Stealing Can Be Fun!

*These Blogs are “my truths!” I stake no logistical claims, nor research to support my opinions and experiences. (Artist Unknown)

Crooked Views by Joseph Anthony

Jus’ hanging around…

“You’re worthless! You are gonna die in prison or be killed in the streets. You are no son of mine!” Throughout his youth, vicious aspersions, such as these, were commonplace for a dear friend of mine. Revenge can be bittersweet. The Old Man played cards every Friday night in the neighborhood Italian social club. The stage was set, for the young man and his accomplice, and on this Friday, a little retribution would be had. Wearing Ski masks and toting Snub-nosed 32s, they coolly and collectively stormed the table of men at the card table. “Keep your hands up,” this dear friend of mine ordered, while his counterpart gathered the loot. As if scripted, his father (unknowing of who was beneath the disguise) mumbled in his accent, “you’re going to pay dearly for this!” Pointing his gun at the Old Man the juvenile demanded, “get up!” He placed the gun in his pocket (momentarily), while his partner kept everyone in check, with his pistol. This dear friend of mine then hoisted his father onto a hat hook, on the wall. Dangling, inches from the ground below, his father, trying to remain dignified in his vexing position, looked directly at the mask of his intruder and scornfully muttered, “you worthless punk!” The two-armed assailants backed out of the club, onto the sidewalk, and sped away to a nearby getaway car.

They peeled off their masks in exhilaration, and the young man, who was holding the score from the robbery, counted the cash, and in a celebratory fashion, shouted to my dear friend, “you got him … you got the prick.” To the driver he recounted, “you shoulda’ seen him, hanging on that hook and still trying to threaten us.” My dear friend smiled, agreeing, “yeah,” then he stared straight ahead and thought, did he know? Did he know it was me? Then, only loud enough for himself to hear, he whispered, “I’ll show you who’s worthless!”

There is a certain rousing thrill, about getting away with something. Let us make a deal — I will wrap this story up with a mini-lecture on legalities, a speech on turpitude, and a just cause for redemption … but until then, lock your hypocritical, supposed guilt-free, lecturer of good, in the basement, and let me scribble playfully. After months of intense introspective exposes, where I bared my soul, revealed my deepest thoughts and feelings, without restraint, I just needed to have some enjoyment — in the vein of the street smarts, that make for great bar stories. By “bar stories,” I am referring to a place and time when people congregated near each other, joking, talking, interacting, and all without fear of catching a deadly virus! Call it my connection to living outside the box (or maybe your new guilty pleasure), but rehashing these events made, and still make me, guffaw aloud to this very day. Rather than putting names to the faces, regarding the preceding scenario and those that will follow, I will only say that they were perpetrated by, “a dear friend of mine.”

Hey, be honest … you laughed your butt off watching, Fun with Dick and Jane (Jim Carrey and Téa Leoni) or most likely rooted for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (Butch Cassidy, Paul Newman and “Sundance Kid”, Robert Redford). Why? Because we innately (right or wrong) associate with underdogs, even if we do not behave like them. We understand the ideology that, desperate times call for desperate measures. On some psychological level, beyond my limited wheelhouse of education, mischievous — even illegal beings — can be endearing, if a basically good person commits the acts without malice or intent to harm. And, if none of my dissertations provoked self-reflection, and you still have a holier than thou stick up your ass, then I will just surrender and confess that for some, like it or not, it is a way of life, and their situations make for great tales! This is plainly what, “a dear friend of mine”, just needed to do at times.

Imagine finding a twenty-dollar bill, while you are walking alone on a sidewalk, with no people or houses around you. Now, recall the adrenaline rush, as your skin tingles and eyes go wide, and you quickly stuff it in your pocket. Is it unlawful not to rush it to the nearest police precinct — after all, it is not your twenty? Perhaps, but it is a lot safer than say, Bungy Jumping for thrills. Okay, so that is a horrible example of actual stealing! Then, let us get MORE honest with our subconsciouses. Each and every one of you has done something wrong — possibly illegal. “Tell it to the hand,” because I know you have! You have stolen something, at least once. Think about it! Maybe, it was not on a store shelf, but perhaps you chose the best of something, knowing perfectly well that someone else desired it. You may have stolen someone’s thunder or moment of glory and that may have made them feel terrible. You may have taken a heart or two in your day, but there was no judge and jury to convict you for the tangibles that you kept after the relationship ended. Precious items were given to you by another, who thought that you would be there forever. Ever embellish that resume or prior employment experience? I am sure many of you have worked jobs that were, “off the books”. Did you report all that income? At the least, you have all … each of you … driven over the legal posted speed limit, so save your judgments for one who is not as savvy as I. The point is, we all do “tings’”, so let us remember, for this moment in literature — regardless of your religious beliefs — what Jesus said (in John 8:7) when the Scribes wished to stone the adulteress, “let he who is without sin cast the first stone!”

