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Thursday, July 17, 2008

We Are Errant Knaves, All

Believe none of us.

I try to think of myself as an honest person, someone who walks on the right side of the law. A recent topic came up on a message board I frequent that caused me to re asses my virtue. The topic of the thread was "Did you ever steal?" When conjuring up my response I began to find more and more instances in my past of thievery. After compiling the list and posting it, I realized I was quite the larcener.

My pilfering began at an early age when, as a small child, I picked up and carried a Winnie the Pooh doll right out of a department store. My parents have told me that I found it on the floor, discarded by another child. I had always believed it was part of a display and that I had just felt that it needed to go home with me. I still have the stuffed animal, tattered and torn, missing an eyeball, with visual signs of previous surgeries to repair severed limbs, and have given it to my daughter as a passing of the plush.

While in high school I ran with some unsavory crowds. Some members would use their five finger discount at the local music store, sporting a baggy zip hoodie and filling the space between with CDs from the bins. Not wanting to be accountable for actual theft, I refrained from participating but knew full well the actions of my friends. No, I was not up to the big game, I worked on a smaller scale. We would go to a knock off of Chuck E. Cheese's called Sideshow Pizza for the buffet. Their proof of purchase was a colored string clamped on your wrist with a contrasting colored metal clasp. This allowed you repeat trips to the pizza buffet and drink fountains. We would chip in a couple bucks each and purchase one meal, taking turns wearing the loose fitting bracelet. When one member would come back with his plate he would remove the bracelet and pass it to the next person under the table, away from the watchful eyes of the manager. After each trip to the restaurant, our wheelman would remove the clasp from the bracelet and add them to our collection hanging from his rear view mirror. Sometimes, fortune favored the felon and a discarded bracelet from that days color scheme would be found in the parking lot saving us the five dollars outright.

By college, I was a regular Campus Clyde Barrow, setting my sights on the ridiculously overpriced student meal plan. Our plans consisted of 'blocks' equating to roughly five dollars. For a block you get infinite trips to the cafeteria food line which consisted of items found in most institutional settings, both educational and penal. After one trip, it was a crime against humanity to return for more. The other option was a newer, renovated food court which consisted of several themed areas with offerings such as pasta and pizza, a deli, fish, rotisserie, and frozen deserts. In this instance a block would get you a combo meal including a drink. I would usually get my lunch or dinner to go, opting to eat in the comfort of my dorm room instead of the general seating areas. Instead of the mandated two pieces of pizza I would get four, stuffing them into a plastic "to-go container." The heat from the pizza would then steam up the plastic, obscuring the view of the contents. When approaching the cashier, I would not say anything to give away my ruse, allowing them to make the mistake on their own. With a 90% success rate, I could get have leftovers for dinner on one trip. In my estimation, this was reconciliation for the devious methods by which the university would parlay students fear of losing unused blocks at the end of the semester. Their practices of selling cases of soda at the special price of five blocks a piece roughly came to a 500% markup of retail price. Who was stealing from who in that scenario?

Since graduation I have been low key in my larceny. I won't go into any great detail for fear of retribution but I have refused to buy music since 1999. Frankly, my worst crimes are behind me, I mainly stick to small time jobs more consistent with that of a petty nature. Maybe an extra apple of a higher price slips into my bag while going through the self checkout at the grocery store. That coupon is out of date, but you never know unless you try. Perhaps, I don't tell my server they forgot to charge me a drink and then I slip them and extra dollar for tip at my favorite restaurant.

When I really think about all the things I've stolen I realize that I'm probably not as evil as I make myself out to be. We all steal in one way or another. I've stolen a kiss before, and maybe a few hearts. Half of my semi funny observations are probably not my own but unconscious recollections of something I've seen or heard. In the past, I blatantly stole web page code because that's what you did in the early days of guerrilla website design. If you didn't know how to code something, you found it somewhere else and stole the source. I didn't even draw that goofy Mongo picture at the top of this blog. I found a jpeg through Google of some one's drawing of DC Comics' Solomon Grundy character and added the computer. And this blog entry's title, I stole that from Shakespeare. In fact, the sum of our individual personalities are an amalgamation of others'. A saying or action that you may do with regular frequency is probably something that you adopted from someone else. You stole their shtick. Such phrases as, "Shit the bed," "Hell's half acre," and "Huh, Hell! Pay Attention!" are all common sayings that I did not originate but use in my everyday world. While I may have been a thief of just about everything in this world I make reparations with the gift of laughter. That should be enough to balance the scales. Am I right?


I am very proud, revengeful, ambitious, with more offences at my beck than I have thoughts to put them in, imagination to give them shape, or time to act them in. What should such fellows as I do crawling between earth and heaven?

Go thy ways to a nunnery.

And don't steal anything on the way.

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