When I read the Sunday Scribblings prompt this week, my first thought was the time I got pickpocketed in Paris. But since I already wrote about that, and it was my only experience of being the victim of a crime, for a moment I was stumped.
Then I remembered it: the time I was 17 and stole nail polish from a local store. And got busted for it.
I was with Marion, the youngest sister of my friend Nancy. Marion was fun to hang around with, and we were both in the marching band and had a lot of friends in common. But I don't recall why we were hanging out together on that particular day, because we didn't really spend time together socially outside of the larger "band clique".
We were in this one discount store (a notch lower than K-Mart) and Marion decided to shoplift some makeup, and I did the same. The details are fuzzy now, about what motivated me to do this. Did I want Marion to think I was "cool"? If so, why the hell would I care what she thought about me? I was a senior and she was a sophomore, and at that point in my high school career, I didn't feel the need to impress anyone. So I'm not sure why I was compelled to do something I knew was (a) wrong, and (b) just plain stupid. But teenagers are not exactly renowned for wisdom and good judgment.
Nevertheless, I picked up a bottle of nail polish and put it in my pocket. And we walked out of the store.
Next thing I know, some man is coming after me: "Ah, young lady, just a minute..." And he only wanted ME to come with him... Marion stood there with her mouth hanging open, looking horrified. I was caught. And she was not.
I was brought into the back office, heart pounding in my chest. Oh holy shit, I thought. They're going to tell my mother. There can be no worse fate for a teenager.
Or so I thought. Because the store manager walked in. And it was Mr. Schwartz. Who used to manage the drugstore next door. The very drugstore where I worked the year before, when I was 16. My former boss. And a man I detested because he never did stop the sleazy pharmacist from sexually harrassing me after I complained about it. In fact, Mr. Schwartz thought it was "no big deal" that the pharmacist was saying sexually suggestive things to a 16-year-old girl. Which is why I quit that job and never went into that drugstore again.
So now, not only do I have to deal with my mother's wrath ("wrath" is my mother's middle name when she really gets mad about something) but I have the embarrassment of being busted by the one adult in the world who is the very LAST person I would want to be busted by. (Never mind that his managing this particular store was a real come-down from the drugstore, and I'm pretty sure he got FIRED there and that's why he ended up at this discount store.)
Fortunately I was so scared and tearful about my behavior that I must have convinced the Evil Ex-Manager not to press charges. My mother came down to pick me up and I didn't set foot in that store again for about two years (by which time Mr. Schwartz was long gone).
Suffice to say, that cured me of ever even THINKING of taking something that didn't belong to me.
And I'm glad, because a few years later I was working in a local upscale department store in the designer clothing department, and my coworker Karen shocked all of us by getting busted for shoplifting over $1,500 worth of Evan Picone and Jones New York clothing. She'd been collecting and hiding the items in the stockroom and security noticed it, and started watching her more closely (they were probably watching all of us until they figured out who was really doing it). Then the day she tried to leave with the stuff in a shopping bag, that's when they got her. This was a girl you would never think capable of doing something like that, and she didn't "need" to steal anything as she came from a good family and made a decent living at the store, too. I never got the chance to find out what kind of "cry for help" that might have been for Karen. After the day they took her away, terrified, we at the store never saw her again, because the store pressed charges and she did go to jail over that little incident. Her whole life ruined because she felt the need to steal instead of paying for something she easily could have afforded.
There but for the grace of God...