In this age of social networking and instant credit checks we’re instructed never to post anything a potential employer might have access to. If you know me you know I can’t resist an act of self sabotage.
I was a natural born a thief. This behavior completely disappeared at puberty but it took a confrontation with the law.
My dad used to empty the contents of his pockets onto a dresser near his bed every night. He continued this practice up until the day he died. By then the pile included a .38 revolver.
When I was probably around 5 or 6 I’d sneak into my parents bedroom in the morning and snatch a quarter. Back then that was an incredible amount of money. Candy bars were a nickel and comic books were a dime.
Eventually I was caught and my reputation was established. It came back to bite me when Sue, my baby sitter, came up with an empty drawer that should have contained bill money.
The whole world was convinced I took it. I spent an entire day under interrogation from my dad. I was spanked and stood for hours with my face in a corner. I continued to deny and my parents grew more and more frustrated with my resolve.
Eventually Sue stepped in and convinced my parents to let the matter rest. She even brought Christmas presents for my brother and me. Mine was a painting of an English setter pointing toward some hunter’s kill.
Around 4th grade I got involved with a bad crowd. We became criminal enablers for each other. I remember stealing Swisher Sweet cigars from the drug store. They were dipped in sugar and tasted like candy.
The bolder our crime, the more respect we gained from our peers. This was the beginning of a social awareness that I’ve never quite outgrown. It’s the same sense of satisfaction I get when I’m the center of attention on stage. Needless to say, my crimes had to be the boldest.
I would walk into a supermarket open a can of soda and walk out the front door drinking it. I got caught when a clerk decided to feel how warm my can was. I couldn’t show my face there for months. Eventually they forgot me and I was able to go around the back of the store, grab a bunch of empty pop bottles and turn them back in for the deposit. Then I could buy cold sodas.
One day a friend and I watched a crowd of kids gather around a Mr. Softy truck. We got in line and ordered our favorite ice cream. When the guy handed it to us we ran. He couldn’t do anything but yell because he was still surrounded by the other kids.
At about this same time my brother and I dropped our bikes in front of a Burger Chef and went in to get a burger. We watched in horror as a gang of kids surrounded our bikes and took off with them. We ran after them but were helplessly out numbered. Our bikes were our entire life. Our territory was the whole city and that required transportation.
In spite of this event it still didn’t sink in that our stealing really hurt others.
A couple of years later we moved to the county. This was the golden age of shopping centers just before they evolved into malls.
Our gang used to ride up to
Sometimes we wouldn’t even make it to the shopping center. We’d stop at a supermarket and line our clothing with candy bars and soda and find some hidden spot to gorge. It’s no wonder I was a fat kid.
One day I walked into Sears and took a large bag, a discarded receipt and a stapler from a closed check out counter. I went to the toy department and grabbed a large box that contained the Mongoose-Snake Hot Wheels race track and cars. I took all of this into a dressing room where I placed the contents into a bag and stapled the discarded receipt to it. I walked through the door like I owned the place. My friend Jeff watched in amazement. He has since said I had balls of steel. This was exactly the kind of approval I was looking for.
My friend Don Belk stole a bike and soon the rest of our gang was doing the same. I’ll never forget get one day a few of us were in E.J. Korvetts. My name came across the store intercom. When I went to the service counter my mom was there waiting for me. I remember a long drive to the police station. My mother was in tears and basically asking where she had gone wrong as a parent. I was wearing a stolen belt and shirt under my clothing.
It finally occurred to her where the race track, Mad books and other toys had come from. I’ll never remember all the stolen things I had. I had a movieola, movies, expensive walkie-talkies, hundreds of books and God knows what else.
My friends and I all ended up in Juvenile court in
I think it was the pain my mother was going through that made me finally realize how much pain crime causes. I was ashamed. I still am. The pleasure and urge completely disappeared.
As an adult I’ve been a victim of crime more times than I can remember. I’ve been hit on the back of my head with a pistol and rolled up into a carpet as my apartment was robbed. I’ve had my apartment ransacked as I slept in the next room. I’ve come home to and empty apartment several times. I can’t really muster rage against the perpetrators.
I have friends that will insist it’s karma, that I’ll spend the rest of my life suffering payback. Maybe I believe it, I don’t know.
Pic is 4th grade mug shot.