Ooooh, touch-y! Even potentially squeamish-making. Today’s prompt from “A Writer’s Book of Days.” Write about stealing something.
Just wrong. Pure ‘n’ simple. No debate, no excuses.
That’s reason 1 I put it back.
Reason 2 is an overgrown conscience. It’s a curse in its way in this sea of life, where sharks prevail and goldfish with consciences get eaten alive. If we survive amid the sharks that is.
I’m no spring chicken. I’ve been around around and around. I’ve seen more people with questionable consciences or amoral characters get ahead, achieve successes, been given opportunities, favors and favoritism than I with my mature conscience, impeccable work ethics, honesty and moral compass received or achieved.
Oft I’ve moaned that it doesn’t pay to be good and honest (to a fault) in life. I’ll bet if I had even half my current conscience , I’d-a gone twice as far!
Back to the story.
I put it back because it’s wrong and my conscience wouldn’t let me carry out the act.
The “it” that I put back was a piece of Bazooka Joe bubblegum.
That sugary cotton-candy-pink square wrapped inside a colorful little waxy comic from the box of penny pieces on the bottom shelf between the cash register and front door of Rexall Drugstore, if memory serves.
I was maybe 8. Can’t say what possessed me to act so atypically.
Wasn’t that the family was dirt-poor and couldn’t afford bubblegum. Loved gum then, still love it.
Wasn’t that I was empty of pocket change. I got a weekly allowance of maybe a dollar. Most I saved for something I needed or wanted down the road, the remainder I spent on little treats or sweets.
I certainly held no animosity toward Rexall. On the contrary. The corner drugstore was a nice old-fashioned place in a bygone era when people were still nice, mannered, friendly, thoughtful and courteous toward one another.
Adventurous and bold spirit that I was, perhaps growing pains pushed me to test the waters, as we all do when we’re tykes discovering ourselves. Or a momentary lapse of reason.
Maybe it was just immense curiosity that got the better of me, as it has throughout my 6 decades.
Whatever the reason, I covertly palmed that piece of Bazooka Joe and headed to the door, free ‘n’ clear.
Before I exited, I turned around, went back to the shelves and put the gum back into the box.
Thus began and ended any thieving career in 2 minutes.
For full disclosure, I did in my 20s steal “successfully.” A small can of tuna from a well-known supermarket chain. Why I took it I don’t precisely recall save for a sense of financial distress.
That was some 40 years ago. Don’t laugh but many’s been the occasion since that I’ve thought about sending the cost of the tuna and an apology letter to corporate (being that I reside nowhere near the “site of the crime”).
I don’t, only because it’s unlikely that this ginormous corporation would have the means to process it. Surely there’s no column in its vast financial spreadsheets for repayment of stolen items. The cost: about $1.39.
I’ve consciously cleared my conscience in other ways, including acts of paying it forward. Still, that crime still niggles.
Be it Bazooka bubblegum or Bumble Bee tuna, I fared no differently in the end. I’d make a pathetic thief. Not cut out for stealing.
Not to be overlooked is my astute awareness of karma — as strong as my conscience if not stronger. For better or worse, all this and a strong moral compass guide me now in my sunset years as they did in the drugstore that day.
If there’s a moral to this story, it’s this:
Yes, bad people and lesser individuals, the sharks in the sea of life, have many advantages. They win, they get ahead, they achieve, they receive more than I could dream of having in my honest conscientious living.
They destroy in their ascent to their mountaintops and once arrived, they whoop it up and lead really enjoyable lives. And they sleep at night.
Meanwhile, little goldfish such as moi, the truly honest and good folk get ignored, stepped on, shoved aside, overlooked, taken advantage of and fill-in-your-particular-suffering.
Life is unfair. This is known.
Yet stealing does not make life any fairer.
Truth is, I’d rather do without (and have, in profound impoverishment) than turn to taking what is not mine to take.
Bazooka Joe, my bubblegum hero, would be proud.