HEY, how much longer do I have to defend this type of bad behavior before I can tell some funny stories? I think I am done — now let us have some dirty snickers!

It all started with aerosol spray caps. Three pre-teen boys are hanging out in a strip mall lot. “Once, twice, three, shoot — You’re it.” A dear friend of mine had lost a finger throw, and by default, had to go into a Pathmark store and steal spray caps for their Halloween shaving cream cans (the caps allowed the shaving cream to spray far distances). He surveyed the aisle, all clear, he thought, except for this homeless-looking guy behind me … what’s he want? Eh, screw it, I’m sure he’s a criminal too.” The boy plucked off as many spray caps as quickly as he could and jammed them into his coat pocket. Suddenly, that homeless-looking guy put his hand on my dear friend's shoulder, and from his scraggly hair and beard, came a deep commanding voice, which said “come with me!” He was caught by an undercover security officer, and the options offered by store management were, call the police or call his parents. In retrospect, regarding the public beating he took from his mother, I am sure he wished he had chosen the 5–0! That won’t happen again — he thought to himself — got to be smarter next time! But, the challenging thrill of the hunt, had been firmly planted in the brain of a dear friend of mine!

In the years that followed, he and his band of thugs, would lift (steal) spray paint cans from the local hardware store, then arrogantly march right to the back alley of that same store, and Tag-up on the establishments rear concrete wall. They had a system that surprisingly worked. One kid would distract an employee with merchandise questions, while the others loaded up their oversized multi-pocketed Army coats and Parkas. They implored these types of capers in other major Art supply stores, all around New York. The “after-high”, was worth the risk, and the spoils of the crime were the crappy, public defacing, Pieces (the term for graffiti art), and the bragging rights that accompany such a score. They freely “shopped” in Kmart (Disneyland for petty thieves), as if Blue-Light-Special meant FREE, every day! These were fright-filled contests, that turned from gut-wrenching, to rejoice, once outside the glass doors. With the absence of the surveillance-filled world that we live in today, and only one-half asleep, underpaid, Security Guard on watch, it was rather easy. Of course, speaking only for my dear friend, the successes of the heists did not come without an emotional price tag! His stomach would churn, and his mind would echo, thinking of the shame he would have to endure if his parents found out. His job in life was to be a good boy! There was cliché conscious wrestling as well — condoning himself, he would ponder, “man, even working six days a week, on top of going to school, I still don’t have enough money to buy the things I want.”

A boy (if you are confused, over which boy is which, in these stories/paragraphs, that is by design to protect the identities of those concerned) — in his mid-teens, chose an oversized remnant carpet, from the local flooring store. He was redoing his bedroom at home; with the money, he was earning. “That comes with free padding,” said the sales lady, “it’s in the basement, I’ll be right back.” The teenager turned and for a brief second could not find my dear friend. Several large rolls of remnant carpets, on the tiny window display platform, mysteriously started to shake. My dear friend emerged from the center of the tall rolls, with a sister remnant to the one the boy had picked out. “Here, take this to the car.” “But we have more than enough,” the boy responded. “Just take it,” grunted the man, from the tiny ledge, who was immersed in textile, so that only his face was visible! So, he (the boy) ran out of the door, with the carpet on his shoulder, across the parking lot, and began tying it to the roof of their car. When asked, by another family member, who had been waiting in the car, “is that your new carpet?” A bit confused he answered, “no … but our dear friend told me to take it … so I did.” That extra remnant sat rolled up in the boy’s basement for many years and one day was thrown into a dumpster, still with the original string tie. Stealing is an addictive compulsion, and my dear friend “felt” as if he were doing something of a caring and generous nature for the boy, on the day of that theft.

