the larceny in me.
Today, I went to Ross Dress-for-Less. I was returning a pair of shorts I’d bought the day before that had ripped in the back, slowly opening my sensitive posterior to the breezes and glimpses of the masses. I was helpfully attended in my exchange by the gent who had checked me out the day before. Kicker was, I’d been at work when I tore them, and was wearing the ripped shorts. I asked him if I could get a refund on the pair I was wearing, buy the ones I’d brought to the counter, and go change in the fitting room. OK by him, I got $7.54 back on my card, and went to the back where the fitting room attendant didn’t seem to care much one way or the other when I explained my situation. I changed and was on my way out.
I had paused in the cubicle, wondering if I should leave the ripped pair there, but then carried them to the front. I can’t really describe why I was doing what I was doing, but I walked past the cashier who’d helped me, past the security guy with the tag still on the new shorts and the old pair in my hand and out the door (receipt in my pocket of course). Technically, I stole the returned shorts. I know that, and felt a little uneasy when all was said and done. No one came after me, though, and I rationalized that Ross probably does not have a product retrofitting division where they’d send the shorts to be sewn up and put back out on the sales floor. Even at Ross, who’s gonna buy shorts with a huge rip down the ass? Not even at Goodwill.
This is not an isolated incident in my life. The first time I stole, a pack of Bubble-Yum from the five and dime, I felt so bad I returned the pack (minus one piece) to the ladies at the counter. No consequences, and my conscience felt clean afterward. In high school, in an effort to manifest my prowess with my peers and the ladies, I’d regularly walk into Albertson’s and walk out with bottles in my pants, jackets, and anywhere else I might fit some booze. This ended after a harrowing cat and mouse game with a security guard that forced me to ditch my spoils in the Rice-A-Roni aisle and submit to a (clean) search outside before walking away and vowing, “Never again.” Then in college I liberated a Timex from JC Penney in college because they’re great watches but there was no way in hell I was going to pay $50 for a freaking Timex. My buddy freaked and we left quick.
When I worked at The Home Depot, there were temptations. I was working in the trades as well, and here and there a razor knife, Sharpie, or some gloves that I used at THD would find their way to a job site. I first “really” stole when I was asked to toss the trash into the compactor one night. I’ll tell you, reader, big box stores throw a lot of perfectly good, “unsaleable” products away whenever the packaging is torn, something is missing (from theft or not) and so on. There in the bins was a 30′ heavy-duty extension cord missing the ground plug, as well as a Delta shower faucet missing the hose attachment. Slated for the landfill, I took both to my locker and smuggled them out wrapped in my jacket upon quitting time. I needed a new shower head, and my landlord got a nice one when I moved out. I still use that extension cord at least once a week, and am glad to have it and glad either aren’t in the landfill. Today, I have a pair of good shorts I’ll repair when I get home. The booze theft was outright, yes, but teenagers are bold in all the wrong ways. The Timex was wrong: no excuses. These are the big ones in my mind, but I’ve been a shit and taken stuff that isn’t mine, on more occasions that these: money from an unattended wallet, a bottle from a party, a bike during college (at UCSB bikes are kind of a free for all), a nug of weed back when I was smoking.
I’m not a saint and don’t pretend to be so. I admit the wallets were low (I’ve been stolen from likewise which isn’t an excuse) but I do have a moral compass. Hell, I’m an Eagle Scout. I suspect that most people know for them what is right and wrong in whatever context and circumstance they find themselves. A lot of pop culture glorifies thieves of one sort or another, robin-hooding and thugs. I’m writing this because I wanted to petition the GMP community for their input on my history of thievery. Any thoughts? No need to be gentle.
—Photo credit: aforero/Flickr