In the last six weeks, I’ve been in two stores at the precise moment they were robbed. Not the old fashioned, “stick ‘em up” kind of robbery with nose covering bandanas, but the more modern version of a “grab and dash” operation. Both incidents took place in large department stores, one in Spanish Fort and the other in Pensacola. Along with the other customers who witnessed the brazen acts, I was outraged and incensed at their boldness.
One of the crimes involved a group of people who approached a display from two different directions, and while one group quickly clipped the security cables, the other scooped up dozens of designer pocketbooks and ran towards the door where a get-away car awaited.
The other incident involved a woman loaded with an arm full of merchandise, who slowly, so as not to attract attention, strolled towards the door. When the alarms sounded, she bolted for her accomplice’s waiting car and zoomed away.
Everyone who witnessed these events was outraged and struggled to understand how someone could think it was okay to steal. Customers huddled together and said things like, “This is what makes the prices go up!” and “If that was me, my Mawmaw would have left me with only legs and a trunk because my a*# would have been beat clear off!”
My own first thoughts were those of action. If I had been paying better attention, I could have flung my phone through the air and nailed them upside the head, or if I had been closer, I could have stuck out my foot and tripped the low-life-no-good bandits. Raising teenaged boys has made me fearless.
After I paid for my purchases with my own hard earned money from my lucrative newspaper job, I drove home wondering if any of the crooks felt even the slightest bit of guilt. Had they ever heard the little ditty, “thou shalt not steal?” As tykes, did they not watch Mr. Rogers in his make-believe neighborhood where he crooned about honesty and kindness?
On the way home, I couldn’t stop thinking about what makes a young person do something like this. Was it peer pressure? Did they need 20 new pocketbooks for their Granny’s birthday? Did Granny need money for her drug habit?
Most of all, I wondered, would they ever change?
I’ve heard, “every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future” but did these people have enough hope in their future to want more from life than . . .Â pain? It has to be pure misery to live a life filled with the stress of constant lying, cheating and enough hate in your heart (or stupidity) to take what belongs to someone else who has honestly worked for it.
People who terrorize good businesses are living wretched lives, and after I finish thinking about ways to sling my phone against their head, I really do want them to heal. I want them to grow and learn compassion and kindness. I want them to understand they don’t have to live with emptiness and mistrust.
By my calculations, the woman who stole clothing probably got away with $2,000 of merchandise at the most, and on top of that, since the alarm sounded, I know she was stuck with the dreaded plastic security tags on some of the items, so those garments will be damaged. The nefarious posse had to have snatched somewhere between $2,000 – $8,000 worth of pocketbooks, but that was the retail price. On the black market, they’d get much less. I’m calculating that if all these people got together a few weekends and raked yards or washed cars, they would have come out ahead, kept a clear conscious and stayed away from the devil.
The holiday season is near, and for some reason it always brings out the best and worst of society. Maybe this year, those who resort to pilfering will instead seek integrity, and maybe Santa will bring me a James Bond style phone that turns into a criminal seeking Frisbee.
This story first appeared in The Baldwin Times from Gulf Coast Newspapers.