I must confess: I stole something today. This is the first time I have taken something (physically) from a store and not paid for it in about twenty years.
Why? I was doing some child-minding/shopping. My partner has mastered this art, navigating a pram, shopping trolley and shopping list on an iPhone with such grace and poise. In stark contrast, I look like a 16 year-old learner driver trying to reverse park for the first time as I drift into other people’s shopping trolleys while trying to stop my daughter from crying. This juggling act is really difficult. To give you some context, I find shopping without the added stress of looking after a child challenging enough. I’ll always forget something on the list. I don’t mean to intentionally forget (is that even possible?), but it always happens. I’m rather egalitarian in my omissions, meat, milk or some beauty product that I have no idea about; I’ve forgotten all of them. When you add the whole stop the baby from crying/keep it alive scenario, its understandable if you purchase sour cream rather than lite sour cream. You’ve gotta get out of the supermarket before you face one of the following scenarios:
- Baby starts screaming – get out of there like you’re Ripley escaping LB426 in Aliens before the nuclear reactor blows up.
Above: Ripley, from the film Aliens. If Ridley was working security, you’d always pay for your toilet paper. You may never need to use at the shopping centre if you get in an argument with her about whether the sun-dried tomatoes are Aisle 4 or 8.
- A horde of zombie-like old people gather around your child and start touching its feet and kissing its hand. Scenario 1 may emerge as a result of Scenario 2. Escape is the same as Scenario 1, but you have the added complication of dealing with old people and their monotonous stories.
- Navigating the trolley minefield – this has got to be the most annoying of the all. People will not give way to you despite the fact that you’ve been charged with the duty of keeping a young person alive. They’ll just barge through, without their children, while you’ve got the pram in one hand and basket full of overpriced groceries in the other. To avoid this, you need to time your exit, so that you won’t have to push past a sea of soulless arseholes in the ‘baked goods’ aisle.
Fortunately, I didn’t have to deal with any of the above and I even managed to remember everything on the shopping list. Unfortunately, I remembered one item, but forgot to pay for it.
What did I steal? Before you get carried away, I didn’t steal an Aldi TV or an Omega watch, it was pretty banal, but still essential. Ok, here it is:
Yeah, I know, I’m a real Thomas Crown type. I think I’ve got to vary it up next time. Maybe I’ll steal some tissues or even packet of Glad snap-lock bags.
Above: A photo of Pierce Brosnan playing Thomas Crown, a notorious art thief. If were as handsome as Mr. Brosnan, I’d be stealing all sorts of stuff, including microwaves, Playstations, hamburgers..you name it, I’d be stealing it and looking damn good.
Thomas Crown, Jr, how did you do it? Like any crime, it’s easier than it looks. When you’re shopping with a baby in a pram, you have to utilise all of the storage space that you have available. I had my right hand on the pram, in my left hand was the shopping basket and the groceries that couldn’t fit in the basket were progressively added to the enviro-bags that were hanging from the carabiner (hook-like implement) that was attached to the pram. As you would have already worked out, I didn’t have room for a 12-pack of toilet paper rolls, so I stored the packet in the space that is underneath the seat of the pram. I walked up to the cashier, had a lovely chat with a young man who is at university who has served me before (when I wasn’t stealing) and strolled straight out of the supermarket.
How do you feel, now that you’re a criminal? To be honest, I feel worse than I thought I would. I’m nearly 30 and I’ve seen my fair share of things that didn’t go my way, so I thought I’d be able to justify my accidental larceny on the basis of some kind of stupid cosmic consumerist karma, “I get ripped off everyday living in Sydney, so I deserve free toilet paper!” As we all know, the universe doesn’t really work like that. Nobody gives you free toilet paper when you’re expected to pay for it.
Anyway, I felt worse than I thought I would. I largely attribute this to my Christian upbringing. Please don’t think that I’m saying that I feel bad about stealing solely because of the fact I’m a Christian. There are much better people than me that I know in my life, who live in a most honourable and respectable fashion, that are not aligned with any deity. I’ve also met some seriously shonky Christians, who act in some ways that would make your skin crawl. In my case, I think the guilt is largely the result of my belief system. I’ve always had a hard time in justifying stealing, in any capacity. There are people I know who try to justify torrenting movies from the Internet, “They (the people who pay money to make said film) charge us way too much for movie tickets!” Please, give me a break. If you’re going to steal movies, just be upfront about and say that it’s easier to download a movie than drive to the cinema, wait in line to purchase a ticket and you’re too much of a stingy arsehole to pay $18 to watch a movie that may be a piece of crap. Keeping all this social commentary in mind, I was almost tempted to walk back up the street and pay for the toilet paper I’d stolen, but then I realised I couldn’t be bothered and I do pay a hell of a lot for my groceries!!
Was this the first time that you’ve stolen something? No. The first time I ever stole anything was way back when I was 8 years old. I stole a Holden Commodore. Kidding, it was even more run-of-the-mill: way, way back in the early 90s, my brother and I used to go to a toy store called World 4 Kids, that was basically an exact replica of Toys R’ Us. In the store, there was a self-serve lolly bay, where you could buy a bag of lollies, for something like $2, and give yourself early on-set diabetes with a bag full of cavity-causing sugary treats. We knew that we weren’t going to be allowed to fill our stomachs with bag full of disgustingly sweet goodies (on account of the fact of good parenting), so we’d look over our shoulders, crawl up to the dispensers and pick out the crusty, dried sweets that had been left by some upright citizen. I always liked the sugar encrusted coke bottles and the chewy treats that resembled a human maxilla. We got away with GTL (Grand Theft Lolly) a bunch of times, until a teenager who worked in the lolly section, who looked more like a giant to us, told us that, ‘you’re supposed to pay for those lollies’. The dream was over, and fortunately, we managed to get out of there without our Mum knowing about our fledging career as juvenile criminals. This incident has been burned into my subconscious; it just keeps floating to the surface, especially when I walk past Toys R’ Us at Westfield. In reality, it’s probably the fact that we got caught, rather than that we taking goods without paying for them that’s stuck with me.
Above: An advertisement promoting World 4 Kids. I remember the jingle almost as vividly as I remember being chastised for stealing lollies by someone who couldn’t have been ten years older than me.
So, if you accidentally steal something, I’m not going to judge you, especially if you have added responsibilities. However, if you find yourself stealing confectionaries from a dispenser, you need to have to look at that crater-faced teenager that is working for minimum wage and know that you’re doing the wrong thing.