“Oh dammit,” the young lady realized something aloud, while in their hotel room, a few hundred miles from their home base. “What is it,” questioned my dear friend? A bit frantic she replied, “I have to go straight to the Bridal Shower, from here tomorrow morning and I don’t have a gift.” Unruffled by the information, my dear friend asked what type of gift the women had in mind. Upon hearing the answers, he said, “come on, we’ll go across the street to that strip mall.” Still concerned she asked, “I thought you said that all you had on you was a check and travel money — it’s Saturday and the banks are closed now.” He just smiled back at her. Inside the electronics store, she picked out an expensive Microwave, in a large box. “But I don’t … you don’t … we don’t have enough” … she stammered. This dear friend of mine, now balancing this giant box between his head and hand, on his shoulder, visually analyzed the different checkout Cashiers. With his trained eye, knowledgeable of which employee would be, well, the most gullible, he had found his lane. With his free hand, he grabbed a twenty-five-cent package of gum from a counter rack and placed it down. “Just the gum,” he confidently stated, looking, and smiling at the female youth. “Just the gum,” the Cashier replied, looking up at the giant box on his shoulder. “Yes, just the gum,” as he removed a quarter and a ten-dollar bill from his pocket. In his most charming tone, he added, “keep the change.” My dear friend was surely a small-time thief, but he always tipped hard-working people very well and never thought twice about helping a stranger in need. He handled the whole exchange as if there was not a large box sitting next to his head. The secret … the lesson if you will … is never hide it. Hiding it is stealing! Just be prepared with your Oscar-winning performance, if challenged.

Well, sometimes you must hide it. For example, this one time, my dear friend’s new beau commented on loving a picture on the wall of a crowded restaurant, where they were dining with another couple. At the end of the meal, he informed them, “I’ve got the check, why don’t you guys wait outside.” He paid (over-tipped) then casually jammed the three-foot-wide artwork under the back of his long coat. With one hand behind his back, supporting the portrait, he was nearly out the door of the busy establishment, when a patron tugged my dear friend's elbow and called him out on the bulging merchandise, claiming the owner was his mate. Without missing a beat and knowing this could turn out badly for him, he removed the item and retorted, “it was a joke,” dropping it on the man’s table (it took up the whole table), “you happy … you ruined it?” Then stormed out, confident in his fib. Sometimes, petty thefts were in response to cruel treatment. He had a disrespectful and condescending employer, to whom he would respond, in his mind when berated by that boss, “that’s gonna cost you two hundred dollars in meat!” His views on big corporate, scaling back staff overhead by imploring Self-Checkout lanes are, “well, if you’re too cheap to pay people and I have to do what should be the job of a salaried worker, let’s go with; two for you … one for me … two for you … one for me,” a system of fooling the scanner, as well as the seventeen-year-old, paid to oversee the area, who is on their cell phone.

My dear friend has had the tables turned on him and knows that awful feeling of having something taken from you, and it is the reason that he had a set of rules about who he stole from. Sure, it is a justification of crime and in no way excuses it. But it does show that there is an aware consciousness and an oddly kind soul inside of him. For he has personally known some criminals, that committed some very deceitful acts on innocent people, and it never sat well with him at all. It is hypocritical of my dear friend, but to me, it makes him a bit more of a Robin Hood, then say a Bernie Madoff. No one should break the law and yet they still do, with disregard for consequences or severe impact to others! He (my dear friend) is not exonerated, and Karma might very well be the bitch that it is accused of being. We all have demons, and they cry to be fed. We find places in our minds to explain how a different set of circumstances would thwart certain actions in our lives. I believe life to be scales of good on one side and bad on the other, and if the good outweighs, then you are granted a pass on your choices. A perfect and honest existence is a beautiful notion, but in the end, will your stories interest anyone? I promised a lecture on legalities, a speech on turpitude, and just cause for redemption. Perhaps, I checked those boxes off in this last paragraph. If not, it is ok. This is just another truth in my life’s journey, and admission of happenings, that appeal to my darker side.

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Joseph Anthony

Joseph Anthony’s comedy delves into the evolution of the whole human experience. Though not always hysterical, these are his “Crooked Views!”